Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lets the New Year Begin

“Save the best till the last” seem explains some high impact happenings in Malaysia. November 2007 witnessed the two People’s rallies, namely the Bersih Rally and Hindraf Rally that caused a shocking moral defeat to the “invincible” Barisan Nasional ruling government in the 12th General election in March 2008. On one hand, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s liberal stand on freedom is blamed for the release of Anwar Ibrahim, the rallies and the mushrooming of blogging activities, which all contributed to the so called “political tsunami”. On the other hand, Mahathir’s uncompromising approach is believed to have seeded continuous suppression of dissatisfactions that erupted like a volcano during the general election.

While all winning parties in their respective ruling states were busy planning the administrative and power sharing matters, finger pointing particularly among the Barisan Nasional (BN) members occupied the months of April and May. Not to miss out in action is Mahathir Mohammad, who stole the headlines of blaming Abdullah Badawi for the election defeat and setting up its blog. By the end of May, his blog, “” registered a milestone of one million hits, clearly showing to Malaysian what is missing after his “retirement”.

Petrol price hike took over the spotlight in June after the government announced a jump of 40.6 percent hike to RM2.70 per litre. Inflation shot up record high. There was even a public debate between Anwar Ibrahim (opposition leader) and Ahmad Shabery (Information Minister) on this issue, which is the first of its kind and something Malaysians never imagine under Mahathir’s era. Credit should be given to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi for his effort towards liberalization of speech. All this while, Malaysians have been mocked as “having freedom of speech but no freedom after speech”. Unfortunately, his effort and liberal stand brought him more calamity than blessing as he was held responsible for indirectly strengthening the opposition, hence asked to relinquish his top post comes March 2009. Abdullah is also branded as “softie and like to sleep in meeting”. Other happening was increasing news of mass defection from BN to Pakatan Rakyat, thus setting a climate for “unstoppable Anwar against immovable BN” showdown.

The showdown sparked off with Anwar being charged for sodomy again while Najib Razak is being linked to the murder case of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu. Both denied their respective involvement. Nevertheless, Anwar won the “first round” by winning the Permatang Pauh by-election in August on a bigger majority to return to Parliament. The “second round” fight was on the “September 16” plan of change of ruling government. As a result, the BN’s MP being packed off to a study tour in Taiwan, believed to be a strategy to avoid the “September 16” plan. For those Malaysians that are not interested in the country politic, Olympic Games could be occupying part of their August, perhaps supporting other Asian teams like China and Japan rather than Malaysia.

Besides, the debate on New Economic Policy (NEP) and Malay supremacy getting hot up until nearly tearing Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (PGRM) away from BN coalition. In early September, Ahmad Ismail and his gang from UMNO Penang controversially stroking up racial tension and tearing Koh Tsu Koon’s (then, PGRM acting President) picture. Ahmad blamed a journalist from a Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily named Tan Hoon Cheng for the whole mess up. Subsequently, the later of September rocked Malaysia with the triple arrest through the Internal Security Act (ISA). The victims are blogger (Raja Petra), journalist (Tan Hoon Cheng) and politician (Teresa Kok). These arrests triggered nationwide condemnation of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) and resignation of Zaid Ibrahim from his Minister post as a sign of disagreement to the misused of the ISA by the government. Zaid, widely known as de facto Law Minister and is Malaysian best hope for juridical reform. He was later sacked from UMNO. In this month, Sabah Progressive Party (Sapp) also announced its pull out from the BN coalition.

Nonetheless, “September 16” became an anti-climate for the opposition and never materializes. BN keep a clean a sheet and won the “second round” despite Anwar has far more possession in this round. In other happening in September, announcements of big banks from the United States and Europe collapsing did chill the country of a possible global economic crisis and start to trigger the nation attention to economic arena.

The “third round warm up” did not start off as fierce as the previous two rounds. Therefore, month of October merely involved randomly throwing of punches to each other. These include outgoing MCA President, Ong Ka Ting surprisingly criticizing UMNO as bully in the BN coalition and Zaid Ibrahim claiming that Malay supremacy model has failed. Sexual abuse of Penan women in Sarawak, the controversial appointment of Low Siew Moi as temporary head of PKNS, MCA election, nominations for UMNO election, banning of Hindraf and reductions of petrol price filled up the month.

In November, PKR move up the heat by indicating that the Pakatan Rakyat is targeting Sabah and Sarawak to fulfil the “unfinished” plan of “September 16”, or at least for the coming state elections. Fatwa on the ban of tomboy characteristic and yoga to Muslim trigger anxiety. Yet, this month seems to belong to BN as various happening started to reveal weakness of the Pakatan Rakyat. Examples are the Penang’s UNESCO status fiasco and various reports of rifts among the Pakatan members.

Full concentration to economy provides calmness before the storm in early part of December. In the late December, plan to privatize IJN (National Heart Institute) causes some spark but it was the debate about implementation of Islamic hudud law resurfaces that matter most, threatening to tear DAP and PAS apart and leaving Anwar and PKR aimless with the “head Pakatan lose, tail, BN win” dilemma.

As the Kuala Terengganu by-election, perhaps the “third round” around the corner, happenings at the very end of the year set the stage for the battle to continue. Who will win? How many more “rounds” are needed to unveil the winner? Will this battle of the unstoppable against the immovable benefit the country and the rakyat? How about the potential catastrophe of a global economic crisis?

Anyway, lets the new year begin. Welcome the Year 2009 and whatever it may bring.