A Vortex of UMNO’s own making threatens Malaysia

January 14, 2014

A vortex of UMNO’s own making threatens Malaysia

by Dr.Ooi Kee Beng

The C-3To every major flow of events, there is always a backflow, and the stronger that major flow, the greater the backflow.But unlike with water, social flows are not so easily read and one can easily mistake major flows for backflows, and vice versa.

In the case of Malaysia, the last 15 years have seen such profound changes that not only are a lot of scholarly books published before that now seem outdated and irrelevant, the same can be said of a lot of the politicking.

And in a last-ditch attempt by conservatives to preserve inter-ethnic divisions, religious controversies have suddenly exploded, poisoning public debate. This has shocked some and confused many others at a time when economic and social problems are looming larger.

So why is Islam being used so vigorously by certain factions to distress non-Muslims and divide Muslims? And why has the government been allowing it? To be sure, that is probably due to indecision on the part of the country’s top leadership, but this in itself is symptomatic of deeper ills that the government is conscious of.

After all, reforms have stubbornly been on the agenda of the ruling coalition since former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad retired in 2003. Now, the best way to distinguish the main flow from the backflow is to focus on the sociological transformations in Malaysia today.

These include urbanisation of the youthful Malay community; new media undermining old media control of public discourse; the widening of the income gap at a time when living costs are rising; the regionalisation of the labour market; the revival of civil society; and the rise of neighbouring countries as competitors for foreign direct investments. These factors boil down to a polarising battle between the two coalitions: Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Acceptance required

Breaking out of this stalemate will need some enlightened and innovative leadership. It requires acceptance by the ruling coalition, on the one hand, that it will never again wield as much power as it had enjoyed for 50 years; and acceptance by the Opposition that UMNO will remain a major party for a long time to come even if it loses power. Each has to realise that the other is here to stay.

Where the popular vote is concerned, the two are more or less equally strong at the moment. But one has been falling while the other has been rising — meaning that their respective view of what is happening is quite different from each other’s.

The BN is still suffering from a phantom sense of self-importance following curtailment of its power — the same way someone who has recently lost an arm will experience itching where his arm used to be.

The opposition fears that the strong support it presently enjoys may not continue growing; and that from now on, every new vote gets harder and harder to win. That is why Pakatan parties are trying to remain as proactive as possible and are planning to penetrate the semi-rural areas in states such as Johor, Sarawak and Sabah, where their best chances of gaining new votes lie.

Playing safe now could see them losing momentum. In contra-distinction to the racial and religious issues still favoured by UMNO, opposition parties will have to concern themselves with people empowerment, good governance and cost of living. After all, over the last 15 years, these have been the issues capturing the public imagination.

UMNO must manage backflow

As for the ruling coalition, its promises of reforms over the last 10 years have not appeared sincere enough to win it votes. Its meek attempts at transformation have instead worried internal peripheral factions enough for them to use provocation to change the game.

This treacherous backflow — which has gone from provoking the non-Malay community, to targeting non-Muslims Christians as religious enemies — is not something that UMNO or the country can afford to lose control over.

In this dangerous situation, the government needs more than ever to practise some backflow prevention. A backflow that muddies the waters too much will not necessarily reverse the flow — it will more likely generate a whirlpool that brings chaos instead.

That is not something anyone really wishes for.–www.themalaysianinsider.com

* Ooi Kee Beng is Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is Done Making Do: 1Party Rule Ends in Malaysia (2013).

15 thoughts on “A Vortex of UMNO’s own making threatens Malaysia

  1. UMNO is making history by transforming itself into PAS of yore. It is exploiting in the insecurities of the Malay Muslims. Politics has always been first to UMNO leaders and their cronies since it is the way to make money, lots of it.–Din Merican

  2. UMNO can’t or won’t fix this problem. It can’t or won’t fix the many others such as Corruption, Education, Crime, income inequalities, etc etc..The reason why of all the problems UMNO have created, this one manifest itself faster is simply because it cost them the least – its the cheapest underhanded political capital available, supposedly cost them nothing and all the heavy cost is borned by someone else.

    UMNO must be taught that abusing our social and other capital has a price. They don’t learn well so the only way the lesson can be taught is for them to lose their greatest price – power at Federal level..

  3. These hot issues are all smoke and mirrors.
    The latent function is to rob, cheat, and plunder by the elites (and I use this term derogatorily) while ordinary Malaysians of all races are hoodwinked into thinking that they are their own worse enemies.

  4. Yes, Din, unfortunately UMNO appears to be “…transforming itself into PAS of yore.” I hope it will finally become like PAS which generally appears to be on the right side of the “Allah” debate with the exceptions of a few members. Najib has been wise not to actively jump into this debate despite being heavily harassed and blamed for keeping silent.
    In the heat of the emotional argument about the Arabic word, many Muslims are misled to forget the oft-recited first verse of the Qur’anic opening chapter: “Al hamdulillahi Rabil alamin”, meaning “All praise be to Allah, God of all the Universes”. Allah is not God of all MUSLIMs only, but God of ALL the UNIVERSES – all the Universes Allah, the Almighty, created.
    Granted the the concept of Allah, the Almighty, as understood, taught and practised by various religious communities differ very widely but the word had been used by non-Muslims prior to as well as after the Prophet Mohammed’s era without any written record of the Prophet’s objection. Noted too that the Christians, Roman Catholics sepecially, in Peninsular Malaysia have not been using or attempted to use that Arabic word before AD 2007. But the logic of banning non-Muslims from using the word anywhere & anytime cannot be accepted even on the basis of the argument that their concepts of Allah are at variance with that held by the Muslims.
    Despite the above, looking at the debate positively, perhaps Malaysians will learn not to take anything or anyone for granted.

