Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Zaid crying foul an exercise in ‘utter futility’

by Joe Fernandez @ Fernz

zaid ibrahim COMMENT The fact that Umno’s ad hoc Department of Dirty Tricks (DDT) won Hulu Selangor for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) on April 25 is beyond all debate as opposition messiah Zaid Ibrahim has rightly gathered for his impending election petition. What good is Umno anyway without its DDT?

But the DDT is not the REAL reason why Zaid lost in Hulu Selangor. But more on that later as we meanwhile give him the benefit of the doubt and go along with the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pro-tem chair as he attempts to pull the wool over our eyes.

Zaid should know as he is ex-Umno like Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. Their accusations on election offences and electoral fraud in Hulu Selangor have a credible ring despite being an exercise in utter futility.

Only the truly deaf, dumb and blind will not see that there were any number of election offences and election fraud perpetuated by Umno in Hulu Selangor on behalf of their poodle MIC. The party itself was nowhere in evidence besides P. Kamalanathan. This was as in the earlier case of Bagan Pinang. PBB (Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu) in Batang Ai, on behalf of PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak), was another recent example of a party with a powerful DDT.

Even anyone on a casual walkabout in Hulu Selangor in the run-up to polling day, especially in the last three days, would have witnessed this Umno circus and the charade perpetuated by the Election Commission (EC) in tow.

Election offences and election fraud are nothing new in this country. Tell us something new. They have been going on under one pretext or another with some isolated exceptions for the last 50-odd years.

Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in an apparent about turn, was not so gung ho about such shady practices in 2008. Perhaps he was too complacent after the biggest landslide ever in 2004 in the wake of the gerrymandering. Or it could be that the matter was really out of his hands after the gerrymandering had subsequently run out of steam.

The result in any case, coupled with Hindraf’s makkal sakthi (people power) phenomenon, was the political tsunami which was blamed on him by his predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad. We all know what happened to him as a panicky Mahathir went mercilessly after him in an unprecedented show of force and literally hounded, humiliated and drove him out from office. This was not before Sodomy 2 was enacted and put in place as a fallback position.

In Sabah, it has successfully emerged in court battles – Likas is a case in point — that the electoral rolls have even been padded with illegal immigrants from the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, among other places.

The phenomenon has also been the subject of doctoral dissertations in the United States of America and the Philippines, among other countries. Witness, for example, “When States Prefer Non-Citizens Over Citizens: Conflict Over illegal Immigration into Malaysia” by Kamal Sadiq, University of California-Irvine. International Studies Quarterly (2005) 49, 101-122.

But are the illegal immigrants out of the electoral rolls in Sabah, if not elsewhere, to stamp out election offences and flush out electoral fraud in the country? They are still there as anti-illegal immigration activist Dr Chong Eng Leong and repentant ex-Umno operative Hassnar Ebrahim will swear with their army of documents and statistics.

Hassnar has even openly challenged the authorities on numerous occasions to take him to court on the matter. Even the local Muslims rallied behind him after they realised that the illegal immigrants had entered the electoral rolls at their expense. But so far there have been no takers for Hassnar’s challenge.

This is the only issue on which former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, so vocal on all and sundry, keeps a studied silence and pretends to be deaf, dumb and blind all at the same time if not suffering from one of his periodic bouts of selective amnesia. Didn’t he after all recently swear in public that “all is fair and square in love, war and politics”? Wither the price of loyalty, or disloyalty, in this case?

In Hulu Selangor, Zaid Ibrahim’s immediate concern, the entire machinery of the Federal Government including the Election Commission (EC) was marshaled against the opposition messiah.

No distinction was made between party and government machinery as if they were one and the same on the kamikaze arguments of “national security and national interest”. The naïve and gullible civil servants, the police, the EC and others in authority went along unmindful of their children, grandchildren, the generations unborn and their future.

Suffice it to say that there’s no need here to go into the gory details on the election offences and election fraud which have been flogged to death in the alternative media and in the more respectable blogs even if fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s exaggerated musings in Malaysia Today are discounted.

One point worth mentioning here is that “Special Branch looking operatives” were even in Singapore to “intimidate” Hindraf Makkal Sakthi chair WaythaMoorthy Ponnusamy at his hotel in the run-up to Hulu Selangor. They reportedly stalked him around the clock and monitored his every move. These are suspected to be “rogue elements” from Malaysia and Singapore in the employ of politicians

Waytha safely left for London yesterday (Wed 28, April) after being stranded in the lion city for nearly a month because of the flight disruptions caused by the Iceland volcanic ash and earlier because of heavy holiday traffic. He has photographs of some of these operatives and their vehicles but it is not known what he intends to do with these besides entering them in Hindraf’s Annual Malaysian Indian Report on Human Rights Violations.

