Here’s an immutable narrative woven tightly within the fabric of Malaysian  politics over the decades democracy continued to play itself out through personality cults, rather than political and ideological beliefs.A reality check of the political culture around us makes us see some hard, unpleasant truths. Contrary to the popular perception that authoritarian regimes alone thrive on personality cults, the wheels of electoral and representative democracy too revolve around powerful personalities. Like the strict political commandment of ‘absolute control’, ‘absolute and unquestioning submission’ to personalities has become the guiding principle of national politics.

Fish, said Mao Zedong, do not swim in pure water.but Azmin  should, by now, know a thing or two about swimming upstream. He could, of course, point out that pollution is not very good for the health of fish either.Realists know that integrity is a variable virtue.The operating law in politics owes much to a management principle made immortal by Mario Puzo in Godfather. There is nothing personal about it; this is business  if there was anyone around to listen, elections are the only time that a party grows in substantive terms

Too many times in the past PKR has faltered at a time when it should not. Its near-death experience at the 2010 party elections has not been helped by the aftershocks of Azmin’s inept attempts to consolidate his personal power base within PKR at the expense of Khalid Ibrahim (Selangor Menteri Besar), Nurul and Dr Azizah Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR president) – because only these three people stand in his way to greater personal glory in PKR.

The singular lack of a vibrant democratic culture of disobedience and dissent within political parties can perhaps be explained with the institution of family – in this case, political parties are supposed to relate to a larger world, beyond the immediate family. Herein lies the genesis of the conflict between the demands of home and the outside world. Rabindranath Tagore’s emblematic novel ‘Ghare Baire’, made into a film by Satyajit Ray, eloquently encapsulated the possibilities of this kind of conflict.If family honour is transposed onto political parties and the structures become one and the same, there’s reason to protest. Many would argue that the era of ideology, understood in the sense of the Cold War era, is over. Perhaps. But a different kind of ideology is deepening its roots, and even forging close links with the structures on which ‘progress and modernity’ are based. The ideology of protecting and promoting the kith and kin of powerful political leaders appears to have superseded all other political ideologies, creating in that process a larger network cutting across political parties of varying faiths.

Umno has no real interest in taking down Azmin Ali (PKR deputy president), save for a token slap on his wrist whenever he strays too far.

Umno knows that given enough rope, Azmin will hang himself. Azmin will self-destruct and take Anwar and PKR down with him. It is Nurul that Umno is now battling against.

And how will Umno do battle against Nurul? You cannot fault her work as MP of Lembah Pantai despite having all of Umno’s arsenal arrayed against her to make her work among her constituents almost impossible.

There is not a hint of the scandals and innuendos that plague Barisan Nasional MPs in her. She has no money to speak and lives a life within her means. She is the incumbent MP BN fears most – fearless because she has no blemish on her character, honest, accountable, responsible, open and that most perplexing for Umno to deal with – “defection-proof!”

– Khalid’s chief defender has been his loyal political secretary Faekah Husin. She did not mince her words about Azmin’s interview; as a result she has been severely criticised by Azmin’s camp.

The petite lawyer admitted with a laugh, “there are bullet holes all over my body.”

Azmin’s boys joke that Faekah is the “First Lady of Selangor”. They go for her because she is an easier target to hit than Khalid and there are now renewed calls to sack her for criticising Azmin.

But sacked from what and for what? Faekah is only an ordinary party member, she does not have a party post and her remarks about Azmin were rather mundane.

Moreover, the only person who can sack her is Khalid and he trusts her implicitly; that is what makes her so powerful in Selangor.

Faekah is Khalid’s spokeswoman, and during the launch of his book Fearless: From Kampung Boy to CEO, he singled her out for mention. Going by the video that was aired during the launch, it is quite clear that she is central to Khalid’s politics and work.

Her power status goes up another notch if one considers that she was the former political secretary to PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and they are still very close. Azmin’s boys know they will have to take Faekah down before they can get Khalid, hence the periodic calls for her removal.

In June this year, a group using the Twitter handle @PecatFaekah had agitated for Faekah’s resignation. The group has not given up and has since extended their scope to @PecatFaekah/Arfah, the latter being Khalid’s press secretary.

