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Ahmad Ismail vs Koh Tsu Koon

It was supposed to be a press conference for the Bukit Bendera Umno chief, Datuk Ahmad Ismail to diffuse the situation.

Tearing Dr Koh's PhotoWhat happened instead after the press conference was his supporters tore up in anger a picture of former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and engaged in a shouting match with reporters.

This happened after Ahmad, while defending his position, urged the Barisan Nasional leadership to expel Gerakan from the coalition.

His supporters also engaged in a shouting match with a reporter from an English language daily that reached its lowest point with death threats hurled at her.

Ahmad had been directed by Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to hold a press conference today to try to diffuse the tensions sparked by his controversial remarks during the recent Permatang Pauh by-election campaign in which he referred to the Chinese in Malaysia as “squatters”.

He read from a prepared statement, in which he defended his decision not to apologise for his remarks, and repeated his stand that he had been quoted out of context.

Ahmad put the blame for mounting racial tensions squarely on the shoulders of Koh, whom he accused of being a good actor who was instigating the Chinese.

He also attacked the reporter from a Chinese language daily for misreporting his speech.

“I was only mentioning the facts of what was the situation before Merdeka. Nobody can change history,” he said.

He said Gerakan leaders were trying to make him a scapegoat, and that Koh was creating a “sandiwara,” which caused tensions to rise.

“I have worked with him for the past 18 years. I know him very well. He is a good actor,” he said.

He said the patience of Malays had its limits.

“I want to appeal to the Chinese not to become like the Jewish in America. It is not enough they control the economy, now they want political control.”

Ahmad only answered one question from the press, before he ended the press conference.

Ahmad’s supporters, who were also present during his press conference last Friday, even took down the picture of former Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, from the wall of the conference room.

“One reporter insisted that I answer one more question from her, she was being a little bit rude, so some people got upset, you know how we Malays sometimes get angry with this kind of behaviour,” said Ahmad when contacted.

“I was already in the office when they were arguing,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He added that he came out of the office when he heard the commotion to calm down his supporters.

Ahmad, however, said that the supporters ended up tearing the picture of Koh, as the frame was firmly nailed to the wall.

“Nothing serious happened,” said Ahmad who reiterated that he was subjected to unfair trial by the media.

However, according to eye witnesses present at the press conference, some of Ahmad’s supporters shouted, “sudah lah (enough)” and “bunuh dia (kill her),” at one reporter from an English daily who insisted on asking one more question.

“Of course she got angry as she was just doing her job, and the supporters were trying to intimidate her,” said a reporter who was present at the press conference.

The reporter who was verbally abused by the Umno supporters said she would check with her employer on the next course of action.

On Friday, Penang opposition leader and state Umno secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim said that one reporter from a Chinese daily should be blamed for twisting Ahmad’s words.

“What was written may lead to a racial riot. If such a thing happens, he is the first person that should be shot,” said Azhar.

On Saturday, during the state Umno liaison committee meeting chaired by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Ahmad presented his case and explained that his remark was made in a historical context.

Abdullah later said that Ahmad is not a racist although he did not say whether he accepted Ahmad’s explanation.

It’s a surprise that it took nearly six months after March 8 for the ghost of the old Umno-ruled order to step out in the person of Ahmad Ismail, the Bukit Bendera Umno chief who has challenged the emerging new Malaysia with his unvarnished racism.

Not only has Ismail won widespread support in Umno Penang but also elsewhere in the country, indicating that the old Umno-dominated order is not dying as predicted by the politically naive.

With MCA and Gerakan in uproar and already cutting their ties with Umno at the local level, and with PKR pulling Chinese and Indians and Malays like a magnet into their fold, the question being asked is whether the Barisan Nasional (BN) has a future.

The enlarged BN coalition was born in the aftermath of the May 13 riots that buried the old order and with it the pre-independence Alliance Party.
By the early 1960s, the Alliance, once hailed as the independence hero, was a dirty word and faced a serious crisis of credibility and public confidence.

