I was watching PR's ceramah live online until a permanent distruption at about 11pm. In Anil's blog:
“We have the numbers,” says Anwar. “We are ready.” Pakatan leaders have written to the PM calling for the release of all ISA detainees and for the smooth transition of power. “The process has begun,” confirms a senior PKR leader. “Tomorrow, emissaries are going to try and meet the PM, and if that doesn’t materialise, Anwar will start the process.”
Abdullah's immediate response:
Anwar's claim was immediately panned by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other Barisan Nasional leaders. Abdullah scoffed at the Opposition's plans, saying it was "a nuisance" and "preposterous." He said the people had become very uneasy with this “naughty” speculation that the government would be toppled.
It does not matter who is telling the truth and who is not. The answer will be out in the open when we greet a new day on 16th September.
Meanwhile, it is more alarming for BN to look deeper into its own coalition dynamics instead of being over worried of a possible threat from PR. If BN does disintegrate, the leadership only has itself to blame for a spate of unpopular and selective measures.
Being leader a governing coalition for the last 51 years, UMNO has lost its sense and sensibility. On the 9th May, I wrote an opinion piece in The Star urging the PM to keep up the pace of reform and hinted that the only way for BN to win back support is by being more people oriented. It has to ditch communal politics.
Of course, there was no reaction to the article. A number of friends called to say that this article contained important messages they wanted to send to the government too. I was glad I helped to convey this message.
The outcome of sticking to status-quo is clear. UMNO is still more interested in maintaining its race centric political dominance. Its priority became clearer when PAS leaked out secret meetings held between its leaders and PM Abdullah Badawi to talk about Malay-Muslim unity. It was clear to many of its BN component parties' leaders what was UMNO's priority immediately after BN suffered heavy casualties in the last elections.
UMNO did not take immediate steps to restore its coalition partnership. After the Permatang Pauh incident, it became clear that the party has made a big mistake by continuing to ignore its multiracial support base but its Malay ground did not grow stronger despite all that communal chest beating and slogan shouting by its leaders.
Now the matter involving Ahmad Ismail, Azhar Ibrahim and lately Khir Toyo has grown large enough to consume UMNO. Its non-Malay support may vanish for a long time. This outcome will not go down well with parties such as MCA, Gerakan, MIC, PPP, SUPP and others who are dependent on the support from minorities to sustain their political relevance.
After the recent ISA detentions, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar showed us the reality of BN's credibility deficit. The minister has given 3 conflicting statements in less than 3 days. First, he said the detention was for reporter Tan's own safety. Then, he pushed the blame to the police and asked them to explain the detentions. Today, he admitted he signed the detention orders and argued that it was justified when Tan wrote about her 18 hours ordeal in detention.
Syed Hamid Albar is an embarrassment to the BN cabinet and a bad role model to the government. However, PM Abdullah deserves to shoulder some part of the blame for being ignorant and lost in the whole event. Did he approve the detentions? If not, he should immediately suspend Syed Hamid from his cabinet position.
The perpetrators Ahmad Ismail and Khir Toyo remain defiant. Coupled this with UMNO's selective use of ISA to persecute its political opponents and double standards against its own members, it is fair to say that it is going to self destruct.
The reality is Anwar Ibrahim alone could not have destroyed the coalition if it had started on the right foot immediately after the 8th March general election.
A power transition in UMNO, with Dr Mahathir's involvement, is not going to help the party or the coalition.