While Khalid relies on Faekah to check Azmin, Azmin uses Ampang MP Zuraidah Kamaruddin to poke at Khalid. They are Alpha females who do not mind taking the heat for their men.

Zuraidah, who is Azmin’s No. 2 in Selangor, ticked off Khalid a few months ago when he declined to defend Azmin over some compromising photographs of a couple in a toilet. More recently, she lectured Faekah for “jumping the gun” and told her to improve her communication skills with party leaders.

Azmin’s supporters maintain that the MB post should have gone to him instead of Khalid. Azmin was in the lead to be the MB when Selangor fell in 2008.

But in the early hours of March 9, Khalid’s name overtook Azmin’s and by the time the sun came up, Khalid was confirmed as the choice of MB. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had opted for Khalid because he was a big corporate name and also because he thought that Khalid would be easier to control than Azmin; he was wrong on the second count.

Azmin was deeply disappointed and one of those at Anwar’s house that morning recalled witnessing how the de facto leader tried to placate Azmin for almost an hour.

“Azmin’s face was white with anger if you had cut it with a knife, there would have been no blood,” said an insider.This is a central dilemma: power is too lucrative for anyone to walk away without a shove from the electorate. Some parties have also begun to believe that they can purchase enough voters to ensure victory, but such are the illusions that money tends to induce.

Perhaps our politicians should learn to laugh. It is a good antidote to self-importance. Clemenceau, prime minister of France during World War 1 and a hero to his nation, said, wistfully, upon seeing a pretty girl when he was 80, “Oh to be 70 again!” Like a good Frenchman, Clemenceau had interests that were larger than politics.The results were a verdict on the past; government formation is about shaping the future. A comprehensive victory has created some apprehensive allies.

Last week Umno supreme council member and deputy Higher Education minister Saifuddin Abdullah made a rather startling statement that really reflects on the sad state his party is in.

Saifuddin said that the ‘media content’ by Barisan Nasional cybertroopers and across social media platforms would determine the ruling coalition’s success in the next general elections.

He even attributed the BN’s worst electoral performance (so far) in GE12 due to its failure to conquer the cyber-world, which he insisted was dominated by Opposition parties. This handicap alone led to BN losing many young voters who were misled by the alternative media.

My God! What shallow thinking! No doubt the alternative media played a role but any doctor would tell you – pus will always find a way to come out. In other words, BN’s dark deed can never be hidden forever.

It is sad that someone who holds the post of deputy HIGHER Education minister could limit his thinking powers so as not to annoy his party or rock the boat.

10,000 BN cyber troopers recruited

“But now BN is prepared, we have a team of bloggers and new media known as ‘BN cybertroopers’”, Saifuddin said. The BN’s new media unit is equally matched in strength and they only differed in the contents of their blogs and websites, he added.

Yes, BN did host 10 social media conventions in different states to raise an army of over 10,000 UMNO-BN cybertroopers to help them win the 13th General Election. Prime Minister Najib Razak hopes that this army will overrun Malaysia’s cyberspace and debunk all the ‘lies’ created by the Opposition media. Najib and Saifuddin are of course silent on whether the BN cyber soldiers will spread more new lies in the process.

Saifuddin further justified his point of view by pointing out that BN leaders including Najib are now seen to be active on social websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Najib’s reforms in matters of freedom of speech, right to peaceful assembly and the repeal of the Internal Security Act would potentially draw support from this group of voters who frequent the Internet, said Saifuddin perhaps a touch sanctimoniously.

Well, Saifuddin, you are wrong …

What Saifuddin has failed to realize is that Opposition blogs do not number 10,000 or anywhere near that figure. The Opposition is not rich like Sabah Umno for instance, where Chief Minister Musa Aman can just whistle and tycoons like the Lim brothers, Ting Pek Kiing and so forth will rush to allegedly contribute. It seems Musa’s account had RM40 mil cold hard cash – all in Singapore dollars. Now that is power!

And with all due respect,  Anwar Ibrahim and team can sell all the tee-shirts and moon cakes they wish but this is a feat beyond them – for now!

