Monday, March 22, 2010

Nizar: From national outcast to toast of London

ANWAR has charisma, but Nizar oozes sincerity. That was the verdict of a core of devoted followers after three successive days of lectures in London.

They were captivated by the oratory skills and engaging manner of Perak’s ousted mentri besar. He possesses indomitable spirit. He seems passionate in his political convictions. And he is not weighted down by personal baggage. Many opined that he is a future prime minister of Malaysia.

Nizar Jamaluddin’s talk at Imperial College, “The Challenges of Islam and Democracy in Malaysia”, was an impromptu event attended by 100 people, mostly Malaysians studying or working in England. They weren’t all Ipohites or Perakians; some were lured by curiosity.

nizar-imperial-collegeOver the past few days, Malaysians have been very supportive of the talks by Anwar Ibrahim and Nizar.

So, is this crowd starved of Malaysian news, repulsed by mainstream media reports or simply bored? Or could it be the imminence of a general election, and these people have lost patience with BN’s conduct after decades in power?

Have they finally been stirred into action to find out more about what goes on ‘back home’?

Or have the politicians decided to extend the battlefield, fighting for hearts and minds of Malaysians, by enlisting their support abroad?

If we were to crystallise the feelings of fury against an out-of-touch Umno elite, then BN would be thrashed, if the votes of Malaysians abroad were included.

It was alleged by members of the audience, that at one time, Malaysians, living in the UK, could cast their votes at the High Commission. Apparently, this right to vote in a Malaysian election ended in the 1960s.

Nizar’s delegation included the state assemblyman for Titi Serong, Dr Khalil Idham Lim and Perak PAS deputy commissioner Dr Asmuni Awi.

The ex-Perak mentri besar opened his lecture with a short blessing and a passage from the Quran (5/8) “Oh you who believe…” Throughout his talk, his emphasis was on restoration of trust, establishing truth and on being just.

'Tactical advantage' of governance

He guided us from Pakatan’s ‘birth’ in Perak, at 3am on 9 February 2008, through the pangs of afterbirth and the inevitable early demise of his government.

If Kelantan was the precedent, then Perak was a wake-up call for BN. That is why Perak is the watershed in Malaysian political history, and BN was prompted by the old saying, “drastic times call for drastic measures”.

We may feel that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should be concentrating his efforts on reviving the economy or tackling the two million illegal migrant labour problem or corruptions in high office or unexplained deaths of people in custody. We may find it distasteful for BN to shamefully tarnish Pakatan’s reputation, as part of their programme of ‘drastic measures’.

But those who think that BN is being distracted from the true business of government are missing the point entirely.

The business of government under Najib is the day-to-day tactical advantage in politics. Sullying the characters and sabotaging the good efforts of Pakatan is how BN operates.

In a previous by-election, BN had accused Nizar of selling out the Malays by giving land titles to the Chinese. But what had been omitted by the BN-controlled media is that he had also given 7,000 acres of land (1,200 residential lots) to the Malays for planned villages.

He explained that 134 new villages were created during the Emergency and that two or three generations of Chinese had since occupied these plots, but had never been given land-titles. Incredulously, his efforts to be just and equal earned him the title of ‘DAP stooge’.

Rich then, poor now

Nizar related how he first entered politics and that although he gained morally, he lost financially. He expressed his disgust at the scant attention being paid to the Perak budget.

Perak was at one time, one of the richest states in Malaysia. Malaysia then, was comparable with the economies of Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea.

Today, we are a shadow of the economies of Vietnam and Indonesia. But when Brazilian industrialists insist that any disputes must be heard in the Singapore courts, this is the most damning indictment of investor-confidence.

It is a mockery that the senior woman Perak Exco member who utters racist remarks against the Indians, is the one who is also promoting Najib’s 1Malaysia. A member of the audience also wondered if Malaysia replaced one form of colonialism for another – ketuanan Melayu.

In fact, it is encouraging to find an audience composed of young people, both male and female, intelligent and articulate, concerned and passionate about the governance of Malaysia.

'Biggest tragedy'

But will they fulfill Nizar’s dream of restoring integrity to Malaysian politics, by returning a democratic government which is decided by the people and not by a court? Or will these fine brains, who are experienced and been exposed to various influences, precipitate what he terms the “biggest tragedy”, if they were to return and support Umno?

The road to Merdeka was one of unity, with the three major races working together to achieve their ‘own rule’; therefore, it seems ironic that they traded their freedom for shackles in body (ISA detentions), spirit (draconian laws) and mind (BTN).

Who says there is democracy and freedom of expression in Malaysia?

These talks were at London universities, with a Malaysian audience, expressing differing views, in an amiable environment. In stark contrast, students are threatened with disciplinary action when they tried to attend a national university students’ congress in Petaling Jaya.

Nizar’s wish was for returning Malaysians to reject BN’s race-based politics. Although the internet is a powerful tool for Malaysians living abroad to access news about home, the same cannot be said for those living in rural areas of Malaysia.

If kampong communities are to be transformed, and the attitudes of voters to be influenced or directed, Nizar must go out and meet them head-on, just as he did in London.

If not, the consequences will be disastrous. —Malaysian Mirror

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