August 13, 2016
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia–Singing the Ketuanan Melayu Swan Song
by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
But the mirror never lies
Look at the bags beneath my eyes
– Bryan Claasz, ‘Forever Young – Retirement Song’
More than a few observers have noted that Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s favourite song after his retirement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was the Frank Sinatra hit song ‘My Way’.
Corporate bodies, cronies and others wanting to make use of his name and to butter him up would invariably have the song played at events in which he was often the star speaker; and where he would oblige by speaking of the many ways in which he has transformed the country for the better.
Today though – especially since his removal from his positions in Perdana Leadership Foundation, Petronas and Proton – he has a much smaller audience to address and to speak his mind about “his way”. This is not surprising.
In Malaysia, the Maoist axiom “political power grows out of the barrel of the gun” is superseded by the one made famous by the present Prime Minister – “political power grows out of the cash register”.
Mahathir’s shrinking audience and body of admirers is also to be expected. The expression “rats leaving a sinking ship” comes to mind. Everyday we see the various species of Rattus norvegicus in the country (poli-tikus, business-tikus, media-tikus; academia-tikus and preacher-tikus) scurry from the apparently sinking Dr M ship, with many immediately heading for the victorious Bugis ship.
From DAP Vice Chair to UMNO Froggie
Those switching sides (with or without 1MDB assistance of RM90 million in booty which, according to some quarters, has gone PAS’ way) include notable frogs such as Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim (pic above). They will find the Bugis ship already overloaded with con-sultants, cronies, old guard faithfuls such as Khairy Jamaludin and new recruits who have seen the “light” such as Nur Jazlan Mohamed, former Public Accounts Committee chairperson.
They will also have to compete with ambitious wannabe leaders such as Malacca Chief Minister Idris Haron, whose startling disclosure that the United States is seeking to kill off Malays which he detects in the US Department of Justice’s case in pursuit of money laundering in 1MDB has fortunately drawn an embarrassed silence from the Prime Minister’s Office. But expect more of such antics from the BN’s leaders and the apple polishers and eunuchs that are aboard the BN supertanker.
Perhaps the BN supertanker will turn turtle one day; such is the sheer weight of passengers and staff on its overcrowded deck, and the booty and loot stored in its hold.
Bersatu’s Malay agenda
One group that has stuck resolutely by Mahathir has now set up Parti Pribumi Bersatu, the new opposition bumiputera party helmed by former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Much is being written about the pros and cons of the new party. While applauding the spirit of political reform (limited as its main aim is directed at removing Najib Abdul Razak from power) that has helped bring the party into existence – as well as not underestimating the sacrifice required from its leaders to stay the course of resistance – many are wondering if this is the best that the detractors of Najib can come up with.
The new party claims to be inclusive and has good governance, institutional reform and all the other buzz phrases such as upholding the supremacy of the Federal Constitution, rule of law and principles of justice and equality in its 12-point mission statement and philosophy.
It is also holding out a mini-carrot to non-Malays. According to Muhyiddin, while membership is open to all Malaysians who are bumiputera Malays, natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli, membership is also open to other Malaysians as associate members. “They have the same rights as other members except they cannot vote or contest for party positions but they can be appointed to any position within the party.”
All very commendable. But spelt out in the forefront of its philosophy – and presumably agenda – is its adherence to ‘ketuanan Melayu’ and ‘ketuanan Islam’ though written in less alarming terms. This agenda is no different in any way from Umno’s, the party it seeks to bring down.
Indeed, one of its influential supporters wishing the new party well has concluded that “basically the new party will be what UMNO tried to do but failed, due to chronic paralysis, rampant abuse of power and stunted leadership”.
Correction! UMNO has not failed in its ‘ketuanan Melayu’ and ‘ketuanan Islam’ agenda. It has been successful beyond its wildest dreams. Success in churning out Malay millionaires, professionals in highly paid occupational categories, academicians, entrepreneurs, etc. at a record rate in the past four decades has not been enough. UMNO’s domination of the commanding heights as well as middle levels of economy, culture, politics and society has intensified since 1969 and shows no signs of receding.
Though this dominance may have satiated some beneficiaries born with, or acquiring in adult life, the silver spoon of ‘bumiputera’ or rather ‘Malay status’, according to complaints from the Orang Asal of East Malaysia, the great majority of New Economic Policy products probably see no reason why their children and grandchildren should not similarly benefit from racial preference.
And for every newly-minted success case, there is a long queue of others, wanting their share of the “entitlements”, and fully cognisant that it is “chronic paralysis, rampant abuse of power and stunted leadership” that have produced the shortcut to opportunity, comfort and wealth for those ahead of them.
UMNO’s leaders and members expect the party to deliver jobs, cash and other material benefits to them so long as they stand by the old party and stay in the Malay queue. So, can Bersatu produce a superior form of ‘ketuanan Melayu’?
Scientific foot note: White rats and true frogs have the same kingdom and phylum, but their main difference is their class. White rats are part of the class Mammalia, and true frogs are part of the class Amphibia.
DR. LIM TECK GHEE is a former World Bank senior social scientist, whose report on bumiputera equity when he was director of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies sparked controversy in 2006. He is now CEO of the Centre for Policy Initiatives.