Furthermore, a Google search will indicate that there are less than a hundred such ‘Opposition blogs’ in existence. Actually, the majority of these blogs are personal websites belonging to disgruntled Malaysians who are fed-up of the system. If they are effective, it is due to the sheer hard work and talent of the people who started them. No fancy offices, no power dressing – just an awful lot of risk and non-stop grind!

And this is why though they may be outnumbered, they can pull of David versus Goliath feats time and again. It is obvious the motivating factor behind many pro-Opposition news portals and websites is a sincere wish to help Malaysians achieve a better future – and that means Umno-BN has to take a break. NOW. They have to be stopped from further poisoning the country.

Alternative media

BN’s efforts to setup 10,000 cyber troopers is indeed an overkill given the small number of pro-Opposition blogs where the content are mostly personal opinions, attracting few visitors or traffic. BN’s real target seems to be the electronic media, which is giving the BN-controlled mainstream media a run for their money.

And yet, there are less than ten reputable electronic media in the country. Most of the alternative media is non partisan and neutral. But they do report the news in its entirety and it is these efforts to report the truth or as close to the truth as possible that have earned them the tag of being pro-Opposition when they may not be at all aligned to the Pakatan Rakyat or its leaders.

Thus, BN cyber troopers have already lost even before they can begin. Who would ever believe what they read over the Umno-BN blogosphere. Their motive is already clearly stated – to help Najib defend Putrajaya. So they can be expected to spin lies and discard the truth. Such conduct can only drag Malaysia through further mud in the eyes of the world. A good example is Papa Gomo and how he used UK chess champion Anya Corke’s photo to allege she was the pretty schoolmate the 16-year-old son of DAP leader Lim Guan Eng had molested! How shocking is this!

Lost faith in MSM

Most people today have long ago lost faith and given up hope on the mainstream newspapers like Utusan, Bernama, The Star and the NST to report the truth. Urban Malaysians now know better than to venture a political opinion until they have read the OTHER side in the alternative news portals.

Yes, Umno-BN have shot themselves in the foot. But they will never admit it. The people have turned to the alternative media for credible news because of the blatantly pro-BN news in the MSM. As a result, the op-eds and news reports in the alternative media have received a huge boost and are now shaping public opinion to the BN’s own detriment.

Remember the saying – hosted by one’s own petard? That’s why the alternative press got so popular and the MSM almost obsolete. If not for their monopoly due to the Home Ministry’s licensing system, many of the MSM newspapers would become dinosaurs – eroded by competition.

No amount of spinning, in whatever ‘cosmetic dusted’ form can dissuade the Rakyat from voting against any evil entity that chooses to oppress the people, cheating them of their birthright, denying them of their personal and religious freedoms and raping the country of its natural resources and wealth.

If one day, Pakatan wins the federal government and also becomes a victim of ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the same disease will attack its media, which would then be considered as pro-establishment. It is the substance and the spirit of the content AND NEVER the form and the cosmetics – get it, Saifuddin and Najib?

Like pus, truth always has a way of finding release

The BN administration has gone beyond the boundaries of good governance, and this sort of lying and cheating the people can no longer be ignored or encouraged. Now matter how skilled, the 10,000 BN cyber troopers will have their hands full trying to spin and debunk the underlying truth.

So actually, why does BN continue do such things? A good example is how the great Raja Petra Kamaruddin of Malaysia Today has fallen off the people’s radar after he was perceived to have been bought over by Umno.

Ahhh… even in such deals, there is money to be made. The Umno grapevine has it that the sum of RM100 million was set aside to build this cyber artillery to neutralize the Opposition. Corrupt as always, the Umno middle-men given charge of this social media and the 10,000 cyber solders must be laughing all the way to the bank!

For Umno-BN, it is a loosing battle which can never be won unless they change their ways. The truth cannot be suppressed and any attempts to spin away the negative effects would only invite more resentment from voters.

Can they debunk the billion ringgit scandals

Focus instead on reality and real issues. If there is any truth in ‘loose-lips’ Mukhriz Mahathir’s slip of the tongue about a RM800billion national debt which would have already breached the legislated debt ceiling, this alone is enough grounds and high time for Malaysians to sack BN for its gross mismanagement of the country’s finances.

