“916” Not A Failure

by Bakri Musa

When (it appears less of an “if” now) Anwar Ibrahim takes over the government, he will face the monumental twin problems of undoing the damage wrecked upon our institutions as well as containing the inevitable implosion of UMNO.

Failure in either would effectively doom Anwar, Pakatan, and Malaysia. The good news is that both challenges could be handled simultaneously through the same strategy, and with the subsequent success benefiting all.

The blight on our institutions and governmental machinery, as well as the urgent need to rectify it, is well appreciated. Less recognized is the need to manage UMNO’s certain breakup.

For those who venture that UMNO’s fate is the least of Anwar’s (or our) concern, consider this. The tumultuous and unpredictable demise of the Soviet System may have ended the Cold War, but the world paid a severe price, one that could have been mitigated had the breakup been more orderly.

The world is still paying the price. There is the recurring nightmare that the Soviet’s old nuclear warheads might fall into unscrupulous hands. Those still unconvinced of the price being paid, just ask the Georgians and Ukrainians.

UMNO dominated Malaysia for over half a century; its implosion too will have unpredictable fallouts. If not skillfully managed, the consequences on Malaysia would be on a scale similar to that inflicted on Eastern Europe by the collapse of the Soviets.

Unity of Purpose

Even if Anwar were to secure substantially more than the 31 promised crossovers in Parliament, his government would still be a coalition of political parties with diverse and often opposing ideals. Besides, the parties have had only a very short experience of working together, not to mention their equally contrasting and conflicting personalities!

Anwar could learn much from his predecessors. In the 1950s, the distrust among the races was even greater, yet Tunku Abdul Rahman was able to forge an “Alliance” (the name of his coalition) of UMNO with the Chinese (MCA) and Indian (MIC) parties.

He was able to overcome their considerable differences by focusing on the few agreed-upon objectives, among them the sharing of political power and seeking the end of colonial rule. Each party had to make considerable concessions to secure their common goals.

It helped that those early leaders genuinely liked each other, having shared their formative years together as students. They knew each other’s families and attended each other’s social parties. Consequently they harbored considerable personal goodwill towards each other that eased their inevitable policy differences.

Anwar successfully used his awesome political skills to make his coalition partners concentrate on their commonalities and less on their differences. Before the elections he made them focus on a singular objective: denying Barisan its supra-majority. He succeeded, and then some. In governing, Anwar should similarly emphasize the twin objectives stated in my opening statement, and only on those two.

Anwar is also gifted with many of the charms and warmth of the Tunku. It is no mean feat to have Hadi Awang and Lim Kit Siang share the same table! Anwar should continue using that special talent not only on his Pakatan coalition leaders but also across the aisle. He should consider his earlier tenure as an UMNO leader an asset, and leverage that to foster greater cooperation with its leaders.

He must adopt the personal philosophy of President Reagan: party politics stops at 5 PM, and once you cross the border. The Republican Reagan used to invite the Democrat Speaker O’Neill over to the White House in the evening to share a glass of Irish whiskey. Reagan would also include many Democrats in his overseas trips.

Differences in policies and philosophies will always be there, but these ongoing social relationships would help lubricate those differences and prevent them from reducing us to shrill denunciations of each other.

If UMNO Youth leaders could play regular golf tournaments with their PAP counterparts, then surely Hadi Awang could listen to sermons by Abdullah Badawi, and vice versa.

Ramadan is a splendid opportunity for such social interactions by inviting non-Muslim fellow leaders in and out of Pakatan to a community iftar. Others include the wonderful Malaysian tradition of “Open House” during festive seasons. These would provide excellent occasions for our leaders to socialize with each other, and more importantly, to be seen doing so. Such public gestures of goodwill would percolate down.

Government of National Reconciliation

Anwar could also take a leaf from another illustrious predecessor, Tun Razak. Following the May 1969 riot, Tun Razak formed a government of national reconciliation by inviting all parties to participate in his much-expanded Barisan Nasional.

Anwar need not necessarily expand his coalition but he could tap outstanding members from UMNO and other Barisan parties for his cabinet. American presidents often have in their cabinet individuals from the other party, for example, Republican William Cohen serving under Democrat Bill Clinton.

Undoubtedly Anwar will encounter resistance from his side, especially those who consider ministerial appointments as the spoils of war, to be distributed only among the victors. To help overcome this, Anwar must select only the most capable from the other side. This would also demonstrate his commitment to meritocracy.

