Saturday, 21 March 2009

From Janda Baik to The South China Sea.

It was Friday, 27th of February, when I was sitting in the balcony of my villa in Wadi Hussien, Janda Baik. On my easy chair, I sat enjoying the view. I have worked on this garden for 23 years now, and here I share the fruits of my labour.
Across the balcony, flowers like the powder puff, the bottle brush, and the office girl blooms and attracts birds of varying species, beautiful in their own right. They would individually sing their enchanting sounds, while the flowing river underneath my house provides a soothing background tune.
The dancing butterflies too provide an amusing picture for the discerning eye. Last night my nasal sense was given its own delight when the smell of the lady of the night (a plant) filled the air. Some palms ive planted has grown strong and tall, while some other trees serves as a shade for many visitors that had walked through Hana garden, Wadi Hussien. Its interesting because Wwadi is an Arabic word which means a valley, while Janda Baik is on a hill.
As I sat down on my comfortable teak chair, I began sipping on my ginger coffee, this one imported from Surabaya. My father was born in Ampel, Surabaya, although my roots can be traced to hadramawt valley in Yemen. As I think about my origins and how Ive gotten to where I am this morning, accompanied by the aroma of coffee in my hand, I felt like I was floating in my thoughts.
The beautiful scenery made me praise Allah swt who has created this world sublime and beautiful, although man’s irresponsible hands has caused much mischief. When I think about ideas like beauty, perfection and sublimity I feel trancendent. I reexamine the role of Man in this cosmos, in the wilderness. It is baffling to the human mind if this is all meant for nothing.
Do you think that We created all this for sport, and that you will never return to Us? -Quran
As I continue pondering man’s role in beautifying the physical world trough gardening and planting the seeds, I think also about my role in planting good ideas in minds, that they may blossom to help others have beautiful minds. This faculty of reasoning is so powerful that, once I’m lost in it, I would forget about the chikukunya virus Ive contracted trough one of God’s messengers, the tiny mosquito.
Its been over a month now, it comes and goes, but its showing no signs of leaving completely. I must say, this virus in my body is so painful, almost unbearable, especially at this advanced age. Perhaps its a cleansing agent for my wrong doings, or perhaps it’s meant as a reminder for me. But the most interesting lesson I’ve learned is that this virus, is like evil in this world. One has to remain steadfast and comitted, and one cannot afford to be tolerant with it, because until one has defeated it in it’s totality, it might take a rest, recupurate and continue on it’s quest to overpower him.
The importance of patience
This battle teaches me patience as one of the most important virtues taught by the prophet. He outlined 4 kinds of patience to be practiced by the muslim. This being1 .patience in calamity2 .patience in doing good3 .patience from bad doing and finally4 .patience in good times to remain a thankful person.
This virtue which the world could really use today was strongly charecterised in the prophets of the past. I remember Ya’qub in surah yusuf who retorted the words ‘Sabrun jameel” or, patience is beautiful. It was ironic, for when he said this the man had just lost his son to the wolf, or at least that’s what his other sons said about Yusuf.
As I ponder the lessons of the story of yusuf in the Quran, written so beautifully with elegance and eloquence,this concept of patience becomes clearer in my mind. If I may share a little on Yusuf, this prophet was blessed with charming good looks, excellence of character and a beautiful mind, aside from his ability to interprate dreams. This blessedness and good fortune didnt come easy however, as the servant of Allah will always be tried.
As a child, he was taken to play with his envious elder brothers who couldnt stand their fathers love for Yusuf. They plotted to kill him, although later they decided throwing him in the well would be a better course. He was picked up and later sold as a slave. He rejected the love of Zulaikha for fear of Allah, and had preferred to be in jail rather than comitting a detestable act. Imprisoned and later freed after clearing his name, the king called him for his ability to interprate dreams, until he was made minister to the king and also in charge of the treasury. He later got the upper hand with his envious brothers, but he chose to forgive them.
This narration shows the Power of Allah in electing who He wills to rule and to be successful. At the same time it also shows the importance of having dignity and patience, that if something is the will of God, it will happen in it’s own time.The Quran has other narrations about youth, among which is the story of the Ashabul kahfi, or the companions of the cave. In defending their ideals of truth against tyranny, this group was safeguarded by Allah in a cave, made to sleep for 309 years, a manifestation of His power that surely He can place whom He wills to rule this earth. The idealism in youth, when power and riches havent corrupted them, and their bravery may shape the world.
