On UMNO,the Malays and the Future of Politics

January 18, 2012

On UMNO,the Malays and the Future of Politics

by Christopher Fernandez@http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

UMNO, the acronym for United Malays National Organisation, despite being in existence for decades, has failed miserably to unite Malays under its banner. Therefore, it should perhaps re-define UMNO as Uniting Malays Not Over.

All was well upon the inception of UMNO by Jaafar Onn and the fight against the British that led to Merdeka. UMNO was also well under Tunku Abdul Rahman’s leadership. But the changes that led to UMNO losing favour with the Malay populace can be traced back to as early as the 70s.

UMNO has since then become a fractious and divisive organisation which even led to its de-registration and the setting up of a new UMNO during the era of the Mahathir administration. But the fact that a Malay organisation, claiming to represent the bulk of the Malay population, does not even have a Malay equivalent in naming itself speaks of the muddled politics the party has been engaging in until now.

Aside from the fact that UMNO uses an English expression in describing itself, it is ironic that it doesn’t see the need to emphasise the importance of the English language among Malays, but personally most UMNO leaders seem to favour an English education only for their children.

While for the largely Malay masses, UMNO champions and stresses the use of the Malay language – that it is a unifying language and therefore must be safeguarded to guarantee the future of the Malays – yet, in reality, the children of UMNO leaders are generally packed off overseas to obtain the best possible education in the English language.

It is primarily this and other forms of double standard practised by UMNO leaders that have caused Malays to seek political affinity with PKR and PAS. While the Malays usually tend to hold on to traditional values and value the role of UMNO in Malaysia, they now view the party as having strayed from the basis of which it was formulated.

While Malays value very much the contribution of UMNO to their well-being, this is now a thing of the past, as the loss of interest in UMNO now is due to the self-seeking attitudes of most UMNO leaders and members.

Malays no longer see UMNO as a party that champions the struggle of the Malays. In the new millennium, Malays have begun to realise that the winds of change have taken place at UMNO, especially since the departure of Mahathir in 2003.

Precarious position

While during the tenure of the Mahathir regime the rot had started to set in, the wily politician was able to still appease and appeal to the Malays. But the unity among the Malays started to crumble with the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim as Deputy Prime Minister (in 1998) and the subsequent establishment of PKR.

Enter PAS which began to capitalise on the disappointment of the Malays with UMNO and seized the opportunity to make gains, even presenting itself as a viable option to non-Malays. The interest in these two parties caught on among the Malays and led to the political tsunami that almost ousted the ruling Barisan Nasional from power in March, 2008.

In realising that Malay grassroots support has shifted to PKR and PAS, UMNO tried to restore confidence among Malays by removing Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and hoped that the replacement Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, will be able to gain greater favour with the large Malay voter base.

While urban Malays seem to be the bulk of UMNO supporters today, the party is in a precarious position and has so far found no way to unite Malays under its umbrella. UMNO’s loss of grassroots Malay support has  been gradually absorbed by PKR and PAS.

As it stands, Malays as a race are more fragmented and, politically, their allegiance is currently skewered three-ways among PAS, PKR and UMNO. The reality of Malays being divided and being ruled by a tripartite leadership does not augur well for UMNO, but is again welcome news for PKR and PAS.

The Najib-led UMNO has striven hard to become the preferred political party of choice for Malays. But in doing so, the initiatives used and employed have made Malays even more wary and suspicious of the overtures made by UMNO.

While it is conceded that UMNO still has a large membership base, the steady numbers of Malays who are beginning to see a better future by hedging with PKR and PAS is becoming apparent. Even DAP has been holding the olive branch to Malays and making progress in recruiting Malay members.

What has gone wrong with UMNO, once holding formidable sway over the Malay population of Malaysia? The steady rise of income disparity is the root cause of Malay disenchantment as they see only pockets of Malays emerging super rich cronies of UMNO.

Elite Malay group

This creation of an elite Malay grouping spawned by UMNO and the great schism it has created with the rest of the Malays have become glaring. The fact that while the economy grew, and while even the other major races fared better, Malays largely feel they have been betrayed by UMNO for not spreading the wealth equitably over a wider base of the Malay population.

