Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese general, who had also been credited with the authorship of "The Art of War", posits that the art of war is governed by 5 constant factors or elements. They are:
- the moral law
- the Commander
- method and discipline
While the moral law "causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives", the heaven would signify the natural elements such as day and night, cold and heat, which would have impacted any preparation for a war. The earth meanwhile signifies the distances, the size, the danger and security, the width and the narrowness of passages. The Commander on the other hand, must possess of virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. Method and discipline are to be understood as "the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure."
During the P.036 by-election though, the BN had none of the above!
Part of the Barisan Nasional's "moral law" initiatives and its "method and discipline" during the P.036 by-election was the laughable "bayar budi" slogan which was so earnestly and condescendingly employed about 3 days before election day. Prior to that, the BN was moved with all its financial might and prowess to make promises after promises to the folks of Kuala Terengganu, especially the Chinese folks. Early ang pows were given to 9000 folks of Chinese origin in full glare of the public. Money was pumped in for town halls and Chinese schools. For the Malays, of course there was the "world record" Class F Contracts Vending Machine which churned out millions worth of Class F projects out of nowhere. To top it all up, 23000 free laptops for year 5 students were promised come March this year!
Those were the BN's initiatives which were hoped to cause "the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives", to borrow Sun Tzu's words. Well, now we know that those initiatives failed miserably. In fact, they might have even backfired!
How could the government of the day appear in a by election and tell the people that "I am doing you good and I am giving you all these things and so please return my favour (or in Malay, "balas budi") by voting me?" Has the BN forgotten that as the government of the day, it was their duty in the first place, to bring development to the people and to distribute the country's wealth among the people all the time, as opposed to when the time suits them only (which means, during by election time)? And if it was their duty in the first place to do so, why then the people must regard the acts of providing the people with developments etcetera as charitable acts which the people should be thankful for and forever cherish such charity as a favour? And why should the people repay such so-called act of benevolence with a vote for the government? Isn't that a threat? Isn't that mass corruption? Isn't that warped thinking? Isn't that immoral?
Surely the plot was lost. In fact the plot wasn't there in the first place. Why should I, the people whom you were supposed to serve, be thankful to you for doing the very thing which you were supposed to do in the first place? I read with absolute disbelief of the "bayar budi" mantra about 3 days before election day. I thought it was almost nonsensical. And fair enough, the people thought it was such a joke that they voted against the BN!
At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if the two major races, the Malays and the Chinese, had even begun comparing the various "gifts" from the BN. The Malays were looking at the ang pows and would have thought the Chinese were being paid cash while the Malays were not. On the other hand, the Chinese would think "whoaaa...the Malay Class F contractors have got so much contracts!" Then the Malays were thinking "why are the Chinese schools and town halls getting so much?". The Chinese also would have thought that "the Malays got more because the 250 million dollar Crystal Mosque was way more expensive than the money given to the Chinese school and town hall." The Indian then thought, "haiya, we get nothing!". At the end of the day, nobody, except for the real BN hardcore, voted for the BN. It was a complete disaster.
Showering people with gifts, cash and trips to nowhere as well as heavenly promises is not alien to the BN, in particular its chief protagonist, UMNO. That is in fact admitted nowadays by UMNO itself and has become the bane of UMNOlitics. Just look at the money politics which is endemic and has become deeply ingrained within UMNO nowadays. This "suap" culture seeps into national partisan politics and all hell break loose every time there is an election.
Therefore, as far as Sun Tzu's first criterion of "moral law" and "method and discipline" are concerned, the BN was a spectacular failure!
While the "heaven" signifies the force of nature in every war preparation, the "earth" signifies the infra-structural pre-planning which would obviously impact the war preparation. From the word "go", no, even before the word "go", it was a disaster waiting to happen.
Of course, "heaven", which is a natural element, could not be controlled. But it sure could have been managed better. Firstly, the by election came at a most inopportune of time. The public,especially the Chinese, still remember the "pendatang" remark. They also remember how a Chinese lady journalist was, albeit fleetingly, detained under the ISA for reporting about that remark while on the other hand, the perpetrator was left unharmed. Then, another Chinese lady, Teresa Kok, was also detained under the ISA for allegedly complaining about "azans' in loudspeakers. This despite a complete denial by the mosque officials! After that, Raja Petra was detained under the ISA too. He was then released and the Judge said his detention was unlawful.
Later came the harassments of the JERIT cyclists. And arrests of people who attended peaceful vigils against the ISA. In the middle of those things, Mukhriz Mahathir chose to emulate daddy by urging all vernacular schools be abolished!
These unfortunate events were fresh in the memory of the people during the election. Of course, the election had to be called because of the demise of the last MP and was therefore out of the BN's control. However, this serves to teach the BN government, especially UMNO, not to act rashly and in complete repugnance to the will of the people at all time. Lest they might have to pay dearly for such actions at the most inopportune of times, especially, during a by-election which they could not foresee!