Zaid, the opposition standard bearer, thinks that the observed manifestations of election offences and electoral fraud in Hulu Selangor are sufficient grounds on which to lodge an election petition within the next two weeks to have the results over-turned. However, he cannot be that thick. Presumably, he doesn’t expect the Election Court to order fresh elections which will somehow magically crown him as the Raja of Hulu Selangor as Umno, no doubt scared off by his polls petition, rolls over and plays dead for once.

Zaid’s barking up the wrong tree. Surely, he should know this as a former senior practicing lawyer. And yet he’s determined to blunder on like the proverbial bull in the china shop. So, his only reason is to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes on the real reasons for his loss – more on that later — why dragging the ruling coalition through the mud in an entertaining spectacle. This not to say that election offences and electoral fraud did not take place, perhaps on both sides.

As evident from the High Court verdict on Pensiangan, fresh polls is the farthest thing on any court’s mind. Even if Zaid wins in the Election Court, by some miracle as in the case of Pensiangan initially, the one-track mind higher courts are all here waiting eagerly like the Frankenstein monsters they are to do him in. We are not going to get even a hint of judicial activism at this level. The courts are more pre-occupied with their pay packets, promotions, perks of office, awards and other material considerations. Expect no mercy when you are up against the government of the day as in the recent case of Perak where the courts were able to wave a magical wand and pronounce a wrong as in fact right all along.

Likas was a first in that the Election Court ordered fresh polls after discovering that the electoral roll was riddled with illegal immigrants. The EC promptly had legislation introduced in Parliament to state that the electoral rolls cannot be challenged in a court of law once they have been gazetted. So, the illegal immigrants are not only still on the electoral rolls of Sabah but the tracks of the operatives who brought in these people have been erased by the introduction of the MyKad and the blue identity card phased out.

As Zaid mulls over his election petition, he should also consider getting a court injunction against Kamalanathan taking his oath as an MP after the EC gazettes the results for Hulu Selangor, even if it would not do any good anyway in the end.

Belum cuba, belum tahu (no pain, no gain).

At least he can claim that he tried and then go on to blame the courts, when he fails, for being compliant with the EC. That must be worth several press statements from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders and reams of instant emailed press releases from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) flooding the spam folders.

However, and this is a billion ringgit question, are the election offences and electoral fraud reportedly perpetuated by Umno in Hulu Selangor the real reason why Zaid lost the battle? Is he looking for excuses in public relations, amidst his chomping on expensive cigars, to mask his monumental failure in judgment and detecting the flaws in the human characters around him? If so, he reveals fundamental and disturbing deficiencies in his own make-up that will get him nowhere in the end and disappoint the many in the opposition in whom he has raised such high expectations.

Zaid has denied being a sore loser but not everyone believes him entirely and with good reasons too. If he’s not careful, he will go from “sore loser” to born loser if he doesn’t get his act together as quickly as possible. Banking exclusively on the Malays and the Chinese is a no no in politics but he broke this cardinal rule in Hulu Selangor and has been forced to pay the heavy price of having the halo around him stripped in the court of public opinion.

When the dust settles on his election petition, perhaps Zaid will be able to get out of his state of denial and accept that he could have indeed won in Hulu Selangor, election offences and election fraud notwithstanding, if his campaign had been more inclusive.

Hindraf and the Human Rights Party Malaysia in particular were left out and that’s why he lost in the end. Hindraf alone had 300 hardcore activists ready to swing into action in Hulu Selangor on behalf of Zaid to help bring in the winning margin for him but they as stakeholders were never deployed in the end.

Also, PKR vice president Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan and his activists from the party and CigMA (Common Interest Group Malaysia) were actively discouraged by party headquarters’ from entering Orang Asli areas to campaign for Zaid. The police only came in later to fence off Orang Asli areas.

Zaid should stop listening to PKR theoreticians who sabotaged him in Hulu Selangor by preaching that “even 100 per cent of the Indian support will not win the seat but 60 per cent of Malay support will do the trick”. Sixty per cent is an impossibility as long as Umno, now bolstered by Perkasa, exists. In the end, Zaid didn’t get even the minimum 40 per cent Malay support envisaged in a worst case scenario. He had to make do with 35 per cent Malay support. It was not good enough. A miss is as good as a mile. A win is a win and a loss is a loss.

Unfortunately, people who could have made the difference were left out by the opposition in Hulu Selangor and this is the real reason why Zaid has been forced to head in the direction of the Election Court. He thinks it won’t be futile. We can only wait and see.

Assuming that the Election Court orders fresh polls in Hulu Selangor, is he saying that he can win the seat in another round? History will simply repeat itself all over again if he takes the same path that he took in the run-up to April 25.

Note: A condensed version of the above was carried in Malaysiakini on Fri 30 April, 2010