This grievance has caused the once-favoured UMNO to no longer be the champion of the Malay struggle. The gauntlet seems to have fallen on PKR and PAS to restore parity and the equitable distribution of wealth.

Malay voters see the roles played by PKR and PAS leaders as consistent with their call to bring about reforms, while UMNO is being viewed as mere slogan chanters who do not practise what they preach.

This dichotomy between creed and deed, this lack of evidence that UMNO is sincere but displays the façade that it cares for the well-being of Malays is really a feeble attempt by UMNO to secure the support of the Malay base.

But Malays have become quietly smarter and wiser and are aware of the bag of tricks of UMNO politicians and need no direction or guidance as to what their role should be in seeing a better Malaysia. In the 13th general election, it should not come as a surprise to most people (except maybe UMNO) that the actual transformation is the Malays themselves showing the exit door to UMNO.

When that happens, perhaps UMNO’s slogan of “Dulu, Kini & Selamanya” (Before, Now and Forever) should be changed to “Dulu, Kini & Tak Lama Lagi” (Before, Now and Not for long).

Christopher Fernandez has been teaching and writing throughout Asia since 1984.

45 thoughts on “On UMNO,the Malays and the Future of Politics

  1. “While urban Malays seem to be the bulk of UMNO supporters today, the party is in a precarious position…” Chris

    The bulk of Umno supporters are not urban Malays but the misinformed and easily influenced rural Malays whose only source of news is from Umno-owned Utusan and RTM. But that’s changing now.

  2. UMNO sudah lupa daratan. It is today a party of the elite, their families and friends. As Tengku Razaleigh says, UMNO is “sebuah parti rasuah”. Today, we have the NFC scandal, ex-ministers (Toyo and Azalina Othman Said) and deputy minister (Awang Adek) accepting bribes, and rampant corruption everywhere you look. But the sad truth is that the rural heartland will still stick with UMNO because they are not sure about what PKR and PAS can do for them. Money talks and UMNO has loads of it. The Malays are, therefore, a tragic people.

  3. Why should it come as a surprise when UMNO members send their kids overseas to study while telling the masses to just stay in the country and be patriotic? That’s “dumbing down the population” 101. What better way to ensure the status quo if not by making the people stupid?

    I don’t feel betrayed by UMNO because the country’s wealth is not being distributed equally among Malays. I don’t want it to be spread equally among Malays. I want it to be spread equally for all Malaysians, irrespective of race. That and also the rampant corruption.

  4. Tok cik, the writer could be referring to UMNO cronies, their families and friends. I know for a fact that with UMNO’s control over the media and money at their disposal, the Malays in the rural heartland can be easily swayed. When did you last visit a kampong in say, Kroh or Grik to talk to the people there. So what is changing, bro?

  5. I did my walkabout in Selama, Serdang, Bt Panchor, Titi Serong, Parit Hj Wahab etc. These are areas in southern Kedah and northern Perak. People here are adverse to Umno propaganda. That’s what’s new. A ray of hope for the Opposition.

  6. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj is not only turning in his grave at the Langgar Royal Mausoleum near where my great grandfather lies buried and grand mother lies buried since 1969 but is spinning in his grave (sorry for that Tok Tam) at the thought of the party he built through his blood, sweat and tears, turning to nothing more than a money making machine.

  7. You gotta excuse me Dato. On my b’day I’m feeling terribly alone and missing home.

    Happy Birthday, pal. Each day is to be cherished. Keep on dreaming for a better Malaysia and thanks for your thoughts and views. Keep them coming but err on the side of the serious.–Din Merican

  8. Malaysia despite everything is still the best country for me — and its people the potential to be the best. These rogue politicans have to come and divde us.

  9. If I may , Happy Birthday Mr Bean. ( Its my brotheor’s too). What is it about being M’sian eh? We leave but we are always M’sians yes. Dont be sad you have plenty to look forward too I am sure!