After all those events, where the Chinese in particular, and the people in general, were treated like nobodies by the BN government, the BN suddenly was faced with a by-election. The "heaven" was not with the BN for sure. And with regret, the BN machineries had to suddenly kow tow to the people knowing that they could not turn back the clock and reverse whatever which had been done. And kow tow they did.
But they never said sorry. What they said was a denial that they had partaken in "extreme policies". They chose not to own up. Instead they chose to treat the people as little children who could be coaxed with little boxes of candies and sweet talks. Instead of managing the "heaven", they caused the heaven to bear down upon themselves!
And what about the "earth" element? Ah yes, the infra-structural pre-planning. Well, in my humble observation, it was a non-starter. A short observation of the past election voting record would show something really important. P.036 is a parliamentary constituency consisting of 4 state constituencies, namely, Wakaf Mempelam, Ladang, Batu Buruk and Bandar. Last election, PAS won the state seats in the first 3 state constituencies. Bandar, which is a predominantly Chinese area, went to the BN. Logic would have told all of us that PAS should have also won the Parliamentary seat then. Why was it that the late Razali, a BN man, was the victor in the Parliamentary election instead of the last PAS candidate? In the state seats, PAS won 3 and yet PAS lost the parliamentary seat Why?
It shows that the people were not voting for the party but the candidate as a person. Thus, although in the state seats, the people voted for the PAS candidate in the 3 seats, while voting for the parliamentary seats, the very same people, voted for the late Razali, the BN man. The people then could not care two hoots about the party which the candidate represented. It was the candidate as a person whom the people looked at.
If this was observed by the UMNO and the BN's top guns, surely Wan Ahmad Farid, Mister-who-is-difficult-to-smile-and-who-always-has-his-hands-in-his-pockets would be a bad choice from day one. Add to that, Wan Farid's brother is connected to the not-so-popular-among-the-common-folks Monsoon Cup projects. Add to that some more is the fact that he is a known Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's man. Add to that is also the fact that he was the one who defeated the late Razali in the UMNO division election, which was, according to sources, was very intense, to put it mildly. Compared him to the affable and ever smiling sweety faced Wahid Endut, the "earth" element was surely with PAS from the start. The BN had failed to analyse past election behavioral and voting patterns. They then fielded the wrong candidate. And the people reversed their voting behaviour and voted for the PAS candidate instead.
Another "F" for the BN on Sun Tzu's report card.
And lastly, but by no means the least, the "Commander". The Commander, according to Sun Tzu, must possess of virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. Who was the BN's commander? Well, it was Najib Razak, the current Deputy Prime Minister, UMNO Deputy President, UMNO President in waiting and of course, the Prime Minister in waiting (if nothing goes wrong, God willing, of course).
He spearheaded the Permatang Pauh's UMNO and BN campaign. What he did there was akin to going to a house and telling the owner that his son is a sodomite. He used another person to even swear in a mosque for that purpose. Then he tells the house owner to support him. Yea...nice! Sun Tzu would have turned in his teracotta suit somewhere beneath the Forbidden City! The house owner gave him the proverbial slap on the face and returned the favour by giving his son a win with a really huge margin. The Commander then hurriedly left the house living his supporter and his candidate alone to face the inevitable execution. Sun Tzu would have quartered and disemboweled him and fed his guts to dogs before granting him a final reprieve by beheading him.
But UMNO and the BN always stick with their leaders, notwithstanding that he wasn't so much of a leader, as proven by how he left his soldiers alone in Permatang Pauh. And so, he was again the Commander in P.036 KT.
If the "moral law" and the plan to manage the "heaven" and earth" as well as "method and discipline" were all his, than I must say the verdict would be a total and an unequivocal "F". The wisdom wasn't there because of the above reasons. The benevolent act was temporary and was not at all sincere because it was clear to all and sundry that all those benevolent acts were undertaken with an ulterior motive and not due to their unflinching commitment to their duties and purport as the people's representatives.
As for courage, well, he again left his soldier alone to face the inevitable execution even before the official announcement was made. Even in a football final, the losing team, their manager and their captain would wait to take their runners-up medal and congratulate the winning team. Can we all imagine Alex Ferguson leaving the stadium before the prize giving ceremony in a European Cup final if Manchester United loses? Well, in the BN, this was precisely what happened. Nobody, not even the candidate, was present when the official announcement was made! Courage? A one legged cockerel has more courage in fighting a fox!
Now Najib says that it was just a "set back". Mahathir meanwhile says that it was Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's fault. Well, Najib was the Commander. He was the chief. And the General. In a war, the buck stops at his feet.
Najib also said that the by-election was not about him. Mahathir agreed.
Was it about him? I agree with both of them. No. It wasn't about him.
It was about the BN and UMNO. It was about the people. It was about Malaysia. It was about the people's insatiable thirst for change.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.