This image is now vividly imprinted in our minds — one of the two young men wielding the ceremonial Malay kris.

The grandstanding by sword-waving senior UMNO Youth leaders symbolises UMNO-cracy – Malay nationalism taken to its extremes. And in an “age of extremes”, which Eric Hobsbawm described the last 100 years to be, we ought to be deeply concerned about the direction our nation is pointed towards in the 21st century.

UMNO-cracy is a system of government in which a single political party, UMNO, dominates other groups (MCA, MIC, Gerakan and others). These partners are allowed concessions within a “coalition government” which uses their presence as representatives of minority groups to legitimise its otherwise complete monopoly on power. The dominant party – largely through the personality of the Executive – retains control of all branches of government, the civil service and the media to ensure its hegemony over our politics.

To deflect criticisms that such a government would certainly attract today, UMNO-cracycrats toss a few crumbs in the direction of the opposition to give some semblance of pluralist politics. Electoral fraud and gerrymandering of districts are common place in Malaysia, almost to the extent that some in the opposition are willing to accept electoral corruption as a mere fact of life.

This is the foundation upon which UMNO’s edifice is built. A supposedly democratic nation survives on the perpetuation of corruption and continued blatant abuse of power, suppression of political dissent and a compliant and timid media. It goes to the extent of using the Internal Security Act whenever the pressure for reform becomes too much to bear.

In this climate the entire nation suffers at the expense of the few who enrich themselves with government contracts. Our education system, for example, is mediocre at best. Politically favoured appointees who are tasked with administering our schools and universities are barely qualified to do so. Students, on account of the draconian University and University Colleges Act, are educated in a climate of fear. Our tertiary institutions are not in the forefront of scholarship and research.Mediocrity is everywhere you care to look.

What we want is a real democracy. That was our bargain in 1957 when we gained independence from the British. Our Declaration of Independence ensured that our country (then Malaya) was founded on the principles of justice and freedom. Over the years, under UMNO-cracy, justice and freedom were eroded and usurped by a ruling elite which does not respect human rights and other fundamental freedoms.

Democracy is based on the “consent of the governed” (Thomas Jefferson). For this to exist, there must, first, be free, fair and transparent elections supervised by an independent and impartial Elections Commission which can stand up to rigorous international scrutiny.This was BERSIH’s cause when nearly 60,000 Malaysians march to the Agong’s Palace on November 10, 2007. All political parties must have equal access to the media and there must be rigorous and open debate. Opposition parties must enjoy freedom of movement, speech and assembly to present alternative policies and programmes, and the opportunity to criticise the incumbent government.

The existence of a vibrant opposition is vital as “a bulwark against the tyranny of absolute power” (Anwar Ibrahim). Furthermore, the people must have a right to information so that they can make informed decisions about their future government. UNMO-cracy denies us this inalienable right. So we must work towards the end of the Official Secrets Act, under which the Badawi Government hides and also cast the Internal Security Act into the dustbin of history the way we we did to British colonial rule.

Second, democracy is also about justice. Here, it is appropriate for me to quote Anwar Ibrahim:

“The idea of justice is so central to what it means to be human that no society is devoid of this conception. Moreover, as a society matures, the people’s expectations in terms of justice become even greater. Whole societies have been stirred to action in the pursuit of justice and good governance, overthrowing colonial powers and foreign oppressors. Yet, today, long after independence has been achieved, these societies find themselves forced to fight against oppression from within, because there can be no justice under autocracy, a political system characterised by the rule of men and not the rule of law”[1]

According to the late Tun Suffian, the rule of law requires that rules and procedures which the state enforces should be public and explicit, not subject to political manipulation. We do not want our citizens to be under arrest without explicit charges, Nor do we want confessions gained through torture, physical or psychological abuse, or any kind of threat or promise. In other words, there must be no extrajudicial procedures, arbitrary arrests, or use of repressive state apparatus to silence political opposition and dissent.

The rule of law, as any lawyer will tell you, also means the protection of fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution. These rights must be protected by an independent judiciary. Our judiciary is our safeguard for our fundamental liberties. Yet today, after listening to the Lingam video clip, we know that our judiciary’s integrity and independence have been compromised.

Unless we fix this problem, the ability of our judges to make judgments without fear or favour is non-existent. We need to ensure that public confidence in our judicial system is restored. While I am not sure what the newly appointed Royal Commission of Inquiry under former Justice Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor, given its rather restricted terms of reference, can achieve, he and fellow commissioners must be aware that they have a moral obligation to stop the judicial rot for the national good.

Soon, we will be again asked to make a choice between UMNO-cracy and Democracy. I know what my choice will be. I am convinced that the status quo is not an option. We have to change, and together we can make it happen. I support a government which runs our country with the consent of the governed and does it in an open, transparent and accountable manner and listens to our concerns and addresses our needs.

Selamat Hari Raya to my brothers and sisters and goodwill and respect to all my fellow citizens.


