Martin Jalleh looks back at the last 12 months and highlights the Mahathir-Abdullah spat, the Umno keris affair, Proton and its can of worms among others. But alas, 2006 was also a year when Pak Lah and his “half-past six government” functioned only at half throttle, with half-measures and half-hearted efforts.
The citizens of Bolehland ended the year 2006 in high spirits. Even though things did not quite fork out for the "work-with-me" Prime Minister (PM), the government of the day took us to great heights in various ways.
We were also kept high-minded by former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamed (Dr M), who instead of riding off into the sunset, got on his high horse and refused to come down from it – even after his manhood had been questioned.
Dr M felt it was high time to highlight to the PM that the latter had sold the country, stooped before his neighbours, stopped listening to ‘My Way’, stabbed him in the back and scrapped his pet projects…He was not interfering, merely asking Pak Lah to step down, that’s all.
It was difficult to differentiate between the annual haze and Dr M’s high-end smokescreen. His past ‘sins’ were shrouded by his sensational high-drama series of a crooked-half-bridge, cancelled projects, crooks and cronies – with him playing the lead role as a reluctant saint.
Part of the drama was an arranged peace talk, during which Pak Lah kept his peace and Dr M talked with his high-hat on. The ‘old man’ gave the PM higher ‘doses of venom’ for his blistered image. The latter took down the long prescription…and left everything to God.
As sparks flew, venom spewed and divisions grew, it became clear that the high-impact and the historic spat between the two had much more to do with the four issues raised by Dr M or his insinuations of the Oxbridge-trained people on the 4th Floor of the PM’s Office.
It was about the elite in Umno jostling in high-gear with one another for the control of the country’s resources. It was about privileged people in high places sinking so low in outdoing one another in their chauvinism and arrogance, and high rollers gambling away the country for high stakes.
In the name of Malay Supremacy and with the help of Executive Supremacy, the elite in the dominant party exerted their ‘supremacy’ over one another. They were at one another’s throat whilst screaming at the rest not to question their state, status, and of course, superiority.
Pak Lah’s chime of change and his high-sounding anti-corruption cheer and chant continued on in 2006. He proved himself capable of producing the same old ‘tap-and-dance routine’ synonymous with his predecessor.
He displayed such ‘high tolerance’ for certain people in high places in Umno. For example, he held up high scandal-ridden former Klang municipal councillor Zakaria Md Deros as a ‘good leader’. He told ‘close-one-eye’ Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said bin Yusof to close his mouth and assured him that he will be given a ear.
On the eve of the Umno General Assembly (GA), Pak Lah dished out an additional RM600 million (of the rakyat’s money) to spearhead rural development. The ‘bonus’ will go to 191 parliamentary constituencies (read as ‘Umno divisions’), excluding Sarawak (where there is no Umno).
Lim Kit Siang rightly called it ‘political corruption of the worst kind’. Dr M said it was ‘very wrong’ and that it ‘has to be given to everybody’. But Pak Lah was not listening. He would roar very religiously that he was disappointed over the lack of debates on corruption during the GA.
One cannot help but think of the highly hilarious statement of the occasionally-wise de facto law minister Nazri Aziz who declared with a straight face: ‘Money politics in Umno…do not involve public funds or public projects.’ How naïve can Nazri be?
By the end of the year Pak Lah had nothing to show – no high-profile individuals to be prosecuted for graft – not even amongst the unknown 18 of high standing on the corruption list. Mukhriz Mahathir was absolutely right – Pak Lah had offered nothing new at the GA – and neither had anyone else in Umno in 2006.
‘Good governance’ reigned in many local councils in 2006. A good number of politically-appointed councillors made good money in good time for the "good of the people". They built for themselves palaces, bulldozed the homes of the poor, blasted holy places of worship and bullied the marginalized.
The rakyat began to doubt their "tell-me-the-truth" PM. His explanations regarding his son and son-in-law were treated as half-truths or outright lies. We asked him to tell the truth, but he would instead speak of his son-in law’s rice bowl and of Dr M’s children having been awarded far bigger projects than those given to his son.
Ferreted out of his ‘elegant silence’, and realizing it was time to play high-ball Pak Lah stuttered, stammered, stumbled and strained for ‘the truth’ to shore up his shaky defence against Dr M’s accusation that Bolehland has become a ‘half-past-six country which has no guts’.
Indeed, Pak Lah’s half-past-six government often appeared at sixes and sevens – with either his ministers and officers contradicting one another, making u-turns, or with almost everybody free to pronounce policy – from minister to mufti to the mob and to the multitude...but he would still insist ‘I am in control’.
Sharing Pak Lah’s prize for hypocrisy was Dr M who complained that he had been denied the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and that he was a victim of a police state – a legacy which he had so proudly left behind.
He even very humbly claimed that he never had anyone arrested under the ISA for political reasons and blamed the mass arrests of Operation Lalang in 1988 on the police. A highly-incensed Kit Siang reminded Dr M, who was also the then Home Minister and Justice Minister, that he was the ‘mastermind’of the 1987 dragnet.
He complained that the mainstream press had spurned him and spiked his statements. He even alleged the existence of spin doctors. Dr M was given a taste of his own medicine. It must have been difficult to swallow the fact that he was no longer the darling of the mainstream press.
The seasoned politician was pepper-sprayed when he arrived for one of his wayang kulit roadshows in Kelantan. However, proving he was worth his salt, he bounced back peppering the government with his snide remarks and sarcastic swipes.
It was also a year when the chickens came home to roost. Ani Arope, ex-chief of Tenaga, enlightened us on the role Dr M played in the higher electricity rates we are paying for. Anwar Ibrahim highlighted Dr M’s contribution to Bolehland’s RM30 billion loss as a result of forex speculations.
One-time corporate high-flyer Tajuddin Ramli disclosed details in a court document regarding his ‘national service’ duty to Dr M. Former High Court judge Syed Ahmad Idid and former Lord President Salleh Abbas provided more disturbing information on the 1988 judicial crisis and other scandals in the judiciary which still stink to high heaven.
The PricewaterhouseCooper Report on the Mismanagement of Proton Holdings (1996-2005), which The Edge had called ‘Proton’s Can of Worms’, provided a revealing glimpse into the worsening saga faced by the auto industry in Bolehland and exposed how the rakyat had been taken for a ride.