October 4, 2016
Thayaparan on The Last Honest Man in UMNO
What this really means is the success and failure of this country depends on how the Malays decide to play the game. The terrible truth is that it is not the non-Malays who are playing a rigged game but the Malays. The sooner the majority of Malays figure this out, the better for the country.–Thayaparan
by Cmdr. (rtd) S. Thayaparan
Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.”
– John Steinbeck, ‘East of Eden’
I have no idea why political analysts have jumped on Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s response to a question by Sinar Harian. Did anyone actually bother reading the two articles where the UMNO veteran held forth on a variety of issues?
Both articles were interesting because it gave a brief glimpse into the political reality of this country and the agitation in the Malay polity concerning the two major parties that supposedly represent their so-called interest.
Of Razaleigh I have earlier said, “Razaleigh, of course, always nurtured the perception that he was the last honest man in UMNO, a prince who reluctantly found himself consorting with thieves.
“Ku Li, as he is fondly known as, has the remarkable ability to engender goodwill from certain sections of the general public by disassociating himself from the excesses of UMNO even though he contributed to the very culture he claims to despise.”
The Sinar Harian articles are littered with his distinctive pose of being ultimate insider and reluctant outsider.
To recap, the answer that got some analysts all a tither was in response to this question, “Ramai tak puas hati dengan Umno dan PAS. Dikatakan sekarang ini bangsa Melayu ini tidak berada di tempat yang sepatutnya dan usaha menyatukan dua parti Melayu perlu dilakukan?” (Many are dissatisfied with UMNO and PAS. It is said today the Malay race is no longer in a place that it should be, and efforts to unite the two Malay parties need to happen?)
Razaleigh’s response begun with an acknowledgement of the dissatisfaction on the part UMNO and PAS supporters – “Rasa tidak puas hati tu memang ada dalam kalangan sesetengah orang yang jadi ahli fikir atau yang fikir keadaan masa depan orang Melayu dan Islam. Banyak tidak puas hati dengan cara PAS memimpin sekarang ini. Banyak tidak puas hati dengan cara UMNO dipimpin sekarang. Itu memang jelas. Itu sebabnya wujud pelbagai puak parti serpihan, kata orang, daripada UMNO ataupun PAS” – and then a dismissal and acknowledgment of the propaganda that a divided Malay community would mean the ascension of the DAP as a political hegemon, which was spun as a question of its own.
The Game these UMNO Brats Play
However, the reality is that Razaleigh knows that the game is rigged. When questioned about the chances of the opposition winning in the next election, he conceded that it was a possibility if there was a common platform but without the support of PAS, the chances were slim. Indeed, he acknowledges that solely partnering with DAP will not mean the keys to Putrajaya but what is needed is a coalescing of Malay power structures to vanquish the UMNO hegemon.
However, the more we peel away the rhetoric, we come to understand that voting and democracy are merely parlour tricks in the Malaysian context. Forget about the gerrymandering or redelineation exercise, this idea that the game is not rigged that we are in democracy is ludicrous.
Read what Razaleigh says about not underestimating the establishment – “(Bagaimanapun) jangan memandang rendah kepada kerajaan kerana mereka ada kuasa, ada televisyen, radio, duit dan media. Mereka juga ada alat-alat risikan dan sebagainya. Media dia lebih tahu pada kita. Dia tahu kita belum tahu lagi. Sama ada dengan kekuasaan itu, parti yang berkuasa akan kalah saya tidak tahu.”
Here is an establishment politician admitting that the state controls nearly every avenue of expression and uses its intelligence services as a means of securing political victory. In any functional democracy, this would be verboten but here in Malaysia and perhaps South-East Asia, this normalizing of authoritarian measures as a means of political victory and a tool of economic and social stability is considered par for the course.
Devoid of any principled politics
Playing the Race and Religion Card for Regime Survival
And while I did not find the so-called “question” troubling, I do think that Razaleigh’s spin on money politics is indicative of why the political terrain is devoid of any sort of principled politics.
When he says, “Dalam isu wang, pilihan raya perlukan (wang). Suka atau tidak suka, itu tidak menjadi masalah curah duit banyak macam mana. Semua orang nak menang pilihan raya. Tidak ada nak bertanding hendak kalah,” I would say that nearly every politician I have met – establishment and opposition – has sublimated this idea and justified it as a means of achieving a greater good.
While UMNO practices money politics in its own crude and blatant way, increasingly the opposition is resorting to this to achieve their political goals. Indeed, jailed political leader Anwar Ibrahim warned of this in his letter from prison – “…the idealism which once fired PKR appears to have been doused by the lustre of power and funds”.
Indeed, when commenting on the letter I wrote, “Rich men with money are always hedging their bets. The average opposition supporter would be shocked by who funds whom. Plutocrats who are routinely mocked on in the comment sections of Malaysiakini and the other ‘alternative’ news (sic) sources, have always been amenable to funding potentially powerful power structures. Money politics isn’t just an UMNO thing.”
The real theme of the Razaleigh interview – ignoring the spin about how governance has only a small impact on the economy or how so-called security bills are there to protect us from foreign interference – is how politicians like him can never truly abandon UMNO because to do so would mean jumping off the gravy train.
This is not to say that politicians who have abandoned UMNO have the country’s best interest at heart. It merely means that they at least have the courage to stand up to the UMNO hegemon. Ultimately, standing up to the UMNO hegemon is the first step is acknowledging that the Malay community is evolving.
(I want to qualify this statement with this caveat from another article – “chasing the Malay vote using the dogma of UMNO is amplifying mistakes instead of rectifying them and ultimately a progressive Malaysia is better than one merely led by a political party using the same old UMNO dogma.”)
The great irony is that the “Malays”, because of how the game is rigged and how the opposition operates, are truly the masters of this land. As the ever-reliable political observer Dr. James Chin said, “It is not possible for a non-Malay victory, under any circumstances.”
What this really means is the success and failure of this country depends on how the Malays decide to play the game. The terrible truth is that it is not the non-Malays who are playing a rigged game but the Malays. The sooner the majority of Malays figure this out, the better for the country.