Apart from Musa’s RM40mil cash ‘donation, there is Taib Mahmud’s RM45 billion…er…’nest egg’, Mahathir Mohamd’s RM30 billion losses from gambling the people’s money in the currency markets, the RM12 billion PKFZ scandal, the multi-billion George Kent-Najib Razak Ampang LRT expansion, Shahrizat Jalil’s RM250mil  NFC scandal and Najib’s very own RM7.3 billion Scorpenes scandal.

Will all these be attributed to SUARAM and Jewish billionaire George Soros? If Soros was wishful to place his own man as Malaysia’s PM, is Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew harboring the same ambitions since Musa’s RM40mil was in cold hard cash – SING dollars!

How in God’s name, are the 10,000 cyber troopers going to debunk all these scandals and still sound credible. We would ask – don’t they have any heart, any conscience left or any thought at all to spare for their fellow countrymen? But that might be a waste of time. So the better question is – do they have any common sense at all? Remember, not all that glitters is gold!

BN leaders can try their best to be IT savvy, open all the Facebook and Twitter accounts they wish. They can continue to invest millions in the electronic media to counter or rather, to COVER UP, their scandals. After all, it is not their personal money but the people’s. But without personal integrity, they have absolutely ZERO credibility.

So in other words, the Umno-BN cyber troopers and its social media programs are just another money-making scheme for some Umno warlord or other. Without underlying credibility of its sponsor organizations, how can these platforms be credible themselves?

Bad guy of last resort

This is why Information minister Rais Yatim has been called on to be the ‘bad guy’ of the last resort. Umno knows their cyber plans have very slim chances of winning. So at the very end, Rais will whip out and Hishammuddin Hussein will execute the oppressive Section 114A legislation to ‘inactivate’, perhaps even jail, the pro-Opposition news operators.

Saifuddin’s contention that BN lost more seats because it failed to harness the cyber-media is DEAD WRONG. It is just an excuse. It is common knowledge that Pakatan would have swept to victory if not for rampant vote-rigging.

The Opposition cyber-media did very little actually. They were too disorganized – still are ad still sadly lacking of funds. The alternative media however did enormous work to raise public consciousness and websites like Malaysiakini will take their place in history along with old pro-Opposition version of RPK’s Malaysia Today.

But they – same as Uthayakumar’s Hindraf – did not win the seats for Pakatan in GE12. Neither will they help in GE13. Only the people can change their own situation. Only they can vote for a Pakatan victory.

The REAL ‘helping hand’ in GE12 and in the coming GE13 is actually none other than the Umno-BN itself. For refusing to admit its own mistakes, for refusing to repent, reform and change its spots.

To have to depend on 10,000 cyber troopers to deliver victory is indeed the saddest statement ever to come from Umno. It shows how far its star has CRASHED after 55 years of dominance.

Why didn’t anyone tell us? is the question everyone will be asking. Well, not everyone. A few of us, particularly Richard Clarke and more recently Leon Panetta, have been warning the nation. But too few have been listening. The threat, of course, is cyber warfare, the destructive use of computers to crash large-scale computer-based systems, what experts call the critical infrastructure.

That infrastructure includes: energy, communications, financial, and transportation systems, the systems upon which our economy and nation depend. They are all computer-operated now and all are vulnerable to cyber attack.

What’s more, unlike warfare of the past, attacks can come from obscure, independent, malign hackers in basements anywhere in the world. And they are at work. Pentagon computer systems are more or less constantly under attack, too often successfully. So, in theory at least, we could have iron-clad, cover-riveted treaties with Russia, China, India, and virtually all other governments and none would protect us against the rogue hacker.

How will you know when the “cyber Pearl Harbor” has occurred? When the lights and heat in your home go off. When you can’t make a phone call. When no ATM works. When your flight cannot land.

Several senators introduced the Cyber Security Act of 2012 to create a government-corporate partnership to protect the critical infrastructure, virtually all of which is in private, corporate ownership, from attack. It passed by a majority but was not filibuster-proof because of Republican opposition. How can this be?

It can be because, at the behest of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senator John McCain, a reputed national security expert, led opposition to the measure. He and the Chamber argued that it imposed too many burdens on business.