  5. Would Malaysia turn to this? Of course, Najib is no Idi Amin. However, when one fellow kenna threatened political, even Mahathir will do it

  6. Do not use a fancy word such as “vortex”. We have broken away from the Social Contract that setup the nation. Independence was only agreed too by the British after the Malayan Delegation to the London conference included representatives from the other racial groups. Stick to that principle of the Constitution. That is the only way we can move forward.

    I would like to remind my colleagues who entered workforce in the 60s and made it in society on their own ability that you have a responsibility to knock sense into the policies that we are now holding onto using every reason except the right one.

  7. So if the majority exclusive beings wish to live under the “tempurung” and regard their covered kingdom as the privileged “tuan”, let them be. Don’t argue with fools as you will become one if it persists long enough.

  8. As always Dato will hit the nail on its head BUT we all have no immediate nor closure to this debacle by NOT UMNO alone but their ability to manipulate the 3.2 millions voters who push them in to Power back in May. Where do we the other 3.6 million Malays, go from here!

    With the `Chap Ayam’ Perak Mufti Harrussani `thirsting’ for Blood and IGP K Ashburn lamenting for ISA – are we, the majority that inert for action?

    We are the majority in all sense of the word – why are we NOT able to turn the tide, tables and throw the Books all at once to UBAH (Change) GOM. We are being flooded hikes in petrol and subsequent cuts and more hikes, from July 2013 though his Election Manifesto promised Heaven on Earth!

    Purportedly we saved RM1.3 billion with the petrol 20sen and further savings for sugar gas and cooking oils free-markets forces only to be squandered the duo PM & wife’s jetting extravaganza and lease of an interim plane from October 14th to December holidays in LA Sydney and Vegas!

    To top it up they, the Cabinet Ministers free oil usage alone went 133 million for 2013. So its akin to the JKR jobs `korek sana tampal sini’ if NOT rob Paul to pay for Peter’s shenanigans!

    When will the more than 27 million ever be free from this obvious shackles of modern slavery and fiefdom to fellow commoners. What is the next recourse to put a pulverising end to this `overstayed- their-welcome-parasitic-UMNOs’ scumbags!

    I am already crushed seeing a yr OKU child, writing with her foot while lying on her side (where is rosipuff Permata?), a 7-yr old Kedah kampung boy run over on the 3rd day of school riding 3-on-1 on his nenek’s motorbike in front of his school. Yesterday another Kedah 15yr old twin teenage girl ended up tossed then run over on the road walking to school, just 100 metres away from her home as there NO street lights! This can only happen to the poor Malays.

    The UAE donated US$ 10 million (RM 38Million) for the over 200k flood victims in Johore, Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan.

    This Sunday there will be a ceremony by the Despicable to `give those affected in Kemaman’ their pittance of their losses, for the over 70k affected. Why? Because it’s MB Mohd Said’s and MP Info Minister’s `kawasan!’

    Is it going to be the RM 500/Rm1500 allocated per household? YOU can bet that the occasion will deplete a good amount of ALL that should be given to ALL victims who lost everything – even their homes!

    Has the RM 38million plus RM 40 millions more in donations from other sources been equally distributed and accounted for, (4 states affected) to merit Shabeery Chik’s media coverage of his gift of TVs, to `instill loyalty and gratitude’ to the KM `peka & prihatin’ on that day?

    Like it as not, our only hope depends on the brilliance, bravery and strength of our forthright youths, to save the future of our grandchildren from these heartless and Allahless UMNO vultures.

    There is no way a 56-yr old Secular UMNO will turn 100% PAS, don’t ever be fooled, for a second by these Munafiqs and fasiks!

    Najib has already turned his Back from the ways of his Father. Only TUN Raha can save him from Hell on Earth.

  9. Both UMNO and PAS exploited politics of religion……the only different is to what degree.

    UMNO also exploited politics of race. Being in power, this makes it more damaging and destructive.

    One cannot trust political party using religion as the ONLY tool to gain support, in particular in the underdeveloped/developing countries where there is no real democracy and freedom of press and speech is restricted.

    When the party is threatened and support deminishing, they have no hesitation to capitalise on politics of race and religion at all cost…..most Muslims/ Malays are able to forgive their own in the name of race and religion to unite against imaginary ‘ enemies ‘.

  10. Ooi misses the point by thinking that UMMO BN is concerned about running the country in the interest of the country and the rakyat, when in reality, their primary objective is to enrich themselves at the expense of running down the country and oppressing the rakyat. Therefore, Ooi’s advice to BN to manage the backflow will fall to deaf ears. Perhaps, if he can package his advice to go something like …. ‘if you implement this policy for the people and it is really beneficial, you stand to pick up $$$$$ personally ….. ’. But then, he needs to sell his ideas to BN people with the intelligence to understand …. that’s another challenge …..

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