Of public protests, pondans and a pea-brained minister

Martin Jalleh (mkini)
Nov 15, 07

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz has trouble in understanding why 40,000 people took to the streets recently to submit a memorandum calling for electoral reforms, to the King.

The minister is actually quite consistent in his lack of understanding especially when it comes to the right of assembly. Well, he had found it difficult to comprehend why 2,000 lawyers walked to Putrajaya to submit a memorandum on judicial reform to the PM.
Nazri displayed his sterling ignorance when he was asked in Parliament recently: “The opposition has won seats in the previous elections, especially in Kelantan, why are they calling for the Election Commission (EC) to be freer and fairer?”
The answer is rather simple – if they do not press for an electoral reform, they may even lose all their seats in the coming general election due to the farce, flaws and fraud that has been and still is increasingly evident in the electoral system.
Nazri told Parliament: “…it would be pointless to try and understand the reason behind the rally as the brains of opposition members do not function well…the wires in their heads are severed. I don’t understand why they claim that the EC is unfair.”
Nazri was over-confident of the “wiring” in his own brains, for it was only recently that he had in fact quite loudly told opposition MPs “not to get over-excited about the ‘independence’ of the EC, when it does not exist” (Malaysiakini, 23.10.07)!
Nazri had added: “We all know that we have the EC Act. If you take that into account, the EC is bound to the legislature and it is also tied to what we would approve…So, don’t get too excited when discussing the EC’s independence because it cannot act freely – it is tied to the legislature.”
Contrary to what Nazri had claimed, the EC is established and given a specific mandate by the Constitution. It is not answerable to the Executive nor to the Legislature. In other words, Nazri’s brains are not functioning as well as he would like us to believe.
Nazri should not confine himself in the comfort of his air-conditioned office in Putrajaya. He should join the rakyat in the next walk for justice for electoral reforms – get a feel of reality. It would enhance his short memory and prevent his thinking faculties from short-circuiting.
Dull brains
Nazri showed his ignorance further by taking a shot at PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim: “I would understand if he (Anwar) says that the EC is unfair after losing an election, but he hasn’t even contested and to say that the EC is unfair, his head must not be functioning well.”
Does one have to contest in an election to make a critique of the EC? What about his (Nazri’s) very own admission that the EC is not independent. Talk about the head of others not functioning well?
Nazri added that Anwar realises that he will lose in the coming elections should he contest for a seat – not just lose, “but lose terribly…That’s the reason why Anwar is trying to create a smokescreen so that he can say the EC is not fair when he loses.”
Nazri should prove his point by speaking to his boss to ensure that Anwar gets a chance to contest in the next general election. Nazri should stand against Anwar and make him “lose terribly” so that Anwar’s political future will go up in smoke amidst his “smokescreen”!
Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang told Nazri that he was being “very irresponsible” with his tirade. Nazri retorted and added “Don’t try to drag the King into this. The King and the people are behind us. They (the opposition) are afraid to face the next elections. If you’ve no courage, don’t become a pondan (wimp).”
If there is anyone who has made use of the King – it is Nazri himself! In April 2005, Nazri told Parliament that the Cabinet’s plan to form a select committee on water privatisation was dropped because ‘the King wanted water privatisation to be in place by the end of the year’.
Kit Siang had then rebuked Nazri: “It is most irresponsible for a Cabinet minister to try and drag the King into a public controversy, as the Royal address is the policy pronouncement of the government of the day.”
Alas, Nazri should not worry too much about Lim Kit Siang, whose, according to Nazri, “wires in the head have severed”. He should worry about his own head being all wired up and ready to explode at any time into diatribes which require little or no brains.
Courage to change
If only Nazri were to use his head a bit more, he would be aware of the fact that what the opposition-backed Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) has been calling for is very similar to what EC chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman had advocated early this year!
Abdul Rashid had called for an independent commission to be set up to oversee changes in the election laws and regulations – changes should be made in the electoral system to bring it up to date and relevant to the present social order (Star, 9.01.07).
He had also said that the laws had been almost unaltered for the past 50 years despite the country having undergone tremendous changes in its social order and development – the EC requires a review of the electoral laws.
“It should also be given the powers to allow the media to report freely and fairly, as well as prevent corruption and vote-buying… the EC should be able to make decisions on party funding and penalise those who misused public facilities during campaigning.”
Nazri, responded in Parliament very predictably and pathetically: “As I’ve said, there is no need to revamp the EC. In the past 50 years we have not revamped any ministry. So why must the EC be singled out (to be revamped)?”
It takes courage to change – the kind of courage displayed by the 2,000 lawyers and 40,000 people who risked marching to send home a message. In contrast, the chant of change by Pak Lah has become a mere charade. The promise of transformation has been turned into taunts, threats and theatrics by ministers like Nazri.
The government hides behind a gamut of harsh executive powers to contain, cripple and crush legitimate dissent by the citizens of this country. It resorts to selective prosecution of political opponents for its self-preservation. It has no guts. Yet it has the gall to call others pondan.
The country has turned 50. Please grow up, Nazri.