Descending on the land of plenty

pic by BERNAMA

IT WAS once narrated that Stalin, in wanting to make a point to his stalwarts, plucked the feathers off a live chicken, making it bloodied and in immense pain.

He then let the chicken go and when he started feeding it with chicken feed, it started following him. To that, Stalin was quoted as saying, that was how easy it was to govern stupid people — no matter how much pain inflicted on them — if they believe the person is the source of their sustenance, they would follow him.

While there has been dispute that the anecdote wasn’t Stalin’s, it made a good story to make an obvious point.

And the Malaysian political scene before and during the 2018 general polls, chicken feed or dedak was a popular catchphrase in describing the reason behind the seemingly blind loyalty accorded to former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.

The accusations were simply that these supporters, despite global exposé of 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) financial shenanigans, they remained loyal to Najib because they were being fed with dedak, which condescendingly meant that they received money, not in large amount though, in return for their support.

Last week’s conviction of Najib for seven charges relating to abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering in SRC International Sdn Bhd, a 1MDB subsidiary, should have nailed the issue and bring an end to what seemed to be incomprehensible support for a person that had been internationally described as a kleptocrat.

It could be the dedak talking that despite the conviction, the support did not end and instead, Najib’s claims of being a victim and that the monies were used for orphans seemed to be lapped up unquestioningly amid extensive revelations of how the monies were spent to keep up with the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

While Najib’s supporters seemed content with the paltry dedak for unflinching allegiance, it is not so for politicians in Sabah where for them to switch allegiance would require factories worth of dedak.

With figures offered ranging from single digit to double digits in the millions of ringgit, the Land Below the Wind proved to be conducive for the breeding of political frogs. Indeed, frogs are very much maligned in Sabah right now, with displeasures loudly expressed and websites to identify and expose the politicians-turn-amphibians so as to ensure that they would be wiped out in the upcoming state elections.

It is probably time for the Sabah electorate to bring an end to the party-hopping trend which seemed to have even attained a cultural status lest the will of the voters would forever be compromised and bargained by the elected representatives when seeking bounties.

Of course, the current near-festive party-hopping activity is not the first in Sabah as it had witnessed several others in previous elections, but coming at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic had yet to overrun its course is somewhat an anathema.

It can be argued that Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s (picture; right) move to seek the dissolution of the state assembly would not help in efforts to diminish the pandemic threat.

On the flip side, Mohd Shafie was not left with much choice, given the aggressive and relentless attack elements from the federal government to topple his administration through crossovers and party hopping.

What makes it quite ominous is when antagonist Tan Sri Musa Aman stated in declaring his stake on the Chief Ministership, Home Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin and Datuk Nardin Awang, the political secretary to PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, had presented his (Musa) claim to the Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin.

No matter how anyone chooses to interpret the statement, the involvement of a federal minister and the PM’s aide in the move to topple the state government is obvious.

In effect, it implicated federal hands in the manoeuvrings — making hollow the call by Muhyiddin that it was not the time for playing politics when the nation faced the uncertainties and economic downturn due to the pandemic.

There are efforts now to condemn Mohd Shafie for pursuing the dissolution route, accusing him of being insensitive to the dangers of the pandemic and the potential of new waves and clusters in the course of the polls.

Superficially, it sounds sound, but surely, the hands of those manoeuvring the crossovers and party hopping are more guilty than the one reacting to such mischiefs.

It makes interesting observation on how these proclamations of not wanting too much politicking during the pandemic had become a tool to undermine political opponents and any attempts to retaliate, accusations of being irresponsible to render the target impotent.

In other words, the political power play, while soliciting frogs, demands sitting ducks. Indeed, these are testing times. Those sitting on the moral high horse play Iago, making the beautiful land below the wind fraught with plentiful of amphibians.

They are, however, as deadly as the dart frogs.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.