There will be resistance too from across the aisle, as evidenced by their refusal of Penang Chief Minister Lim’s offer. Used to the culture of corruption, they would consider such good faith gestures as attempts at corrupting their members. To overcome that, appeal to their sense of patriotism, that this would be a national service. Also reassure them that they would still maintain their party affiliation.

One leading candidate to offer a cabinet position would be Zaid Ibrahim. His commitment to reforming the judiciary matches that of Anwar and Pakatan. Another would be Tengku Razaleigh, unless of course he wins UMNO’s Presidency this December. His intimate knowledge of the economy and wide business experience would reassure the nation. There are a few other promising candidates deep in the belly of UMNO Youth who have not yet succumbed to the corruption culture of their party.

Anwar should cast his talent net wide and deep. There are many highly capable Malaysians in academia, the professions, and private sector. A note of caution; they may have the knowledge and executive skills but they often lack the necessary political polish. However, a brief tutelage by the master should equip them well.

Inevitably there will be those over-exuberant members of Pakatan who would like to punch the final nail onto Barisan’s (UMNO specifically) coffin. Resist the temptation. Pakatan’s folks should value the importance of a viable and vibrant opposition. Relishing the collapse of Barisan or UMNO would not be good for anyone.

Unlike many, I do not consider the uneventful passing of “916” a failure. On the contrary, Anwar is wise in being cautious and not stubbornly adhere to some artificial, self-imposed deadline.

After over 50 years of domineering rule, UMNO’s imprint is strong everywhere, in the civil service, academies, military, and even the private sector. Overcoming these considerable institutional inertias would be formidable. Go easy; let those operatives get used first to the idea of change.

Anwar’s assurance of no “witch hunting” is appropriate and timely. Perhaps he could have a “Truth and Amnesty Commission” comparable to Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Inquiry to ferret out corruption and abuse of power, granting amnesty to those who voluntarily come forward. Apart from saving the nation’s precious resources in trying to investigate and prosecute, we might also learn something about the underlying mindset and culture. The educational value of such an exercise would definitely be much more than any high-profile punitive prosecution.

We do not need a tumultuous or worse, an unexpected switch. That would be disorientating, and can be destabilizing. Instead, let the existing establishment be the first to get fed up with the present power struggle and ensuing uncertainty. Then they would be begging for someone, any one, to take charge!

There is no need (as well as unwise) to involve the palace; it may come back to haunt you. Instead wait for the palace to beg Pakatan to take over! If nothing else, there is more class that way. Similarly, dissolving Parliament and calling for fresh elections would not go well with the electorate. Citizens would not welcome yet another season of politicking and campaigning; they want the mess cleaned up! I am certain the palace is aware of voters’ sentiment.

I would prefer that UMNO and Barisan collapse from within rather than through Pakatan’s instigation. Pressure, yes, but not instigation. The difference between the two? Salesmanship, and thus public perception.

Be patient, the infighting will intensify; UMNO and Barisan will implode. When that happens, be ready to pick up the pieces. Malaysians would be grateful to Pakatan for doing so. However, if Pakatan were to initiate the downfall and in the process trigger political instability, it would not endear itself to citizens. Public perception is supreme.

This is a time to tread carefully. UMNO’s leadership convention will come soon enough this December. Relax and enjoy the expected fireworks. Like an overripe durian, UMNO will fall. Be careful that you are not underneath it when that happens. Stay to the side; it will be yours for the picking when it falls under its own weight.

  1. #1 by kchan on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 9:03 am

    when PR take over, it would like opening up can of worm.. all the dirty, smelly and rotted stuffs will exposed under the sunlight, this is certainly not what many of those in power willing to see or face.

    i hope Pak lah/Najib won’t be shredding papers when they are moving out of putrajaya later.


  2. #2 by Sagaladoola on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 9:34 am

    This is a time to tread carefully. UMNO’s leadership convention will come soon enough this December.

    I recall reading somewhere that it has been moved to March next year. Can someone confirm?

    Anyway, whether the government transition happens on 916, the most important thing confirmed is, the citizens realised that there is so much potential in their Votes and Voice.


  3. #3 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 9:35 am

    /// UMNO dominated Malaysia for over half a century; its implosion too will have unpredictable fallouts. If not skillfully managed, the consequences on Malaysia would be on a scale similar to that inflicted on Eastern Europe by the collapse of the Soviets. ///

    Bakri Musa – I really hope you are wrong about this and that the outcome will not be as alarming or disastrous as painted by you.