‘Give me a thousand old men, and i could perhaps farm on mountains, but give me 10 among the youth, and i shall shake the world”-Sukarno
The youth in Malaysia.
I have written about youth in Malaysia as early as 1982, in my book titled ‘Pemuda di zaman Mahathir”. On the cover of the book, was Dato’ Sri Anwar Ibrahim beside Dato’ Sri Najib. Today these two have climbed the ladder, one in the government, and the other the de facto leader of the opposition. In 2004, I followed trough with writing Pemuda di zaman Pak Lah, or youth in Pak Lah’s times. This time, on the cover was Khairy Jamaluddin, the Oxford graduate and son in law of Pak Lah and next to him Mukhriz, son of the ex prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohammad.
Perhaps the question to ask is where will the youth be taking Malaysia? Perhaps not many have noticed, but this competition between Khairy and Mukhriz is more than just a selection of a candidate within UMNO, its more than a proxy war of Mahathir against Khairy or Pak Lah, however, this competition determines whether UMNO is ready for a transition of ideology from Mahathir’s command and control style of ruling, to the openness and transparency that Pak lah has started.
This selection will determine the strategy to employ in the time of the open skies, where information can be acessed freely and the privatisation of media,not to mention the rakyat’s increased sophistication and maturity in politics. The UMNO youth must put all this in consideration before choosing to renew Mahathirism, or the sort of command and control where the freedom of the press is restricted, Where student activism is banned, and the internal security act be used as an instrument of silencing the voice of the rakyat.
Or they can choose to follow trough with Pak Lah’s project of increased transparency, his all out war against money politics and corruption, and his guarantee of internet freedom, provided its not defamatory and libelous. Perhaps the peope isn’t ready for this sort of liberty, some may say, or others may say there are more pressing issues to be addressed particularly the economy. This is for UMNO members to decide.
The trouble makers
If one reads into the situation, one may see how Pak lah’s Transparency has affected his position. His project for Islam Hadari or civilisational Islam was rejected because of the immaturity of certain minds. His ten point mission, to fuse ethics with politics, economics and virtually every sphere was rejected out right.
The influence of the workers of mischief was also disastrous to his reputation. This ‘game’ they played managed to tarnish his reputation although the stories are fabricated or relied on hearsay. Not only was he the victim, they went further to attack his son in law, Khairy Jamaluddin. With the fictitious Chronicles Of khairy published in Malaysia today, written with eloquence and the flare of a brilliant writer, this ill intent almost destroyed the person of Khairy Jamaluddin. And lets not forget how the freedom of the press has granted Tun Mahathir to voice out his protests against governmental decisions, when he has clearly stepped down as the prime minister. His all out attack against the government was multi facetted, with roadshows and his blogging.
As If attacking from outside wasnt enough, This leader of the nation used his son to bring down the house from within. After March 08,Mukhriz rallied the youth behind him to demand that Pak Lah steps down. This proxy war doesnt end with pak lah as he put a further claim that Khairy was master-mind behind Pak lah’s government. The colossal defeat in 08 gave the trouble makers more ammunition, as they blamed the entire defeat on Pak lah and Khairy.
Perhaps many may see me as inconsiderate, levelling my attacks on Tun Mahathir who is an old man. But my task here is only to remind, reiterate what Mahathir himself said about the malays, ‘Melayu mudah lupa”, Malays forget easily, Mahathir forgets easily. Forgetting is a very important trait of humans, it helps them get trough disasters, survive relationships and keeps them sane, but forgetting is dangerous if history is repeated.
Did Mahathir forget how his own government was almost brought down by trouble makers? During his time, under his leadership umno split into two factions, and his position was challenged as leader. Did the Malays forget about how UMNO died, and saw the birth of parti semangat 46? This Ofshoot of UMNO with politicians who backstabbed Mahathir within his party joined the opposition and planned an overthrow of the government. Before it was semangat 46, but today its the PKR. I admit the impetus may have been different in the forming of the parties, but please apply the Golden rule here. As a writer and the conscious voice of the people, I only document current happenings and hope to serve as a reminder. I truly pray, what happened in the time of Pak Lah wont repeat itself in the time of Najib.
Dato mohamad hasan, Negeri Sembilan’s Chief Minister said that what is destroying umno is its own members. We are in the 21st century! When will the malays stop their envy and jealousy towards the success of others? Till when will the culture of cutting down young talents keep going on?