[1] Anwar Ibrahim, “Universal Values and Muslim Democracy”, Journal of Democracy, Volume 17, Number 3, July, 2006,p.9


  1. Din Merican,

    UMNO stands for U Must Not Oppose. Otherwise, you get sacked from the party. The problem with the ‘bangsawan’ people is that just because their fathers are Prime Ministers, their sons must be Prime Ministers as well. Anyway with the recent bad floods and increasing cost of living, they do not augur well for our country. God is indeed watching us from above…

  2. “Grandstanding”? You can’t be serious, they look more like intimidating pitbulls ferociously guarding their loot! They never fail to amaze us with their most stupefied antics have they?

    During his visit to China earlier this year, Hishammuddin was criticised by First Sec of Communist Youth League of China(CYLC), Hu Chunhua who had clearly been briefed of his ultra/racist tendencies and the raging and divisive controversy surrounding his unsheathing of the Malay keris at two earlier UMNO general assemblies, heedless of the rights and sensitivities of other communities in the country. During a discussion, Hishammuddin tried to explain that the Malay Keris symbolised “leadership and unity”. Mr Hu responded in Mandarin with interpreter at hand, said what was important was not the Malay keris, but the one who wielded it and how he wielded it and the emotive rabble that came with it. Commonsense would interpret it as “No point flashing your keris, if you do not even know how to be a good leader” . This pea-brain Malaysian Minister did not understand diplomatic language, did not realise that he was being subtly criticized and took it as a compliment, was seen beaming from ear to ear!

    This is the quality of Ministers Malaysia has today. Mr Hu obviously has tremendous sense of humor and quick wits, must be wondering what sort of “leaders” Malaysia has but wait till he meets our Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi! :D:D:D

  3. It’s obvious First Secretary Hu Chunhua of CYCL was not in the least interested in the Malay keris, he just wanted to get his message across to this UMNO-crazy moron!

    I just don’t see the “unity” that the keris as Hishammuddin explained signifies. The way he brandished it, the body language and the utter nonsense that came out of his frothing mouth was nothing but intimidating.

    We all know and I am sure so does First Secretary Hu, that underneath that show(Din refers to it “Grandstanding”) there’s no pride when one relies on “tongkat NEP” to keep standing. This now reminds me of the saying:

    “Give a monkey a brain and he’ll swear he’s the centre of the universe” !

  4. Yeah I remember reading the article on ‘Chinese linguistic skills’ in the local Chinese press but noticed nothing was reported in Star or NST?

    The next day the Chinese community were abuzzed in amusement that this UMNO youth chieftian received a tight slap in Beijing that he truly deserved. Obtuse politicians like him need lessons in fine art of politics, shouting and brandishing kerises in the Kampung does not work anymore today.

  5. Guffaw, Jong and LaughingLoud,

    Thanks for the information.

    I did not know that UMNO Youth’s leader, Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn, the grandson of Dato Jaffar Onn, Pengasas Kemerdekaan, got a mouthful from the Chinese authorities in Beijing. Of course, we cannot expect the media like the NST, Utusan Malaysia, and the Star to report this embarassing episode.

    We can no longer trust the media to do anything than just being the faithful mouthpiece of the UMNO-BN ruling elite, taking orders from the 4th Floor of the Prime Minister’s Office, Putrajaya. Din Merican

  6. Dear Chin,

    It is for people like you and other voters to decide on this, whether it is UMNO-crazy or UMNO-crasy or both. All I can say to you is that you should examine the record of the UMNO-BN clique over the last 50 years and then make an intelligent and rational choice.

    You can either vote to keep the status quo, which we all know is corrupt, opaque, incompetent and rotten to the core, or you can vote for change, for fresh ideas,for competence and for good governance. My choice is unequivocal.

    If we are to compete in a globalised economy, we must do things differently and better. We cannot afford to waste our scarce resources. The mindset should be that every tax dollar invested must produce a “social rate of return”. What I mean is that there must be fiscal discipline, and sound management of our economy.

    For example, we cannot spend money on military hardware on the basis of the amount of commissions we can get for ourselves. Our decision must be on the basis of whether such purchases enhance our strategic and operational defence capability. All commissions must go back to the Treasury and cannot be taken by proxy companies of politicians and their cronies.

    We cannot use public money to organise an annual sailing competition–the Monsoon Cup–when that money can be utilised for the benefit of the rakyat. We should be ashamed when little children needing urgent medical care have to depend on public donations.

    Look at what has happened in the case of the Port Kelang Free Trade Zone where billions of ringgit have been spent without batting an eyelid.Those involved including the former Minister of Transport, Tun Dr. Ling Leong Sik, and the incunbent Minister Dato Chan Kong Choy are from UMNO and the MCA. This shows that our government is a total failure. And that is why we need transparency and accountability, and high ethical standards.

    Have a great New Year. Come join me and let us change Malaysia.

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