    The problem is the malays never had any wealth ( as in money, the least form of wealth) so when they got into power and found out they could make money and lots of it ( whether illegal or legal) they started and didnt know when to stop and had no limitations.

    They were like kids in a lolly shop, ” lapar mata”, they wanted it ALL and went to extrmemes as if there is no tomorrow with no consequences to top it all. So the end is near for them. They now have to reflect exactly what values they what. Whether it is money or education, skills, respect, honour , credibility. Which value do they think will endure. This is their Alchemy, their change, if its possible . Into what is the question ,isnt it?

    But I know they are smart people. I know that for a fact. They have lost their way big time. They need to find their way back to Goodness. Then they will do better than this. They can do better than this.

  10. Happy Birthday Mongkut Bean, now that you are a 6 Series, how many candles on the cake? Don’t feel sad. I’m always thankful that each day I can see the sun and not pushing up the daisies.

    Kathy, the older Malay families have money. My grandfather had lots of money and lots of property in Kuala Lumpur and this was way back in the 30’s. At that time Malay families in KL are loaded and landed. There’s one that still holds out in the Chow Kit area. Their house is sandwiched between high rise building. Then there’s MakPiah Ceylon whose land is opposite the Institute of Medical research along Jalan Pahang. The Chairman of AMBank family have lots of land in Kg. Baru.
    It’s only the newly rich Malay that are rambang mata as we call them that flount their wealth and don’t know ehn to stop.

  11. Yes Semper, I do agree . My grandfather was one with money but who cares. That is just the consequences of hard work.

    What matters is fullfilment. In everything we do , we must do our best and be fulfilled with our choices. The money is the reward of a job well done, thats all. The focus should be the duty, the job at hand. Over here I have a wonderful Italian friend who says, If I am going to do a job, then I will only start if I know I can do it well. Thus I suppose “made in italy” is THE most successful idea isnt it? I have seen him work his hands off when it comes to doing things. Everything he touches , workes and is preserved well. I am amazed till today. His dedication is like none I have seen.

    As for not all malays, yes you are right, the old malays have more honour. The new malays have to find that again and come back to goodness.

  12. Elizabeth Datulong husband was a veterinarian thus the cattle business. I believe she inherited quite a bit from her first marriage.

  13. The old UMNO of Tunku Abdul Rahman has long given up the ghost.

    The UMNO of today is the “UMNO Baru” of Dr Mahathir

  14. Thanks guys. Thanks Kathy, Semper fi and webelos (that’s two) and Dato. Never knew I had such a large following. Perhaps I should start a fan club. You see. You know when you are old when somebody gives up a seat in the bus for you. A few years ago somebody would always give way and let me get up the bus first. Now I get to pay half fare each time I take a bus and the bus driver would never give me a second look and never asked me a question like “Can I see your pass?”. That’s when you know you’re really old.

  15. Thanks webelos. That was a beautiful song. You have a way of pulling at somebody’s heart strings. In your younger days you must have left a string of broken hearts along the way. Keep the music flowing. Din’s blog would be the richer for it, with it than without it.

  16. Elizabeth Datulong’s husband was a veterinarian thus the cattle business. I believe she inherited quite a bit from her first marriage.

    orang malaya – January 19, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Yes, she was his fourth — and the youngest.

  17. Happy Birthday, pal. Each day is to be cherished. Keep on dreaming for a better Malaysia and thanks for your thoughts and views. Keep them coming but err on the side of the serious.–Din Merican

    I don’t know if you realise it, Dato but you run a unique blog. One which allows us to develop our personalities. And that is important to me. We are all complex individuals with not just one face but many. Humor is important. It is what saves our sanity at the worst of times.

  18. Dato may ask what has jazz gotta do with UMNO? It has everything to do with UMNO. Because UMNO is about keroncong. That is old school. UMNO has to change with the times.

