Articles, Opinions & Views: The moment Zahid Hamidi pushed Ismail Sabri's arms away By James Chai

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Hindu King
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In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God

Which must always come to pass

He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My Church have you been true?"

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't

Because those of us who carry guns

Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around

Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here,

Lord, It needn't be so grand,

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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The moment Zahid Hamidi pushed Ismail Sabri's arms away By James Chai
Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Malaysiakini : COMMENT | Not everyone was happy when BN won a "landslide" at Johor.

When Ismail Sabri Yaakob walked into the BN's command centre at the Johor Umno Liaison Hall, he was greeted with a roaring "Bubar Parlimen!" (Dissolve Parliament) – a sentiment he would strongly resist. He was unwilling to be the shortest-serving prime minister. Not shorter than Muhyiddin Yassin.

Though he was the prime minister, Ismail was not invited to give a speech at the victory celebration. It was party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, still carrying 47 graft charges, who stole the show. After the two soft-spoken leaders, former Johor menteri besar Hasni Mohammad and Mohamad "Tok Mat" Hasan, gave their speeches, Zahid took the stage as though it was his inaugural speech announcing a comeback.

"Don't forget to vote for BN in GE15," he said with his signature smirk.

Then he said something that turned the mood awkward: "Although officially, Tok Mat was the election director (of Johor's state election) and Hasni its chief coordinator, the main campaign manager was Yang Berhormat Datuk Seri Mohammad Najib Tun Abdul Razak."

Zahid then stepped aside from his podium for Najib to emerge to the centre to wave to the crowd cheering "Bossku".

"This victory is a gift for Bossku," Zahid continued.

The tension among BN members on stage is obvious. Hasni, who learned that he would not return as MB two days later, forced a smile at Najib. Tok Mat, at the left of Zahid, held his hands together, moving occasionally but never clapping. Wee Ka Siong, too, held his hands together and then just lightly clapped and quickly stopped.

Ismail Sabri was willing to play along to keep his prime minister role, but you could sense he would rather not if he was stronger within the party. They all would rather not directly cheer on Najib, but they too celebrated his popularity – they were part of the system.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Tension within Umno

Then the songs started to play, and the leaders lined up for a group photo. Zahid, standing at the centre, realised that his best friend was nowhere to be found. He turned and pushed Ismail Sabri's left arm away and pulled out Najib to stand with him. The country's prime minister was relegated to the back, barely visible in the group photo.

Before 1MDB came crashing down, Zahid was the deputy prime minister, a stone's throw away from the throne. In the years of Umno's wilderness, Zahid maintained his grassroots support in clinching the party president spot.

He was slated to take over the country's most powerful position after orchestrating a coup on Muhyiddin's government. 1MDB wasn't him; he felt like a scapegoat. But for his corruption cases, the prime minister now would be he, not Ismail Sabri.

But that shove of Ismail is not just personal resentment for a person he thinks is unworthy; it is also a symbolic gesture of what is to come. This was the first major election where Najib's role was directly recognised for his contribution, to the point that nobody in Umno could deny.

The next step, as widely speculated, is to use the "gift" of a Johor comeback to Bossku to pave the way for a GE15 so that everyone in Umno would be free again. No more 1MDB. Start over, just like a video game.

I remember clearly, in the early months of Malaysia's democratic renewal in May 2018, a lot of analysts were warning about the fragility of democratic progress. You need to protect the precious gains. If not, they would slide back to authoritarianism just as fast. Look at Taiwan and South Korea. Protect it with your life, they said.

At that time, I didn't believe them. I was a naive 25 years old, who thought that the 1MDB corruption was so large in scale that the scarring effect would stay with Malaysians forever. That is our protection against any potential democratic backsliding, I thought.

(From left) Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Najib Abdul Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

The shocking return of Marcos

But then I started hearing about how democratic backsliding was very common. Countries like Russia and Hungary retreated into authoritarianism within years. Worse, the recent rise of Bongbong Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, as the next Philippine president scared me.

Ferdinand Marcos's corruption was eerily similar. His family was accused of amassing US$5 billion to US$10 billion when he was in power. He and his wife, Imelda, hold the Guinness World Record for the "Greatest Robbery of a Government".

The Hawaiian court, where Marcos was exiled, found Marcos to be liable for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings, and disappearances. It was the glorious People Power Revolution in 1986 that ousted the president peacefully, forcing Marcos and his wife to flee the country.

Years later, Imelda was allowed back to the country. Ferdinand Marcos's body was allowed to be buried. Their son, Bongbong, is about to be the next president of the Philippines. Start over, just like a video game.

In times like this, you only wish that there is someone who could put up a good fight against the shadow of the former dictators. In the Philippines, they are relying on the positive image of their female vice president and former lawyer Leni Robredo to usher in a cleaner and more democratic future.

In Malaysia, however, our hopes are wasted. Old opposition leaders prefer to live in the past. Anwar Ibrahim still wants to become prime minister. Lim Kit Siang wants another anti-Najib week. Mohamad Sabu wants the old playbook of combining all the opposition parties.

No one is principled enough to step aside, no one bold enough to do something new, no one cares enough to protect the little democratic gains that are slipping away every second we waste.

I don't know why, but I keep thinking about Tok Mat's hands during the BN victory celebration night. If he had a choice, his camp (much smaller in comparison) would prefer to rejuvenate Umno and dislodge it from the corrupt past.

During the lull where Zahid took garden leave, and Tok Mat became acting president, there were signs that he could consolidate power and swipe the slate clean.

But it was not to be. Although he didn't clap for Najib when others did, his hands were tempted and constantly moved. And when the claps continued for another few minutes, he finally succumbed and clapped for brief seconds.

That Zahid Hamidi pushed and Tok Mat clapped represented the same thing - some forces are too hard to resist when you are part of the system.

Is it strange that we now place hope in Umno rebels instead?

posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 1:41 PM  
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