Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Hoping for change

Brave New World (The Star)
October 15, 2009

"The Nobel Peace Prize should not be given lightly, and neither should corruption and political office be mentioned in the same breath."


WHAT a funny week it has been. One man gets a prize despite having done nothing to deserve it and another gets a prize despite having done something which should have prevented him from getting it.
I am speaking of US President Barack Obama and local politician Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad. Boy, I never thought I’d use these two names in the same sentence.
Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize came out of the blue and of course the question on everybody’s mind was, what on earth did he do to deserve it?
Apparently it is for the “hope” that he has given to a world totally “bushed” from America’s cowboy “diplomacy” of the past eight years.
Well, if making people feel good is a factor to be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize then I nominate Barry Manilow for bringing joy to countless millions of housewives around the world (with his music, of course).
Another reason given by the Nobel people is the “potential” that he has shown for bringing peace to the world. This is very weird. For one thing, his “potential” has not been particularly promising.
America is still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan and in fact its presence in Afghanistan appears to be getting even stronger, what with the call from the senior US military commander there, General Stanley A. McChrystal, for 40,000 more troops.
And the so-called peace process between Palestine and Israel sees America basically letting the Israelis do whatever they want.
Jewish settlements in Arab land continues, United Nations Human Rights Council Judge Richard Goldstone’s (a Jew incidentally) condemnation on the attacks on Gaza is brushed aside by the United States and the Palestinians are told to go to the negotiating table with no conditions attached, basically tying their hands behind their backs.
So, forgive me if I don’t see how Obama is going to achieve this “potential” as the architect, or at the very least a big wheel in the achievement of world peace.
And what if he doesn’t live up to this expectation? What if things get worse? Does he have to give the prize back?
Don’t get me wrong, Obama is so much more palatable than Bush and I’m certain diplomatic ties between America and the rest of the world is going to be much, much better under him.
But the Nobel Peace Prize should not be given lightly and the reasons why he has been bestowed this honour seems to me to be rather frivolous and premature.
Now, over to our little corner of the world. Isa Abdul Samad has given something for the Umno people to crow about.
He won the by-election in Bagan Pinang and added some 3,000 votes to Umno’s majority.
This is Umno’s first major victory in all the by-elections after the 2008 general election.
It’s all a little strange because Isa, as everybody knows, was found guilty of money politics by his own party and has just served out his punishment.
Some may say that the man has “done his time” and should not be stopped from competing in the elections.
Normally I would agree, but not in this case. Money politics is corruption; it is not a “technical offence”, whatever that might be.
In light of the fact that corruption is one of the banes of Malaysian public life, choosing him as their candidate (and now having him as an assemblyman) is to my mind akin to allowing a convicted paedophile to be a kindergarten teacher after he has served his time.
There are some offences which should bar one from certain jobs.
Corruption and political office is one of those situations.
Having said that, the people of Bagan Pinang obviously do not consider corruption to be such a big issue, which is why they gave Isa such a nice majority.
What is interesting to note is the very large (40%) swing among non-Malay voters away from the Pakatan. Whatever their reasons for this loss in faith, Pakatan, in particular PAS, has to take note.
They have to figure out what went wrong and try to rectify it. Denial and angry accusations are not going to help.
It’s been a funny old week. We have two men, both receiving prizes that maybe should not have gone to them.
Only the future can tell if this will have any significant effect at all.

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