Observe how Pak Lah’s short premiership is full of uprisings and protests even within his own cabinet when they sent him the memorandum. Not to mention the presence of some loyalists to Mahathir who remain in the party but remain in their plans to topple Pak lah’s government at every turn. Whilst Anwar, aside from sharpening his attacks against the government announced the takeover of 16th september, one which never took place.It is difficult not to affirm the fact that pak lah fell victim to the game of the trouble makers. But here i respect Pak lah for being steadfast, and never taking anything personally, even in his last days he pushed for reform.
Pak Lah and the times.
Times have changed. The youth in the times of Pak Lah has to be brilliant, brave and a master of the political craft. Greater awareness in the public should lead to a merit based system. Khairy Jamaluddin has shown his bravery and resourcefulness by accepting the invitation to a debate with Husam Musa, and more recently with Salahuddin Ayub on the teaching of science and mathematics in english. This openness creates room for more inclusivity, at the same time educating the public about pressing issues. This transparency, letting go of the command and control machinery may have caused Pak Lah his seat as the prime minister, but the man was never ambitious, he was there because he wanted to serve. If Pak Lah is a statesman and not just a politician he has demonstrated this by putting the nation before himself. Lets hope he follows trough with his promise of not wanting to be an embarassment to the party upon his handing over of power.
This transfer of power to the people and freedom of ideas and speech may be harmful at the early stages, where minds angry at the government will swallow every single thing written by bloggers with their own agenda, but as the people get used to the responsibility of thinking and adopting the right views, we will have a strenghtened democracy. In the preface I have talked about the failure of the western system with it’s two party democracy, but perhaps i must reformulate this statement by saying that it can only work if its fused with an ethics that encourages the spirit of comradery instead of struggle of power.
Greater civic participation among the people will create greater trust and social capital. A more educated and mature citizenry may lead to greater efficiency in administering the country. The malay civilasation once had a maxim ‘ The just king is obeyed, but the unjust will be overthrown”.
Today bad governments will get voted out of the government. But if its only an illusion of choice and not greater effort towards justice and fairness, this will create a disenchanted population.
However those who prefer a command and control attitude will think differently. The 700 000 members of the youth wing of umno acts like a state within a state, when leaders only think about strengthening their party base instead of encouraging more inclusivity. What we get is a party that does not reflect the will of the population, but only reflective of the view of the select few, and once this is the case, we can only pray that these select few have the greater good in mind.
March 08
Discussed by many as the tipping point, or characterised as a political tsunami, many forget the Arrogance of power. This arrogance of power is actually a virus that crippled and destroyed many civilisations of the past. Barisan Nasional may have been guilty of it, especially since winning their greatest victory in 2004. But if anything, the opposition today are behaving in the same manner. Especially if one has witnessed the Perak takeover more recently.
What this shows is that as humans, power is never absolute, because it is in the hands of Allah to crown who He wills. Yet even this illusion of power is enough to corrupt the people who are not pious, or saleh.That is why, the quran dictates, the earth shall be inherited by the saleh. And who are these Saleh or pious people? Must they be dressed as a superficial religious class? Or are they people who are honest, who do not let power and greed in their hearts and heads?
Some voices like Musa hitam, deputy prime minister in the time of Mahathir said that UMNO is old and dying, but forgot that the old, the dying, are the trouble makers within UMNO who refuse to let go of whatever remnants they may have of their influence and power. Musa himself who stepped down as deputy prime minister acted as if he were the advisor to Pak Lah in the earlier days, but now as pak lah nears his fall he was among the first those who criticised him. Lets not forget that just as there had been ‘musketeers’ in the time of Mahathir, there will be musketeers in the time of Najib to protect the institution of UMNO, in order to preserve its relevance. Some possible candidates maybe K.J the young d’artagnon, and also Dato Wira Syed Ali Al-habsyee, the president’s man.
If umno is to survive as an institution that protects the well being of the malays, it has to be more in sync with the wants of the country as a whole.
The ailing party
The people are sick of a party that practices money politics, a party so concerned with staying in power that it forgets their needs. UMNO and ‘Barisan didnt use to be this way’, some of the members of the older generation will testify,it was once a party that worked together, a party where the leaders would sacrifice their own finances for the good of the people. They were comitted with what they stood for, and politicians could be trusted to be statesmen. If there were competition within the party, it was about who could serve the people better.
