13 Day Countdown to 13GE Polling Day – Johor as the fulcrum of political change in Malaysia

On the third day of the 13GE, I want to sound a clarion call to all Johoreans for Johor to be the fulcrum of political change in Malaysia and let “Johor Leads” be the new slogan for all Johoreans in the new Malaysian politics of the future struggling to be born in the 13GE, moving from the politics of the past based on race politics, corruption and mass abuses of power.

In the past month, the people of Johor had the exhilarating experience of being the cynosure of the whole nation.

For the past 56 years, Johor had been the political backwaters, with the people of Johor following great political events and breakthroughs in other states, particularly in the north, Penang and Kelantan, as well as in Kedah, Perak and Selangor, while great political changes have passed Johor by and excluded Johoreans.

This state of affairs has now been completely transformed.

For the past month, beginning with the Battle of Gelang Patah, as the prelude to the Battle of Johor and the Battle of Malaysia in the 13GE, Gelang Patah and Johor have captured the imagination of Johoreans as well as Malaysians.

For the first time in the nation's 56-year history, Johoreans are making political history and instead of Johoreans following political developments in other parts of Malaysia, it is Malaysians all over the country following with increasing excitement the daily political developments in Gelang Patah and Johor.

The time has come in the 13GE for the political transformation of Malaysian politics with Johor as the fulcrum of new politics of Malaysia with all Johoreans rallying to the battlecry of “Johor Leads”.

Johor has never led in the 56-year history of Malaysia.

This is evident from the line-up of the six Prime Ministers in Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman from Kedah, Tun Razak from Pahang, Tun Hussein Onn from Johor, Tun Mahathir from Kedah, Tun Abdullah from Penang and Datuk Seri Najib Razak from Pahang.

Although Hussein was the third Prime Minister, his term as Prime Minister was too brief and his health too precarious to allow him to stamp a permanent imprint on Malaysian politics. But what impressed me most about Hussein was his commitment to fight corruption, cronyism and abuses of power, as he had said that he was prepared to lose political power and even the Prime Ministership if he had to condone or tolerate corruption – and no Prime Minister after him could make such a similar claim!

In fact, Hussein confided in me after his retirement as Prime Minister because of health problems that his greatest regret was to appoint Mahathir as his DPM which ensured that Mahathir would become the fourth Prime Minister in Malaysia after him.

But Hussein Onn was part of the earlier history when “Johor Leads” - under the leadership of his father Datuk Onn Jaafar, the founding President of UMNO, who made the stunning proposal 62 years ago that UMNO should open its doors to non-Malays and UMNO should change its name from United Malays National Organisation to United Malayans National Organisation.

Onn had already been on public record opposing a government based on racial disunity and factionalism, saying: “Let no one delude himself in the belief that such unity is neither essential nor necessary, nor that self-government can be a lasting institution without that unity in the Federation. We must live together”.

On 27 May 1951, when Onn proposed to UMNO that non-Malays be allowed to be members of UMNO, he said that UMNO was one tree, the Malays were the trunk and the Chinese and Indians were the bark.

It is noteworthy that one of those who opposed and led criticisms against Onn's vision was none other than Mahathir at the time!

But Onn was too ahead of his time, and his proposal was rejected, and he resigned from UMNO, together with Hussein, who was at the time the UMNO Youth leader, to form the Independence of Malaya Party to work with the Chinese and Indians.

Since Onn's leadership six decades ago, Johor had never led in Malaysian politics and remained in the political backwaters. Now is the time for Johoreans to pick up the mantle of leadership of Onn Jaffar six decades ago, to begin to realise the Malayan Dream articulated by Onn some 60 years ago where there is the new politics of the future, which is inclusive where all Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region have a rightful place under the Malaysian sun as distinct from the old politics of “divide and rule” according race, plagued by rampant corruption, cronyism, abuses of power, injustices and human rights violations.

In the new politics of the future for Malaysia, it is moderate patriotic voices who occupy the citadels of power whether in Parliament or the State Assemblies.

In the old politics of the past as practised by UMNO/BN, even moderate voices have to assume extremist and intolerant tones.

The BN candidate for Gelang Patah, the four-term Johor Mentri Besar, Datuk Ghani Othman, is a classic Malay gentleman who is respected for his moderate and rational views. I have no qualms in giving credit to him for bringing development and progress to Johor in his 18 years as Mentri Besar.

But he does not sound like himself in his first two pronouncements after the Nomination Day on Saturday, as captured by these Malaysiakini headlines:

  • Ghani rails against Pakatan's 'racial polarisation'

  • Ghani: If Kit wins, Hadi might be PM

Ghani is sounding more like Perkasa leaders like Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin as what he said is completely contrary to his image as a moderate, rational and level-headed political leader.

Is this the price that moderate leaders have to pay if they are to stay and survive in present-day UMNO, whose most powerful leader is not Najib Razak but Mahathir?

After the Malaysianini report yesterday, I asked the thousands of Malaysians of all races in Muar and Gelang Patah in separate ceramahs last night whom they would choose, if they had to choose between Najib, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin or the return of Mahathir as Prime Minister on the one hand and Hadi on the other.

The response from the multi-racial crowds was a thunderous, categorical and unequivocal declaration of support for Hadi to become PM rather than to see Najib, Muhyiddin or Mahathir in the office of Sri Perdana.

But what is even more interesting about Ghani rhetorics is his admission that if Gelang Patah falls, it would mean also the fall of Putrajaya for UMNO/Barisan Nasional and his preference for Anwar to become the Prime Minister instead of Hadi.

There is no greater fillip to Pakatan Rakyat than Ghani's indirect admission that the Battle of Gelang Patah holds the key to Putrajaya, as the Battle of Gelang Patah, Battle of Johor and Battle of Malaysia can be won by Pakatan Rakyat.

DAP does not believe in duplicitous politics. DAP leaders have declared many a time in public forums that if Pakatan Rakyat succeeds in forming the new federal government in Putrajaya, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be the new Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Lim Kit Siang Pakatan Rakyat candidate for Gelang Patah