  19. Hey Bean, happy birthday! No kerbau riding yet for now..
    Here’s to you, what i always considered the ultimate existential song. You’re the essential Jonathan Livingstone Seagull:

  20. Mr Bean, Kathy, Semper et.al….. In this ‘UMNO & Malays’ that you describe about their current habbits from their Poverty background suddenly given to power….all hel l breaks loose…& its money-grab…grab…grab, no industry, no skill, not desirous of hardwork – unlike the Chinese community, Resilience their number-one trait !
    i am going to be Crude, this is the metamorphosis as to what began changing the UMNO political landscape :
    When Tun Dr Mahathir came to power it was his obsession too, to make Malays equally ‘wealthy’ with non-Malays. In that Vision, somehow he felt ” threatened” by Good-calibre Malays Uni qualified, professionals, well dedicated & disciplined lots, esp the Western-educated….& thus began the insidious Campaign that Western Educated were Neo-colonialists, the psyche indoctrinated by the Christian West.
    This was the catalyst that Kampong-educated Malays began CLAMOURING in Exodus such that they formulated the Psyche : ” We are the Natives that must wrench back the Political process from from the Western-Educated…We are the natives, we have the Right…”
    Some of our older group can recall the period which began the Vicious campaign to denigrate & Malign them, until it became dreadfull…& the Good ones withdrew in silence, lest they suffer smearings and humilations..
    And, the rest is history….

  21. So do we not see now, the calibre of some, not all, YBs & YABs who think that becoming an MB/Minister is their God-given right, and indulge in all sorts of Corrupt practices….as if there is no tomorrow….just grab…grab…(not realising their own Stupidity…)….
    So we had the Toyol-flur whom Tun Mahathir gave the nod, not to mention the Clowns like ‘Tanjung Rambutan, the chap under I.S.A act, & then replaced in N9 by a chap who, on literally first-day duty, we can recall the Lenggeng Assembly-man lodging Police Reports about his corrupt practices, but NFA-ed by the ACA….
    Unless they are chucked out Enbloc….you are going to loose GE…full stop !

  22. I join the rest in wishing you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Bean. They always remind me the age is just a number. So, I am saying the same to you. Cheers.

  23. Thanks guys. You guys made my day. It would have been nice had I also heard from DrKam — the inspiration, the hand that tirelessly and gently guides the bloghost (to our envy) whenever he feels lost and ready to climb on the kerbau’s back for that final ride into the sunset.

  24. And C.L. Familiaris,

    That song brings back a host of emotions. It is a very beautiful song. It has special meaning to me — and thank you for the compliments.

  25. mr Bean, Happy Birthdayyyyyy!!!!!!!!

    I told my child that i am doing whatever I am doing simply because my parents & possibly my grandparents didn’t do what they should have done, let alone doing the ‘right’ thing in their time. And I humbly place a good portion of the current rot, in our beloved Bolehland, right onto their shoulders…I dont want my child to grow up and then also blame me for doing nothing…

  26. Thanks, Democrat. Keep those “TO WHOM It MAY CONCERN” messages coming!

    Now what have I done?? I converted Din’s thread on UMNO into a musical thread — and it is not even Friday!! Din must be hopping mad. But then there is DrKam to calm him down. As always.

  27. Why thank you DrKam ! I’m smiling now, from ear to ear. But why “A little bit of soap?” That must have been Din Merican. Naughty, naughty !
    Hang Mongkut Bean, this song was chosen by Dr. Kam without my prompting. I told her that during our days in Kedah, Bean and I used the yellow sabun sold in the Bakar Bata Chinese provision store to clean our body before we could afford Lux soap. Today, people don’t use that sabun any more; even Lux soap is no longer used. In the 21st century, people us body shampoo. That is not being naughty. That is a little bit of history. The song could, therefore, be retitled ” A little Bit of Body Shampoo”.

    Here is a chirpy number by Neil Diamond for you. Find your Crackling Rosie and enjoy yourself.

    and follow up with this:

    –Din Merican

  28. Happy Birthday Mongkut Bean, now that you are a 6 Series, how many candles on the cake? — Pak Semper

    There are six candles. Din has just added a bar of soap — DrKam’s idea so he says. Trust him to do that.

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