    As it is, after half of century of UMNO rule, East Malaysia is already near collapse.

    When Anwar takes over, hopefully things will improve. Instead of the Russian scenario, hopefully it will be more of the reunification of West and East Germany scenario where after the initial pains, the result is a stronger Germany.

  4. #4 by Bigjoe on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 9:36 am

    I agree with one thing. Sdr. Lim and Hadi Awang should have ‘buka puasa’ with Anwar this Ramadhan. The very least they could do is attend Anwar’s open house this raya…

  5. #5 by karepu on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 9:51 am

    YB, I don’t mind if PR couldn’t took over any near time but I’m confident PR will take over the federal government in 13th GE. DAP, PKR and PAS has common principle and you guys realy has win the heart of Malaysians.

    Take this opportunity to wish my Muslim friends, Selamat Hari Raya.

  6. #6 by lofuji on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:00 am

    Let UMNO implode;they deserve it after playing dirty with the masses for the past 51yrs.Once that happens,they will have to start afresh,on a nice clean slate so to speak.They carry too many baggage and to include them in the PKR led gomen is telling the people that we CONDONE what they did in the past.No,I say we shud not let that happen.It is sinful.

  7. #7 by ctc537 on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:05 am

    First it was SAPP pulling out. Next, it could be Gerakan, followed by other component parties from Sabah and Sarawak. BN and UMNO can save itself by becoming a truly multi-racial party in the shortest possible time. If not, there is a real chance for PR to take over before the year is out.

  8. #8 by OCSunny on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:10 am

    All the people should should think, act and merge as Malaysians adopting “Unity is Strength”. There should be joy and and happiness being together among the races in Malaysia and living in peace and harmony. That is what the early leaders before Independence had in mind, wanted and cherish!

  9. #9 by chinymin on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:13 am

    “This is a time to tread carefully. UMNO’s leadership convention will come soon enough this December. Relax and enjoy the expected fireworks. Like an overripe durian, UMNO will fall. Be careful that you are not underneath it when that happens. Stay to the side; it will be yours for the picking when it falls under its own weight.”


    I specially like the conclusion of the above article. The “fireworks” sure will be spectacular and the “overripe durian” will sure fall straight down with lesser gravitational resistance.
    A splendiferous sight indeed.


  10. #10 by mrx on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:14 am

    Surely not a failure. It just begins .. Show some support by kissing ourselves here — “Kiss to support 916” http://thexstories.blogspot.com/2008/09/kiss-to-support-916.html

  11. #11 by Mr Smith on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:19 am

    “…he could tap outstanding members from UMNO and other Barisan parties”.

    But then I cannot see any outstanding members in UMNO and BN besides Zaid Ibrahim.
    By outstanding I mean, not in only outstanding in his grey matter, but also in his willingness to stand up for truth, justice, freedom and rule of law.
    Even on a issue of that attack on Teresa Kok’s home, these UMNO and BN leaders remained dumb unwilling to condemn that dastardly and despicable act.
    Can they be considered outstanding leaders?

  12. #12 by pulau_sibu on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:24 am

    The writer seems to suggest the hunter waiting for the rabbit to come out. I think this is not going to be efficient, unless there is no other solution for Anwar to take over the government. With such a strong call for 16 September, I think Anwar needs to give certain kind of answer to comfort the supporters. Overall in politics, words count.

    The writer mentioned that UMNO dominated Malaysia for over half a century. But quarter a century was under Tun Mahathir. Now Mahathir has also lost his influence to just remove Anwar. So you can imagine how one lost power so easily and quickly.

  13. #13 by PSM on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:24 am

    Bro Kit,

    Yes, may God bless the sould of David & Patto. As long as there are “true” Leaders like you, YAB Menteri Besar Perak, DSAI, Haji Hadi Awang, Lim Guan Eng, the efforts & sacrifices of people like David & Patto will never go forgotten.
    You can bet these “heroes” would never get recognized by the BN (read: UMNO).
    This is what Bangsa Malaysia is all about…does not matter if they were Malays or Indians or Chinese or Eurasians or Sikhs…as long as they were Malaysians!

  14. #14 by pulau_sibu on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:27 am

    Mahathir has also lost his influence to just remove Abdullah (not Anwar)

  15. #15 by just a moment on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:32 am

    “916” is not a failure. It’s just a birth date for CHANGE and HOPE. It has already achieved its purpose, not so much as a revolution sense but as a warning shot or a Wake up call for both Umno/BN and PKR especially for those squatting on fences and those hiding behind tyrant walls.

