Scandal ridden UMNO Malay Leadership

February 3, 2017

Scandal ridden UMNO Malay Leadership

Malay Scholars Find Fault in Malay Leaders

Malaysian Official No. 1–The Corrupt and Corruptor

The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) presents itself as the guardian of Malay interests, culture and language. So what do the 1MDB and other scandals say about the fundamental problems of this long-dominant ruling party, the institutional arm of the Malay elite?

The disappearance of vast sums from the accounts of the state-backed 1MDB investment vehicle, the murder of a senior investigator, the murder by the Prime Minister’s security detail of a pregnant Mongolian translator/model and former girlfriend of Najib’s close associate, must say something about elite behavior.

They may be extreme events but by no means unique in Malaysian history over the past 40 years. What were then vast sums went down similar drains, more than one associated with Bank Bumiputra, including the murder in Hong Kong of an auditor doing his job too well. Plenty of other lesser financial scandals have emerged from specifically Malay, publicly-owned institutions supposedly created to benefit the rakyat but too often ATMs for the elite. They are mostly quickly forgiven and forgotten.

Rather than looking for a contemporary or political analysis of the causes of these various scandals, it is worth casting a glance back at how some well-known Malay intellectuals in the past saw their Malay leaders. Two examples, separated by 140 years, will have to suffice.

Image result for dr shaharuddin maaruf

The more recent, written in 1982, appears in Shaharuddin B Maaruf’s Concept of a Hero in Malay Society tracing the influences on the Malay elite from the epic of Hang Tuah to the later era where feudal loyalty was allied with a crass materialism. Some of the feudal traits exhibited by Hang Tuah (and by equivalents at the Javanese Majapahit court) included feats of drinking, gambling, hunting and lovemaking. Do they still dominate?

 Interestingly Shaharuddin singled out not a Malaysian but the martyred Philippine nationalist Jose Rizal and General Sudirman, Indonesia’s military leader in the war of independence, as the wider modern Malay world’s leaders as selfless, determined and principled. In contrast, he quoted the principal agent of British imperialism on the peninsula, Frank Swettenham, on the eagerness of the Malay rulers to accept British overlordship in return for position and income.
Image result for dr shaharuddin maarufA Contemporary UMNO Leader

Shaharuddin himself echoed other post-independence critics of the elite such as Syed Hussein Alatas, the Malay academician turned politician who became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya and a founder of Gerakan, a multi-ethnic, reformist party. Alatas wrote the Foreword to Shaharuddin’s book.

They both noted the conflict between the feudal values of the elite, seen in their devotion to hierarchy, show and dynasty, and the Islam it professed. Instead of acknowledging that Islam’s strength lay in the diversity of interpretation of the Koran, it insisted on a single one laid down by an intellectually bereft elite, more interested in the furtherance of narrow Malay racial interests than in religion. Personal loyalty to a leader also trumped laws and principles.

There was, wrote Shaharuddin “no genuine interest on the part of the Malay elite to foster the intellectual, humanitarian and scientific aspects of Islam … but only to organize Koran reading competitions” – a stark contrast to the days when Islam was at the forefront of intellectual and scientific advance.

Image result for Rosmah's Birkin Bag

 Present Day Malay Heroin Rosmah ‘Birkin’ Mansor

Reading about the shopping sprees of Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor, of the spending of huge sums to join the celebrity crowd in New York, mansions in California, Hollywood movies and high-priced western paintings suggests that elite behavior has got even worse since Shaharuddin wrote more than a generation ago: “The spirit of indulgence leads it [the elite] to imitate the negative aspects of western culture while the scientific and intellectual tradition is discarded… Being indulgent and imitative, the Malay elite always seeks to identify itself with its western counterpart.”

Image result for dr shaharuddin maaruf

Nor was it just a problem of aping western ways. Another was the desire to be grandiose and showy. “They spend lavishly on buildings, cars, official functions and other expenditures for prestige.”

Worse still, “celebrity worship is widespread in Malay society” – as if foretelling the elite urge to be seen in the company of such trashy western celebrities as Paris Hilton.