Now, wait a minute. Our economy is totally dependent on critical systems. Those systems are owned by private corporations. Our national security leaders have declared them to be immanently threatened. Yet the owners of those systems don’t want government intervention (even as the same corporate owners claim the principal duty of government is to protect us)?

Even the most ardent free enterprise Ayn Rand advocate is hard pressed to put profit ahead of national security. But that seems to be what the chief corporate lobbying group is saying. We don’t want the government to tell us we have to harden our computer systems if it’s going to cost money. This is appalling.

As this author has been writing and saying for quite a number of years, the warfare of the 21st century does not resemble the warfare of the past. The new warfare involves individuals or small cells using modern technology to attack our nation’s greatest vulnerabilities. Those are computers. And our critical infrastructure will remain vulnerable so long as those who own them place their dedication to profit and their hostility toward the U.S. government ahead of national security and the national interest.

And no one should say we were not warned.

Recognizing the threat of cyber attacks from a host of hostile entities — ranging from domestic saboteurs to foreign rivals — a new initiative intends to train five lakh cyber warriors in the next five years to meet a critical gap in India’s defences.

A government-private sector plan will look at beefing up India’s cyber security capabilities in the light of a group of experts reckoning that India faces a 4.7 lakh shortfall of such experts despite the country’s reputation of being a IT and software powerhouse.

Efforts to draw a strategic plan for India, being overseen by National Security Advisor ( NSA) Shivshankar Menon, may need to be speeded up as India lags the research and planning leading western and Asian nations have already undertaken.

Cyber warfare has emerged a top threat to national security with India’s systems subjected to an increasing number – and more sophisticated — cyber attacks. India faced a severe test during the 2010 Commonwealth Games when cyber attacks from Pakistan and China sought to damage information systems.

Most of the attacks India deals with originate from countries like the US, China, Russia, a few east European countries and Iran. Chinese hackers have targeted a large number of institutions, even stealing data from schools run by the armed forces.

A Canadian investigation in 2010 revealed that Chinese hackers had reached Indian missions atKabulMoscow, Dubai, Abuja, US, Serbia, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus, the UK and Zimbabwe. A machine at the National Security Council secretariat was tapped as were computers at military engineering services (MES).

Computers linked to the 21 Mountain Artillery Brigade, the Air Force Station at Race Course Road opposite the PM’s residence, the Army Institute of Technology at Pune and Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering at Secunderabad were also compromised.

Capacity building was the core message of the cyber security recommendations unveiled by Menon on Monday. The report — “Engagement with Private Sector on Cyber Security” — said the government would introduce specialized “cyber security related curriculum” in engineering and management courses and establish a multi-disciplinary centre of excellence.

The Centre plans to establish an autonomous institution – Institute of Cyber Security Professionals of India – along the lines of the Institute of Chartered Accounts of India ( ICAI) and make “cyber security audits” mandatory for companies by amending the Companies Act.

A recent report by Bloomberg said a “trove” of confidential data had been mined from the computer of Y C Deveshwar, CEO of ITC, for over a year before the company was alerted. In the public sector, less than 20% of the cyber attacks on national security systems are even reported. Bloomberg quoted security experts to say “networks of major oil companies have been harvested for seismic maps charting oil reserves; patent law firms for their clients’ trade secrets; and investment banks for market analysis that might impact the global ventures of state-owned companies.”

The report identifies four pilot projects including setting up a pilot testing labs, conducting a test audit, study of sample Critical Information Infrastructure and establishment of a multi-disciplinary Centre of Excellence.

India is only following the lead of countries like the US where secretary of defense Leon Panettasaid US needed to work on new laws. Panetta warned of conventional attacks combining with cyber strikes.

“This kind of phenomenon is something we need to learn to deal with. This is something new. The important thing for a democratic society like us is how do we do it while maintaining democratic freedoms,” Menon said.

Key recommendations:

Creation of Information Sharing & Analysis Centres (ISACs) in various industry verticals by the private sector that should coordinate with sectoral CERTs and CERT-In.

Provide training to law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in cyber-crime investigation and cyber forensics by establishing training facilities and developing training materials & investigation manuals.

Promotion and dissemination of cyber security awareness among general public through mutual collaboration.

Establishment of an ‘Institute of Cyber Security Professionals of India’ for capacity building in security testing and auditing.


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