Likewise the future of the 14-party Barisan Nasional, after a sterling 30-year run, is in question with people challenging the way the BN had done business – back door negotiation on “sensitive issues” and consensus building founded on a strongly held “don’t-rock-the-boat” philosophy.

“March 8 changed everything – politics, people, lifestyle, economics, everything,” said PPP president Datuk M. Kayveas.

“People are challenging the conventions we had lived by. They want to debate race and religion, they want to discuss and debate and decide for themselves. They showed that they are not afraid in the March 8 vote. They showed there is no such thing as sensitive issues,” Kayveas said in an interview with Malaysian Insider.

“The lesson of March 8 is this – change or die,” he said. “It goes for everyone, but especially for the Barisan Nasional. It has to change or it will sink. Its days are numbered unless it can successfully transform and meet the people’s expectations head on.”

“It did good before. It gave political stability, it developed the economy, it built the social and economic infra-structure,” he said. “But people have rejected the race-based politics that underpin the BN.”

Will the BN go the way of the Alliance? Will a new political grouping emerge to replace the BN and win back ground lost to PKR and the PKR-led Peoples Alliance (PR)? Will the BN implode under the weight of its torpor and failure to transform itself? Will the PKR emerge as the new political leader to lead the country? Can an incapacitated BN ease itself “without creating trouble” into a new role as the country’s opposition?

Perhaps it’s too early in the day to find adequate answers for these fundamental questions. Some Malaysians still have hope that the BN can transform itself, while many others say the seeds of its own destruction were laid on March 8.

Some politicians had already sounded warnings even before March 8 and had urged the BN to transform itself into a single, multi-racial party open to all races just like PKR, which like the BN, is Malay-led but not founded on the Malay supremacy ideology of Umno.
“This is the way out – a single multi-racial party. All BN components, Umno included, dissolve themselves to form a single multi-racial political party,” said Kayveas.

What about ketuanan Melayu, NEP, economic domination? Can all these be discarded by the new BN? “We should take it one step at a time – we have the time to evolve,” said Kayveas.

However, looking at the changed political landscape, the realignment of emerging new political forces coming at a time when the economy is slowing and basic living cost is escalating, the prospect of a new PKR-style BN rising out of the ashes appears to be a daunting task.

For one, visionary leadership – visionary enough to capture the public imagination – is missing. For another, the old rules of how the political business was always done are being questioned both in BN and outside.

While the fundamentals of the economy remain reasonably sound, the politics of the country is in uncharted territory and can easily descend into chaos given the potential for racial and religious tensions to escalate.

The possible political storms are compounded by the fact that the man leading the country at such a crucial juncture has difficulties leading his own party. Like cancer, political instability is a disease that can infect and destabilise all aspects of society.

In the final analysis, it does not really matter whether BN can transform itself. What really matters for the future of the nation is whether BN welcomes change or resists change.

And whether it accepts the realities of the changed political landscape and is able to shape for itself a new and meaningful role.

The alternative is to fade away from the political stage.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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4 Comments so far

  1. […] Original adiwira […]

  2. […] on ANIMAL PLANET: Help Save the Penang UMNO Monkey by Khairul Hezry 3. What a PM 02 by 4896kj 4. Ahmad Ismail vs Koh Tsu Koon by WarKah 5. MALAYSIAKINI: ‘Sack Ahmad and detain him under ISA’ by CTChooLaw 6. I’m […]

  3. Tan Hoon Cheng Released | Warkah on September 15th, 2008

    […] facts. What I wrote was exactly what I heard from him,’ she said, referring to Umno official Ahmad Ismail who had made inflammatory remarks against the Chinese community. The arrests had fanned fears among […]

  4. no imagerichardlim (Check me out!) on September 19th, 2008

    I can’t stand to see this kind of people with this kind of behavours and bad defient attitute and have no regard to his senior. There is no place on earth can allow them to dwell.

    Rate this:
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