As hard as it is for many of us to see the funny side of the Hulu Selangor buy-election, I figure it's better to laugh than cry.
And though the joke would seem to be on Malaysia, as always when BN is involved, I figure a little gallows humour is quite appropriate, as this clownish and criminal ruling coalition gets closer to hanging itself with every successive outrage.
What a day of rejoicing it will be, come the next or some future general election in which BN reaches the end of its rope and the Malaysian people finally get their long-awaited last laugh.
Meanwhile, let's cheer ourselves up with a scornful snigger or light-hearted titter at Najib Abdul Razak's ridiculous claim that BN didn't buy votes in Hulu Selangor.
“It's not that we went around saying look, we give you this, we give you that, no,” Malaysia's laughable 'news' agency Bernama quoted him as claiming after he opened the Malaysian Green Forum, a gathering that itself sounds like some froggy frolic to fake official concern for the environment.
But let's focus for now on the prime quipster's hularious assertion, that “We are addressing the genuine needs of the people. We are not buying votes.”
This is high comedy indeed considering his remarks just days prior to this buy-election when he doled out some of the cash of which Felda settlers were cheated back in 1994. Or rather, from what I can gather, he paid each of 100 of the 363 settlers involved RM1,000 cash plus a RM49,000 bank draft, and gave his word, for what that may be worth, that promises would be fulfilled.
But here's the punch-line as he added: “The additional money will only come provided that Selangor falls back into BN's hands in the next general election.”
Same quid pro quo story when he threw RM3 million at a Chinese school in the electorate with the remark: “If we win this by-election, you can come to Kuala Lumpur the next day to look for me. I will write a personal letter and it will be transferred to the school board's account. If we lose, don't have to come.”
Then there was the RM90,000 'angpow' he presented for a Chinese cemetery in Hulu Yam Baru with the request for the grateful recipients to vote for an even bigger 'angpow'.
Far from 'not buying votes', this is vote-buying every bit as blatant as Muhyuddin Yassin's bribery of Manek Urai voters last year with the words: “It is easy. All you need to do is pangkah (mark the ballot), but you must vote for BN. If not, there wouldn't be any new bridge. If you want the bridge, vote BN.”
But just as the promised bridge didn't buy enough Manek Urai voters for BN to win, all the corrupt cash inducements also apparently bought very, very few in Hulu Selangor.
The BN majority of 1,725 certainly fell a long way short of the 6,000 that Muhyuddin was predicting before the event, and made a complete joke of Najib's post-election assertion that “I am happy with the result because it shows the trend is definitely moving towards the Barisan Nasional”.
The result shows nothing of the sort, and Najib knows it. In fact it more likely shows that more and more voters are laughing not with Najib, Muhyuddin and the other jokers of BN, but at them, by taking the money and running.
In other words, more and more voters are baulking at being bought with their own, public money, and following the advice Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat of PAS gave to Manek Urai constituents: “If given money, take it; if given sugar, stir it; if given clothing, wear it. However, come election day, vote for the moon.”
And more people are becoming as scornful of BN's dirty deeds as they are of its dirty money.
The coalition's character assassination of PKR candidate Zaid Ibrahim didn't appear to hurt him too badly, perhaps because allegations of drinking and gambling appear pretty petty compared with BN's own sordid record of corruption, criminality and coercion of civil institutions - like its shameless abuse of the Election Commission to suddenly shift lots of Hulu Selangor voters to polling booths far from their homes, or even out of the electorate altogether.
Against all the evidence, however, and in the face of their fading credibility, Malaysia's comical media are making serious attempts to spin Hulu Selangor as a great victory. Former top funny-men are doing their best to sell it as a triumph too.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed that Najib had “managed to change BN's image for the better, adding that “in the last general election, the BN performed poorly not because of the BN per se but because the people didn't like certain individuals”.
And principal among the “certain individuals” that Mahathir had in mind, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, credited the victory on Najib's people-first initiatives, explaining that “the people were able to convince themselves that there would be more people-friendly initiatives in the years to come”.
What initiatives Abdullah had in mind and what he meant by people “convincing themselves” when it's relentless government propaganda that does the convincing, is anybody's guess. But a great many Malaysians see the Hulu Selangor situation as far from people-friendly.
They see it as typically people-hostile, in fact, as any other in a long, long line of atrocities including the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder, the Scorpene submarines scandal, the PKFZ fiasco, the theft of jet engines, countless alleged police homicides, the 'suicide' of Teoh Beng Hock in MACC custody and the hiring of an Israeli public relations company to clean-up BN's ugly image.
As Zaid said after the Hulu Selangor election results were announced, this may have been the “dirtiest and most corrupt by-election ever”.
But, despite all of Najib's lying promises of progress and reform, I'm sure that future buy-elections will be even dirtier and more corrupt than this one. And even more hularious, if possible.
So let's hope that more and more voters stop buying this nonsense, and millions of non-voters get serious about registering, so that come the next general election we can all finally enjoy a well-earned giggle at BN's expense.
*DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he mentors creative writing groups. Soon to be published in Kuala Lumpur is a third book of his columns for Malaysiakini, following earlier collections 'Mad about Malaysia', 'Even Madder about Malaysia' and 'Missing Malaysia'.