    Imagine the fall of ‘Goliath” 51 yrs of empire, there will be incidental casualties and one not only thread carefully, but stay real clear of it when it collapse. On the other hand, stay alert and vigilant but remain focus. Patience is the support of weakness (PKR); impatience is the ruin of strength (Umno/BN).

    One step at a time. Let DSAI and PKR take the stage first. The rest of the challenges can be iron out ‘Behind close doors?”

  16. #16 by hadi on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:35 am

    I think we should change the title, “916”, Call for CHANGE’. As it has never been a failure, considering all the challenges internal and external challenges especially. Pakatan Rakyat has declared the battle cry and the march is not going to stop, there is no retreat so why talk about failure.
    Pakatan Rakyat should keep the momentum especially after Hari Raya and ignore UMNO, they can continue their leadership bickering and near implosions. It is true that the dateline is not an issue now but the ability of Pakatan Rakyat leaders to visualize the present and the future is important as to avoid any instability and prolong uncertainty.
    No turning back Pakatan Rakyat. Gua Caya Lu la!!!!!! Selamt Hari Raya to ALL MALAYSIANs.

  17. #17 by Ken G on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:35 am

    Umno will implode, that is clear. Fire will come from the East and the North and spread to the Centre. Sapp is gone and the other Sabah component parties have found their voices – witness the latest Upko outburst. Gerakan will be forced out of BN by their grassroots before the year is out. In Sarawak, native land rights is coming to a head. The Sarawak state elections in 2011 may be an eye opener and herald the end of BN.

  18. #18 by ch on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:58 am

    Dear All,

    I believe there will be excuses and explainations to everything, including as to why the apparent failed mission of “916”. The goalpost kept being shifted from “916” to “923” and BN is coming out in full force saying that the suppossedly take over of the Federal Government is nothing but only hotair. Certain initial believers of this “takeover” poser are now slowly believing and reconciling themselves with the fact that it is not within Anwar’s grasps to topple the BN government.

  19. #19 by k1980 on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 10:59 am

    Like an overripe durian, UMNO will fall. But don’t pick it up, for it is inedible and rotten to the core. It would be like drinking milk tainted with melamine

  20. #20 by jayenjr on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 11:02 am

    In the first place, who hyped it? Let me give you a clue….it wasn’t the Rakyat. The intensity of the hype was so much, coupled with the people’s expectation of the possibility of a change for the better…whaddya expect when the public at large, feels deeply let down by what failed to transpire?

    All the talk, ever since 8/3/08, all the time, energy & resouces leading up to the PPauh by-election, all these..was for what? The backbone of the support was riding on a number of factors, & the loud cry percipated by the “call” of 916 was certainly one of those factors.

    At the core of the matter now, is the issue of Credibility. Not just of DSAI, but of the whole PR pact/team. As the proverb exhorts, “Sebab nila setitik, rosak susu se-belangga”, the acts of DSAI & team in backtracking, in typical politicians’ mode, has jeopardised credibility. And as one wise man said, “politics is all about perception”.

    For eg, just note what Tian Chua said on the purpoted meeting between DSAI’s & AAB’s middle man. Now that this has been clealry proven to be false, as confirmed by both DSAI & AAB, don’t you think that credibilty has seriously compromised?

    It makes me wonder, if at the end of the day, all politicians were constructed using the same genes….? Doesn’t matter what party you belong to….

    Well, we can go on speculating, but honestly, the ordinary Joes & Janes, do have work to do, families to feed, bills to pay etc etc

    What I do know is this: Innocent ppl, who were strongly cheering DSAI & gang on, in anticipation of 916, are now inadvertedly paying the price for their voiceferous support.

    I am not making this up. You judge for yourselves by this quote from Raja Petra, from his blog, just before he was picked up under the ISA.

    “Yes, I too have placed, not only my money, but also my freedom on Anwar. And if Anwar fails to deliver his promise on 16 September 2008, not only he but I as well am headed for a fall. But I have confidence he will do it. And I have confidence that my stay in Kamunting will not be for two years but for a mere two weeks.

    But if I am wrong…..well, then see you maybe in six or seven years time, because for sure Najib Tun Razak will not release me in 2010 when he becomes Prime Minister. What he would do, instead, would be to rollover my two-year detention another two years, and another two years, and another two years, until I am too old to think and write anymore.” – RPK

  21. #21 by Freddy on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 11:09 am

    Until Anwar and PR takes over, this country is spelt ….