But today, when UMNO has contracted this virus, the ‘struggle for power’, its like an old man getting chikukunya, where this virus keeps coming back even though he tries all sorts of remedies.Some may suggest that it should be left to die, but this sick man, this party is what the malay people depend on to safeguard their institutions.
Perhaps UMNO is lucky today since what it is up against is an opposition that suffers from diseases themselves. This strategic alliance is bound to fall since it depends on BN’s weakness for it to thrive. Behind this show of force is a party that is ideologically incoherent. But rest assured a people whose fed-up with the government will do whatever is necessary to protect their interests.
After the tsunami of march 08, Permatang Pauh, and then Kuala Terengganu, Barisan Nasional should pick up the signals, with bukit Gantang and bukit Silambau elections around the corner, there are talks that these two constituents will be the day of reckoning.
Najib and the insurmountable task.
When Najib Tun Razak takes the office, UMNO is given a second chance, to renew the confidence of the people. Perhaps one can only pray that Najib can emulate his father, and clean up after Pak Lah. He has to be resourceful and think of ways that could make his party relevant and worth saving.
Its been 27 years since i wrote ‘the youth in the times of Mahathir’, If there is a lesson or a general law I can impart, it is ‘Politics is the game of the possible’. Anything can happen in an instance. There has been 6 prime ministers now, 3 were UMNO youth wing leaders, and 3 werent. Many of the Youth leaders were great like Syed Jaffar Al-bar, Dato Harun, Dato Senu and Tun Saadon, but these people never got to be the Prime Minister. Rahim Tamby Chik had to step down as the youth leader, whilst Syed Hamid Al-bar backed out at the last minute.
Khairy Jamaluddin who won the deputy post for the UMNO youth wing uncontested suddenly finds that he is the underdog in this contest. This brilliant young man has suffered colossal attacks from various directions. Of course by virtue of being Pak Lah’s son in law it might have opened some doors for him, but if UMNO is to start becoming a party that is based on merit, then try and gauge him and the other contestants with their visions, their capabilities and their achievements.
He has said that win or lose, what he wants is for the youth to be united and strenghtened. He has pledged support for whoever that would win. Sabrun jamil, patience is beautiful. He has gone trough lots of tests for his youthful age, but in the end win or lose is part of life, this will be a test for his statesmanship, and as pak lah has said, it’s just a game.
"Don't ever take anything to heart, because this is just a game. And it's not about your life. This is not your life. Your life is your family, your life is your well-being. This is a game, a game that you're in because you want to do something for the country. And unfortunately, to help the country you have to be part of this game. You can stop whenever you want, and you can leave. Nobody is asking you to play this game. You are in it by your own volition, your own choice."-pak lah, from kj’s interview with the nutgraph.
Towards the end of my mental episode, brought on by the sweet aroma of my ginger coffee from Surabaya, from the balcony of my house I descended and approached the stream. I observed the crystal clear water, willful and desirous to fulfill its journey. From Chemperoh to Kuala Sungai Pahang, and finally the South china sea, only to be picked up later by clouds and there begins another journey, that is life.Life is a journey like the journey of the stream, full of boulders and hindrance before we arrive at our destination.
Likewise is the journey of Dato Najib since I first wrote about him 27 years ago when he was deputy youth leader while Anwar was the youth leader.Time has flown so fast, Anwar was fast tracked until he was one step away from becoming the prime minister, but I suppose lady fortune has her own plans; Anwar was to fall into Sungai Buloh jail. God is never unjust; He is all knowing and has His own plans. As humans we must learn to read the signals He sends, and learn to be patient.
And today, Najib, the president of UMNO will, god willing become the Prime Minister. I’m sure by now he is exhausted, but life must go on. The world is but a stage, with many roles to be filled by all of us, but none of us knows the plan of the director. All we can attempt to do is work hard, and make the best of what life hands over to us. The night before, I was watching Rocky Balboa with my son Habib Omar Al-Attas and I think, some of the lines is worth repeating here.
The world aint all sunshine and rainbows. Its a very mean and nasty place, and i dont care how tough you are,it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently,if you let it. You,me or nobody, is gonna hit you as hard as life. Buy ain’t about how hard you hit,its about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take,and keep moving forward. Thats how winning is done.Now,if you know what you’re worth, go out there and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying: You ain’t what you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”. –Rocky Balboa
Written by :
Pak Habib
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