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The ‘Umno spring’ and Ambiga

 | June 21, 2012

Wave after wave of attacks have been launched against the Bersih chairperson but she appears to grow stronger and stronger.


“It is a fallacy that prolonged war will weaken an occupied enemy. It most likely will make your enemy stronger. They get used to the deprivation and they adapt and respond accordingly.

“While here at home with every death reported we have to deal with a public-opinion trajectory that slides rapidly from supportive to negative to downright hostile. People just get sick…”

The above quote is from the Ridley Scott-directed drama “Body of Lies” concerning a CIA agent who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist and attempts to capitalise on it.

Similarly, the unrelenting offensive against Bersih chairperson S Ambiga has strengthened the woman and her struggle, at the same time nudging Barisan Nasional’s tattered image along a more precipitous path.

It has almost been two months since the rally took place and the government should have tasked its best brains to formulate strategies to divert the attention of Malaysians and ensure that April 28 becomes another victim of political amnesia.

But the powers-that-be appear hell-bent on transforming Ambiga and Bersih into national icons, much to the delight of the opposition whose greatest recipe for success is to thrive on BN’s follies and suicidal tendencies.

First to roll out of the BN kitchen of half-baked ideas was the stale burger protest, which overlooked the fact that even carnivorous Hindus, let alone herbivorous ones like Ambiga, do not consume beef.

This was followed by the hot and spicy posterior-firming exercise routine, which even certain BN leaders found hard to swallow. Then came another cerebrum-undercooked dish: the plan to hold a night market outside her house.

Cries of protest rang out as critics were given the ammunition to riddle the ruling coalition with bullet holes as the public grew furious with the government since Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s proclamation of transformation did not resonate with these mindless actions.

This is no ordinary woman either.

She was the former Bar Council president, whose credentials surpassed most, if not, all of the members in Najib’s Cabinet. In 2009, she received the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award, doing the nation proud.

The authorities’ silence and justification of the derogatory actions against an eminent citizen cemented the belief that BN’s fortunes are dimming because it lacks bright bulbs.

Of salt and water

After all, she was championing free and fair elections, and for a democratic government to clamp down on this effort with such ferocity spoke, as far as the people are concerned, volumes of its character.

Furthermore, the targeting of Ambiga alone as opposed to the others or to be blunt, the Malay leaders in Bersih, reeked of racism in Najib’s 1Malaysia kingdom.

The Indian community, which punished BN in the last polls, once again turned red hot with anger, resulting in both Najib and MIC perspiring with trepidation.

Now, there is a fear that the hundreds of millions splurged on the community and the prime minister’s Tamil night classes may go to waste.

Before the dust could settle, the government slapped Ambiga and Bersih with a suit claiming more than RM100,000 for the damage inflicted on police vehicles, including the armoured water canon trucks, during the rally.

The critics’ guns were drawn again and the downpour of sympathy and support for Ambiga grew more torrential in the wake of this legal action.

And then there was silence…

Until Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz confirmed that taxpayers have wasted their hard-earned cash on the training and armament of Malaysia’s security forces.

Despite possessing state-of-the-art warplanes and submarines, the minister revealed that the nation’s security was so fragile that it could be compromised by mineral water bottles and packets of salt.

To equate Bersih 3.0 with an attempt to topple the government seems a little far-fetched. Using incidents of sporadic violence to claim that a coup was planned, failed to convince the masses.

Unlike Egyptians, Malaysians are not accustomed to sitting in one place for weeks; there is the morning nasi lemak and evening tea which must be considered. And what about work? Even Ambiga has a successful law practice to run.

With the English Premier League at its tail-end during that period with a nail-biting title contest between Manchester United and Manchester City, most protesters, police personnel and even Najib, a self-confessed Man U fan, would have been clamouring for their Astro remotes to change the channel instead of changing the regime.

An Umno spring brewing?

In another calculated move to ensure that Malaysians do not put the Bersih rally behind them, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall came up with an ingenious plan.

DBKL slapped Ambiga and steering committee member Maria Chin Abdullah with a bill for more than RM350,000, which included damage to trees and overtime allowance for its staff.

Perhaps because of the large amount involved and the meticulous inspection of the trees to record the cuts on the barks and tears on the leaves, it took City Hall close to two months to number crunch its losses.

These actions make one wonder if the authorities are on Ambiga’s payroll, having launched a clandestine public relations campaign on her behalf.

The attacks also lend credence to the rumour that knives have been sharpened for Najib, with certain forces plotting for his head to roll, perhaps even before the general election and that the retaliation against Ambiga was orchestrated to taint the “Malaysian first and Malay second” leader’s progressive image.

The whisper in Umno is that the regressive “Malay first and Malaysian second” faction prefers to concentrate on consolidating the Malay votes as opposed to pandering to the Chinese and Indians with all-embracing slogans and financial aid, especially since the majority of Chinese continue to back the opposition.

So this begs the question: is an Umno spring brewing?

However, this strategy is dangerous. In 2008, an internal revolt against former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi contributed to the tsunami, leaving Najib to inherit a bruised coalition.

Lest we forget, there is also the infamous RAHMAN prophecy – Tunku Abdul Rahman; then Abdul Razak, Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Badawi and now Najib. Will he be the last BN prime minister?

But if it is true that these ideas originated in Najib’s camp, then the prime minister should seriously consider signing up Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, whom he met recently, to train his team on how not to score own goals.

For Najib’s sake, hopefully the two Chinese pandas bring with them some positive feng shui.

Also read:

MIC veep: Govt made Ambiga popular


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