  22. #22 by wanderer on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 11:18 am

    Malaysia has never really experienced True Democracy and dethroning Umno, will not be accepted gracefully by these bullies. Half a century, the rakyat were treated like dirt under their feet and the component parties were merely beggars, it will be difficult to dislodge this mindset of, it is our birth right to rule the land.
    Yes true, what is the rush, a terminal patient will go, it is a matter of
    time. It is wise for PK to scout for talented Malaysians (young and old) and prepare them for the difficult task ahead.

  23. #23 by AsalUsuLMalaysia on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 11:30 am

    hadi Says:

    Today at 10: 35.19 (36 minutes ago)
    I think we should change the title, “916?, Call for CHANGE’. As it has never been a failure, considering all the challenges internal and external challenges especially.

    lol i like idea especially the “internal and external” presure xDDD

    Imagine the well of shares had been shrink so bad by lossing 5 states last GE and now each struggles to the top, tried sabotage each other out but afraid the ladder(umno) might collapse at the same time.

    On other hand PKR down below “tengah menggaji”(sawing) the their ladders lol!…

    funny funny funny…

  24. #24 by baochingtian on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 11:37 am

    why in this democratic country, the removal of PM is not by the rakyat but only by party members? why there isn’t effective way of changing a govt if this was so desired by majority of the rakyat? How democratic are we actually?

  25. #25 by zak_hammaad on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 11:42 am

    916 is a failure Anwar’s brinksmanship. It is a failure of his wisdom, it is a failure of his foresight and a failure of his political being. Give Anwar 916 years and he will still not be the PM, make no mistake about it.

  26. #26 by yhsiew on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 11:45 am

    I agree that at this point in time “916” is not a failure. Nevertheless, Anwar’s failure to form the Federal Government on “916” has dented PR supporters’ confidence and expectations. In fact, some analysts predicted that if Anwar fails to overcome technicalities of power handover, he risks being re-incarcerated (either through Sodomy II conviction or the ISA) and that could spell the end of his political career.

    Time is certainly not on Anwar’s side. Once UNMO accomplishes its power transition in March 2009 and gets its disarray cleaned up, Anwar will have to face a bigger and nastier challenge from hardliner heavyweight Najis.

    The political scenario in the past few months pointed to one fact – the longer Anwar delays in forming the Federal Government, the more obstacles UMNO will throw in his path. Did not a group of UMNO members in Penang file a report with the police claiming that Anwar is threatening national security and should be dealt with by invoking the Sedition Act? Anwar himself this week even predicted that Najis, if holds power, may incarcerate him under ISA although Abdullah would not do so.

    If I were Anwar, I would give myself a reasonable time-frame; beyond which, I would bring all defectors to see the king and ask each and everyone of them to declare before the king that he/she has lost confidence in the BN leadership and has decided to join the Opposition party. I would then wait for the advice of the king. I think giving it a try is still better than being incarcerated!

  27. #27 by CSKUEH on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 12:12 pm

    Yes, DSAI is wise in being cautious, with careful planning and far-sightedness. The eventual transition of political power must be carried out peacefully, I repeat, peacefully with nothing untoward at all.
    I would like to take this opportunity to wish all malaysians of muslim faith “Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri”. To the other Malaysians, enjoy yourselves during the coming festive season and happy holiday.
    May God bless you all.

  28. #28 by LYY on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 12:29 pm

    Mr Lim,

    You have at last changed.
    At least this is how i perceived you for the past 25 years!
    I hope you will always maintain this type of demeanor to avoid being exploited and demonized by evil forces in UMNO.

  29. #29 by lhslhv on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 1:22 pm

    Whether DSAI will fall or not is insignifant now. He has started the spark that will consume UMNO in the future.

    His legacy will be kept alive by his daughter Nurul like the legacy of Ali Bhuto of Pakistan shall he be keptt away for a while.

    The people has been awaken by this hero DSAI. As long as the people is awaken, there is nothing to stop the momentum of PR now.

  30. #30 by k1980 on Monday, 29 September 2008 - 1:23 pm

    if dollah decides not to go in 6 mths’ time, will molotov cocktails be thrown into his home?

  31. #31 by bennylohstocks on Tuesday, 30 September 2008 - 12:49 am

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