By Mariam Mokhtar
The Himpunan Hijau (Green Gathering) activists are a credit to the rakyat, which is more that can be said for the Umno leaders who are green with envy that the march which started with 70 people from Kuantan, swelled to 20,000 people.
Himpunan Hijau chairperson Wong Tack (left) attracted crowds from a wide cross-section of Malaysian society. Unlike pro-Umno gatherings, the men, women and children who joined the march were not transported in air-conditioned comfort; they walked whatever the weather. They received blisters, not fat bonuses, unlike those who participate in Umno activities.
Last July, the 11th National Cooperative Day Expo 2012 was held at the National Stadium. The organisers, embarrassed by the poor turn-out, hastily arranged for pensioners and schoolchildren to be bused in. The event was a flop and remains one of a long list of memorable political cock-ups.
So, if Prime minister Najib Abdul Razak wants to continue the art of failing the rakyat, if BN politicians want to break more promises, and if the government mouthpieces want to create more spin to deceive the people, here are some perfect ways to lose votes and alienate the people. Make outrageous claims of greatness.
When Umno feels that Malay support for the party is waning, Umno tells the rakyat, “Muslims are being converted to Christianity”.
After the controversial raid on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), pro-Umno groups formed the Himpunan Sejuta Melayu to defend Islam. Himpunan claimed it had the support of four million Muslims and 200 NGOs. In October 2011, only 5,000 people turned up for the rally, at the 100,000-capacity Shah Alam stadium.
Not to be outdone, the government organised a ‘Million Youths Rally 2012′ in Putrajaya, to outdo the success of the Bersih 3.0 rally. The authorities denied the allegations that money and free food had attracted the crowd. The event was marred when a driver lost control of his vehicle and ploughed into the spectators.
Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek demanded that the event should not be politicised and refused to be held responsible for the lack of public safety. People were allegedly told not to blame the authorities because that would be un-Islamic. Family affairs and big bucks
Shahrizat Abdul Jalil clung to her position as the women, family and community development minister despite allegations of fraudulent use of RM250 million of taxpayers’ money.
Najib refused to sack Shahrizat, but treated her like a cow grazing in the meadow before being brought to the abattoir; Najib allowed her to finish her term as senator, because he was afraid of confronting the raging bull that Shahrizat might become, in her fury at being sacked.
Then of course there was the case of Minister in the Prime minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz who, like Shahrizat, claimed not to be aware of what his children were up to. Nazri’s son, Nedim, was allegedly involved in a charge of assault and for his links with tycoons.
Nazri has difficulty understanding the concept of conflict of interest and he did not believe that businessman Michael Chia was breaking the law when caught red-handed with RM40 million.
Najib should be proud of the “Umno family”. If only families in real life were as tightly knit and protective. Umno’s formula for playing Happy Families and for keeping the money within the family is a proven success.
Create your own spin
“The Hadi phenomenon” made banner headlines on the front page of The Star for two days running. The newspaper wanted to create a rift between PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, to try to show disagreement between PKR and PAS, and also to scare and confuse the non-Malays.
When The Star presents distorted information as fact, it loses all credibility. Good, credible journalism suffers; the public is deceived, the journalist’s professionalism and integrity are compromised.
All spin doctors know that the spin on the story is more important than the story itself.
Columnist Joceline Tan in her article, ‘Doubts over PAS in Putrajaya’ (page 16 of The Star, Nov 19) described a party of elderly leaders who were past their prime and sickly. She painted a picture of geriatrics who are out of touch with the younger generation, and who are not fit to rule.
She claimed that PAS delegates were told to downplay contentious issues like hudud law and the formation of an Islamic state, but she also said that PAS leaders were advising the party not to steer clear of its Islamic party credentials.
She stated that despite the PAS delegates’ choice of Hadi for PM, PKR would not respect PAS’ Islamist principles.
On page 18 of the same paper, in a report titled, ‘MCA wants Hadi to clarify stand’, MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek said that Hadi had not denied his readiness to be PM, if Pakatan were to come to power.
Why should Chua seek clarification from Hadi (left), when on page 1 of The Star on Nov 18, the report confirmed Hadi’s willingness to be PM in the two articles; ‘Hadi ready to be PM’ and ‘Hadi: It’ll be a thrill to be PM’?
Chua also claimed that PAS had ignored economic issues and wanted to seize Putrajaya, to spread their religion: “It is a party with naked political ambition and political agenda. We’ve always said that among the three Pakatan parties, PAS is still the dominant one and wants to replace Um-no.”
Isn’t The Star’s spin going out of control because in the same paper, one article said that PAS compromised its Islamic principles; yet on another page accuses PAS of spreading Islam. Which is it?
In the past, Najib would talk about defending Putrajaya with blood, sweat and tears, or build a political wall to protect it.
These days, cabinet ministers rarely talk about Umno. Instead, they just try to quash the opposition’s statements of their objectives, when in power.
In the 55-year history of Malaysian politics, Umno politicians never referred to hung parliaments. Today, they do.
Until recently, The Star was a respected paper, but today, many journalists on its payroll are sick of the spin they are forced to create just to support their clients. Many claim that they are forced to do it, to “cari makan” (earn a living).
When a former editor was asked his views about The Star’s role as an Umno spin machine, he said, “…if The Star continues to be biased, manipulates facts and starts taking sides, The Star may be history…”
That person is wrong. The Star is already history.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.