Shaharuddin’s criticisms were however mild compared with those of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir 1796-1854) also known as Munshi Abdullah. He was a Melaka-born translator and teacher who worked for the British, notably with Stamford Raffles at the time of the British takeover of Singapore. Abdullah was not a traitor to the Malays but one so appalled by the condition of the Malay states that he saw cooperation with the British as a way of improving the lot of the Malays through economic progress, the end of internecine conflict and the spread of education and knowledge.

An 1838 work following a visit to Kelantan, Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah ke Kelantan, had polite advice for Malay rulers. But his better known autobiographical work Hikayat Abdullah written in the 1840s was more scathing in its views of the monarchs.

“It is no light tyranny that has been exercised by the Malay rulers, apart from a few who were good. Women and children who caught their fancy have been abducted by force as though they were taking chickens, with no sort of fear of Allah and regard for his creatures. They have often murdered men whose offences in no way merited death. They have plundered the property of other men, killing the owners or dragging them off into captivity. If they owe money they refuse to pay it. They are very fond of gambling, cock-fighting, opium-eating and keeping a host of slaves. …There are many other disgraceful practices which I feel too ashamed to mention in this book. They keep young girls, sometimes more than a hundred, as concubines in the palace. They have relations with a girl once or twice then for the rest of her life she cannot marry another man…

“Was there not a time when half the world was under Malay dominion and rule? There are many books and records which tell of the rulers of olden times, how great and powerful they were, so rich and full of wisdom. Why have their lands been despoiled by Allah ere now and passed into foreign bondage.

…Even in my own time there have been several Malay principalities which have come to ruin. Some have reverted to jungle where the elephant and tiger roam, because of the cruel injustices of their rulers and chiefs; not merely distant places but, for example, Selangor, Perak, Kedah as well as Padang, Muar, Batu Pahat and Kesang and many others like them. Once they were rich and flourishing states with a large population. Now they are states only in name. …

“Many are the places and lands which have been destroyed by the depredations of the young scions of the ruling house whose rapacious hands can no longer be tolerated by the people. Other races, the English, the Indians, the Arabs, the Chinese do not conduct themselves in the manner I have described. Only the Malays. Among all the other races the ruler’s children are expected to be well educated and very intelligent… If the Malay ruler do not keep their own children under control, how can they themselves exercise authority over the people? As it is under Malay rule ordinary people cannot lift up their heads and enjoy themselves… Another failing commonly found among Malays is their inability to change or modernise their idea or to produce anything new. They utterly refuse to abandon superstitions of the past…”

And so on. Abdullah used many more pages to denounce the rulers and attitudes of the Malay rulers and state of society of his time.

There seems a continuous theme from the 1820s until today. It might be argued that both Abdullah and Alatas were not really Malays. Abdullah was of Tamil Muslim origin, Alatas of Yemeni ancestry and born in Bogor. But the notion of a pure Malay race is a fiction to which the ancestries of Prime Ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman, Hussein Onn and Mahathir Mohamed attest. No one doubted the mastery of Malay language and culture possessed by Abdullah and Alatas, nor their standing as modernist Muslims with enquiring minds. Are there any such figures in Malaysia today?

(Translation of Hikayat Abdullah by A.H. Hill. Concept of a Hero in Malay Society by Shaharuddin b. Maaruf, Eastern Universities Press, 1984)


7 thoughts on “Scandal ridden UMNO Malay Leadership

  1. “In contrast, he quoted the principal agent of British imperialism on the peninsula, Frank Swettenham, on the eagerness of the Malay rulers to accept British overlordship in return for position and income”.

    Similarity to the pawning of 1Malaysia to Mainland China by UMNO Baru elite today.

  2. Quote:- ““no genuine interest on the part of the Malay elite to foster the intellectual, humanitarian and scientific aspects of Islam … but only to organize Koran reading competitions” – a stark contrast to the days when Islam was at the forefront of intellectual and scientific advance”

    …that’s because those who were “…at the forefront of intellectual and scientific advance” were Arabs and Islamic Jews.

    If an Abdullah 2.0 were to put his thoughts to paper or Cyberspace today, he can expect to be “interviewed” by the Polis DiRaja Malaysia.

  3. UMNO feudalism is an elitist pervert culture of celebritism??? It’s an interesting hypothesis. They are perverts for sure, ignoring ridiculously obvious wrong for selfish reasons, devoid of faith in common sensibility.

