Sunday, May 13, 2018

History and its Tendency to Repeat Itself

A few days before the General Elections 14 (GE14) a friend asked me for my predictions on the outcomes of the elections. I said Pakatan Harapan looked very promising in West Malaysia, but in Sabah, it seemed like Barisan Nasional was still very strong. However, if the Pakatan can win in Sabah too, it had to be by a big majority. If it's a marginal win, then complications would entail.

Sabah has always been famous with its politicians that can switch parties in a heartbeat. If the results of the elections are very marginal, we are bound to see a lot of activities among the politicians—they will be very active, hopping from one party to another; or at the very least, switching alliance from one to another under the disguise of "Gabungan".

That was actually what happened in the recently-concluded GE14, of which Barisan Nasional secured 29 seats; Warisan and its alliance secured 29 seats; and STAR took the remaining 2 seats. Living up to his reputation, the leader of STAR wasted no time to join forces—he called it "Gabungan"—with Barisan Nasional to form the new state government. So Musa Aman was sworn in as the Chief Minister, and Jeffrey Kitingan (from STAR) of course became his deputy. To be honest, I'm surprised that Jeffrey did not demand to be the Chief Minister himself. Well, maybe he did, I don't know. After all, he has always had the curious obsession of wanting so much to be the Chief Minister.

Less than 24 hours later, however, some of the elected representatives from Barisan Nasional decided to switch to Pakatan, thus resulting in the new government losing its simple majority. Well, to make the long story short, Musa refused to resign as Chief Minister. But Shafie Apdal, representing the Pakatan, went on to be sworn in as the Chief Minister anyway. So Sabah now has two Chief Ministers.

Browsing through the comments on facebook, I can see that many Sabahans are comparing the present situation in Sabah with that of Perak in West Malaysia in 2008. Some are also comparing with a similar situation in Sabah in 1994 when Pairin Kitingan resigned as the Chief Minister of Sabah when his Parti Bersatu Sabah lost the support of the majority of elected representatives.

However, as you can probably see, what we have right now between Musa and Shafie is not the same as that in 1994. Far from resigning his post as the Chief Minister, Musa Aman is fighting on. Actually, this thing about having two Chief Ministers has happened before in Sabah. But I suspect many of those on facebook were either too young to remember, or have not even been born yet when it happened.

Over three decades ago, in 1985, Tun Mustapha, through the coalition of USNO and Berjaya, obtained 22 of the 48 seats contested. Clearly having the minority, but he sneaked in to the Istana in the wee hours of the morning to be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Sabah. This was later challenged by Pairin Kitingan because his Parti Bersatu Sabah won 26 seats, which was then the majority. What ensued was a long legal battle and chaos, culminating to bombings in the cities of Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau by the losing party (yes, we have bad losers in Sabah) and demonstrations in 1986, eventually leading to the declaration of curfews. 

Amazing how ugly it can get when people are obsessed with power and money. Pairin eventually won and went on to become the Chief Minister of Sabah. If any of you are interested to read more about the legal aspect of this, click here. It is a very long article, but it's good for the young Sabahans to know the history of Sabah!

Truly, history has a strange habit of repeating itself. For the second time, we now have two Chief Ministers in Sabah again. I'm confident, however, that we are more civilized today, and won't end up with chaos and unrest like what we had in 1985-1986.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Wise Old Man

A few years ago, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pleaded to the members of Barisan Nasional to oust its President, Najib Razak as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. According to Tun, Najib was a liability to the party; that retaining him as its leader would eventually result in the downfall of the party as the ruling government of Malaysia.

Looking at how things were in Malaysia, I must say that I agreed with Tun. But I also knew that it's just wishful thinking. It is not in the tradition of Barisan Nasional; or rather, not of its members, to oust its leaders. The very few that did try to speak up against the leaders of Barisan Nasional would very swiftly be reprimanded and quite often banished from the party. 

The tradition of the party was such that it is very, very rare that anybody would challenge the top positions. Such tradition may be a good thing; and it can also be a bad thing. In the hands of a truly capable and honest leader, it's helpful to have the unconditional support of its members. But in the hands of an incapable leader, the party would gradually lose its popularity, and there's nothing that its members could do about it.

That was basically why the rakyat had no choice but to vote against Barisan Nasional. Truth be told, I'm not a very big fan of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He was—and still is—without any doubt a very capable man. But I am a realistic person, and although I'm sure that Tun is as sharp as ever at 93, I would have much preferred a younger person to fill in the shoes of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. I suspect Tun feels the same too, but he had no choice. The fact that we were left with no choice but to vote for a 93-year-old man, who had 15 years ago gone into retirement, back into office, speaks volume about the political situation in Malaysia.

Then the designated person in line after Tun Dr Mahathir is Anwar Ibrahim. Many of my loyal readers since years ago would know that I'm not a big fan of his too. I am one of those people who are convinced that he is guilty of the crime that he was accused of. Furthermore, I also see some—but not very many—politicians in Barisan Nasional as capable people and truly deserved to be given the jobs that they were doing. At the same time, I also have many friends whom were directly or indirectly linked to the Barisan Nasional. These are good people—very capable people.

Yet despite all those, we were left with no choice but to opt for the opposition, simply because that was the only way to oust the incapable leaders of Barisan Nasional. There was just no hope for the members of the party to do it themselves; we, the rakyat, had to do it for them. So it was essentially a case of "all or nothing". The rakyat eventually chose to vote all out of office.

Truly amazing that Tun Dr Mahathir foresaw all this years ago. I had expected that Tun would easily win in Langkawi, of course. But to cause the entire Barisan Nasional to fall? It had seemed like there was just no way that Barisan Nasional would ever fall. Well, at least it's beyond my wildest dreams that I'd live to see it actually happening. 

So now we embark on a new chapter for Malaysia. I'm hoping that Tun can do his magic to make Malaysia great once again. Keeping my fingers crossed.