The Art of War in the East ― Masterwordsmith
AUG 13 ― Sun Tzu is famous for his strategic philosophy whereby he advocates attacking the opposing side’s weaknesses.
“Now an army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoid the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.” ~Sun Tzu
In times of competition, key players may appear to be invincible and their enemies may even fail to discern inherent weaknesses. To counter such scenarios, one must discover ways whereby those strengths can be turned into weaknesses.
And that is exactly what we see in Sabah.
For a long time, Sabah had been considered a fixed deposit for the status quo to deliver the seats for it to form the ruling coalition. As such, decades of governance over this state gave them seemingly unassailable invincibility. Hence, Anwar had to find an approach that would work. While the Pakatanization of West Malaysia has borne some success, the real battle is in the East.
Fully aware of the discontent of Sabahans, Anwar went on his “campaign to offer Pakatan as the escape hatch for the grouses and concerns of Sabahans.
So now, Anwar is on the silent assault to win Sabahans to be on the road to Putrajaya. Whether he will reach his destination remains to be seen.
1. To that end, he has to politically socialize Sabahans and wrest support from them without destroying the delicate social fabric of the state.
“Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this....For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” ~Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu calls this the need to “win-all-without-fighting”. To survive and prosper, PR has to capture the heart and spirit of Sabahans ― to offer them the alternative or the escape hatch from all that they have been suffering.
Looking at the development of events, it is clear that Anwar has learnt from his September 16 debacle. Rather than making a blanket overconfident statement, he is now using a subtle, indirect, and low-key approach that appears harmless so as not to trigger BN into an onslaught. So we do not hear or see an en bloc exodus but one that comes little by little. The question at the tip of our tongues is - who is next?
2) Clearly, Anwar is avoiding the strength of BN (election machinery, resources etc) and capitalizing on their weaknesses instead.
“An army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.” ~Sun Tzu
Older, wiser and maybe more tired, we do not see Anwar or Pakatan leaders launching head-on, direct attacks against their nemesis like in the past. But they are capitalising on the thorn in the side of Sabahans which is their opponents’ weaknesses. In this way, it is likely PR can maximize their gains with little use of resources. Whether or not this can pay dividends remains to be seen. Hence, I believe no one must take things for granted or foolishly assume that things are turning for the better for PR.
3) The time has come for PR to talk less, think more and skilfully maximise their intelligence to achieve their agenda.
“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril” ~Sun Tzu
Realistically, for any major battle/competition, one needs to discover the weaknesses of the enemy and even a deep understanding of their strategy, capabilities, thoughts and desires. At the same time, PR needs a time of consolidation to reassess and know their own strengths and weaknesses. With a realistic assessment of the battle “terrain”, PR can prevent the enemy from working against them. Unfortunately, history shows that PR leaders talk a lot, tell all they want to do ― thereby giving their enemy time and ground to plan and strategize against them. Hence, as a preventive measure, it is critical for PR to SHUT UP, hide their plans and keep them secret.
4) Seize the day speedily and be prepared
“To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.” ~Sun Tzu
In any battle situation, it is essential that one must exploit foresight and even deception that we can act with blinding speed. That is not to say that things are done hastily. Rather, ensure preparation and cut down on processes eg in decision making or even public relations exercise. The ultimate goal is to win the support of the Sabahans. For that, they need to empathise and to deal with skeletons in the closet.
5) With unity, comes power.
“Therefore, those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.” ~Sun Tzu
Instead of being the underdogs, it is time PR changes or redefines the rules of contest that these can be in line with their agenda and this can be achieved via alliances so as to be able to call the shots in the game.
6) Effective leadership is vital!
“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.” ~Sun Tzu
In “The Art of War”, Sun Tzu argues that only a special kind of leader can implement these strategic concepts to bring out the best in people. Leadership qualities needed are wisdom, sincerity, courageousness, strictness and the ability to be human. Selflessness in putting the needs of others behind those of the majority will elicit the best results.
Before PR supporters go on a victory dance even before the battle has begun, we have to ask ourselves ― can PR leaders do that? To put the needs of Sabahans FIRST before their need for dominance and power? If they can, that will pave the way to Putrajaya. If not, we can start buying boxes of tissues, be in mourning and after which we have to start planning for GE 14.
The Malaysian Insider reported that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim suggested today that the government had deliberately refused to have the Sabah Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) probe those responsible for the alleged “citizenships-for-votes” deal with foreigners in order to protect certain personalities. He went on to say that “the entire RCI was flawed as its terms were lacking details and do not include identifying those responsible or recommending punishment on them.”
Well, it is up to Anwar and Pakatan to tell Sabahans their blue print of action as creatively and as convincingly. If they can leverage on all the weaknesses of the other side as spelled out in this article, I believe a better Malaysia awaits all Malaysians. Creative strategies when used correctly are the keys to lasting success. So, it is really up to PR to play the game correctly. If not, their dreams will go up in smoke and BN will be in power again.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.