  4. The blogger Din is a baffoon. He could see things within his circus tent.

    You dont mention about Lim Guan Eng. Do you know that the Chinese even bribe their God to allow them to pass through the gate of heaven? You should do PhD on the Chinese bribery in Malaysia
    I take exception to your remark. I am the blog owner and so I have the right to choose topics to be put on this blog. I do not force you to read my blog. I choose not to mention Lim Guan Eng. In my view, he has done well for Penang. –Din Merican

  5. How did the Raja-Raja Melayu and the Indian Maharajas fell prey to British overlordship? My fertile mind gave some thought to this matter and these are my thought flows. These may be figments of my own imagination but until debunked with credible counter points, I would take it as how everything started and ended with British Raj.

    The British Empire probably became prominent with the conquest of India. That was in the 16th century or thereabout. When they initially sailed into India probably with a tiny convoy of 2-3 sailing ships they probably had a handful of crews and trading goods. India was then predominantly ruled by Maharajas and the British had to deal with them or their courtesans first. It would have started as simple business transactions. Whenever there were disputes leading to altercations, the British would have been outnumbered and thoroughly smashed despite possibly having had one-shot firearms of yester years. This would have been possible because the Maharajas had elephant brigades, horse brigades and army of foot soldiers with spears and shields.

    In the course of repeated defeats, the British would have discovered that the Indian soldiers treated their Maharaja as God and they were prepared to die defending him. So they made a crucial observation that to defeat the soldiers they had to get to the Maharaja first and put a sword on his neck with a threat of killing him unless his soldiers laid down their arms (spears) and surrendered. Holding the Maharaja hostage, the British next did the unexpected. They befriended the Maharaja with gifts and pouring him plenty of wine until both became the best of friends. Having won over the Maharaja, the British extended their influence and control over other Maharajas ruling adjacent states. Where a specific Maharaja put up resistance, war was waged against him by the British with the connivance of a rival neigbouring Maharaja. It was in this manner that the British suzerainty was extended all over India. So the lesson the British honed was that to conquer a land and its people, one has to conquer the Maharaja first.

    It was this approach the British took when coming to Malaya. They befriended the Sultans and taught them the finer things of life like “wine and dine” The Sultans loved everything British and one or two of them even had English wives. No country has fallen to the British as easily as Malaya because of the co-operation and collaboration of the Sultans. The British in turn made the Sultans important – symbolically and politically. Most of the things the British did were done with the sanction of the Sultans.

    The British refrain has always been never harm a king, emperor, maharaja or sultan when conquering another state. Nowhere else this was more evident than when the Anglo-Americans defeated Japan in WW2. They executed the PM and his key Cabinet members as war criminals but they did not touch the Emperor. They used him in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of post-war Japan, which subsequently became the world’s second largest economy after the US.

  6. Saudara Isaac, we all must try to avoid using offensive or hurting language on others. If I am not mistaken, Dato has only reproduced an article from Asiasentinel. If there is no mention of Lim Guan Eng therein, it is no fault of Dato.

    We should welcome diversity of news and happenings, which sometimes challenge the status quo. This morning (Sun) I saw 2 different lion dance troups in a large wet-market. One was performing inside whilst the other waited for time outside as they probably didn’t expect the other to be there too. The one inside had a group of 7-8 members. Except for the lead man who was bearing the lion head and was Chinese, the rest were Malay boys who were all dressed up in Chinese costumes and were beating the wheel- bearing drum and cymbals in perfect harmony whilst belching out chorus of Chinese ‘hump’ words intermittently. The one outside had 3-4 Malays while the rest were Chinese. I had also seen Malay particpants in Chinese funerals playing instruments as part of a Chinese musical group. Times are changing and young Malays are also changing too adapting to changing times.

    In this light, another thought crossed my mind. The non- Malays – the Chinese and Indians, in particular, love to eat nasi-padang and briyani. And eating them with beer can be heavenly for some of them! If the restaurant owner is a Muslim, why not allow him to lease out the beverage drinks corner to, say a Chinese, who can sell beer as well. This would likely increase sales of these two delicious food items 2 or 3 fold for the owner, who can also increase rental from the drinks corner man who will see higher takings through beer sales. It is a win-win situation for all parties including the customers. The practise of not giving licensce to such eating establishments should be re-visited. The argument that such places would tempt Muslims to drink is a tame one.

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