December 4, 2012
Everything has changed but UMNO
by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com
UMNO no longer rules the roost in Malaysian politics. There was tearful lament among its delegates over this fact but no introspection over how this had come to be.-Terence Netto
COMMENT Everything has changed for UMNO, but nothing has changed within UMNO.It used to be that UMNO got what UMNO wanted. So powerful was the party, it was monarch of all it surveyed on the Malaysian political stage.
The gaudy theatre of the just-completed annual general assembly last week could not hide the salience of the new reality that UMNO no longer rules the roost in Malaysian politics. There was tearful lament among its delegates over this fact but no introspection over how this had come to be.
Rarely adept at self-scrutiny, it tried to outdo itself in projecting its fears: by excoriating the Opposition with invective and reassuring itself it enjoys divine sanction. In the process, it underscored the reality that the party has no new ideas of what to do to overcome the problem of its decline in popularity.
Years of regurgitating clichés had brought it to the stage where it relies on a reflex, rather than a fresh idea in the face of new challenges.
Thus the Head of its women’s wing, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, conjured up the spectre of renewed racial riots – the May 13 bogey – when the national consensus is that the scab should not be peeled back to expose the wound of that incident in the collective memory.
Some incidents are too traumatic for recall and so the mere mention of them brings out the gooseflesh. UMNO’s boosters know this, which is why they trot out the memory of May 13 to cow voters supporting their opponents into subservience. But this time around, any violence that occurs after the vote in the 13th general election would not be inter-racial but intra-racial violence.
That’s a radical proposition, with those who conveniently elide this certainty exposing their attenuation from the reality that’s out there by the extent of their self-delusion about the race of probable enforcers and targets in any post-balloting flare-up.
But the biggest delusion of all is that UMNO thinks it can plausibly mount a good fight in an election when its President is clearly under duress from factions within its party, and that rival candidates can be whipped into acquiescent unanimity if they are not nominated to stand.
Murder that grows more curious with time
From the time of the last election in 2008, UMNO has struggled with its delusions, the principal one being that its urgent need for reform could be filled by a leader who, if reform’s logic were to be fulfilled, would be displaced by its thrust.
That it can’t do that was starkly exposed by ominous disclosures by operatives, timed for just before the party’s annual confab, peripherally embroiled in the saga that will never die – the Altantuya Shaarriibuu murder case of 2006.
Unlike the May 13 incident, whose trauma renders its legatees catatonic, the murder of the Mongolian woman grows more and more curious with time.
Like Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it hovers over the parties with links to the personnel that have been indicted and found guilty for the deed.
It’s the proverbial hungry ghost that will not be appeased until the demands of justice in the case have been satisfied.
It has not been, which is why, like the puzzle of an unsolved crime, it comes back to haunt those with some connection to the details of the incident.
The difference between the most recent disclosures about the episode and previous ones is that more individuals on the periphery of the episode are tending to reveal how they got involved in its convoluted strands.
This tendency will keep the reel of disclosure spinning until the story on the periphery crumbles and collapses on its centre. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, was the sage observation of the poet WB Yeats.
The Irish bard was talking about cataclysmic events in Europe almost a century ago.His haunting lines do resonate with present times in our country that is poised on the verge of seismic change, against the backdrop of murder that continues to give off reverberations reaching high places.
Until the Altantuya murder gets its full reckoning, everything that has caused UMNO to be reduced from monarchs to plebeians of the political survey will not jolt it to turn things the other way round.