BERSATU They Stand: Bersatu, the new face of Ketuanan Melayu Politics?

September 29, 2018

BERSATU They  Stand:   Bersatu, the new face of Ketuanan Melayu Politics?

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by S Thayaparan

Our fight is a fundamental fight against both of the old corrupt party machines, for both are under the dominion of the plunder league of the professional politicians who are controlled and sustained by the great beneficiaries of privilege and reaction.” – Theodore Roosevelt

COMMENT | I just do not get it. There seem to be two narratives when it comes to this idea of a unity government. The first is about how Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and his coterie are working in a sub rosa fashion with UMNO to form a unity government, while the second is about how UMNO is going, hat in hand, to Malay power structures in Harapan to cease being a “government in waiting.”

What I don’t understand is why people really think that the big bad wolf is still UMNO, as if it will be the catalyst that would down the Harapan regime. The existential threat to Harapan is not UMNO, but an ideology that paralyses any progressive destiny of Malaysia… Harapan needs a strong Malay mandate if they are to throw their weight around in a multiracial, multi-religious coalition, which they have never been comfortable with.”– S. Thayaparan

Both narratives are false because the reality is that a unity government is already forming. What I don’t understand is why people really think that the big bad wolf is still UMNO, as if it will be the catalyst that would down the Harapan regime. The existential threat to Harapan is not UMNO, but an ideology that paralyses any progressive destiny of Malaysia.

Hidup Melayu –UMNO’s Soul–has support of the majority of the Malay community

UMNO does not have to form a unity government with Harapan before the next election – because by the next election, there will be no UMNO. When the old maverick and now Harapan’s Dr. Mahathir Mohamad claims that UMNO is finished, it is not because the people voted UMNO out. The party still has support of the majority of the Malay community.

War of Attrition

What is going on now is a war of attrition within Malay power structures, which means that UMNO rats are abandoning ship and heading to other ‘Malay’ lifeboats.

Malay power structures in PKR and Bersatu have openly said they would accept UMNO into the fold. While they make weak qualifications of membership, the reality is that Harapan needs a strong Malay mandate if they are to throw their weight around in a multiracial, multi-religious coalition, which they have never been comfortable with. The old maverick knows this, and so do the political operatives – Malay and non-Malay – within Harapan.

PKR lawmaker Wong Chen , in dismissing the idea of a unity government, rightly pointed out that – “That question is best addressed to Bersatu because UMNO members are leaving to join Bersatu.”

People pay attention to the power brokers of UMNO jumping ship, but the reality is that UMNO has been haemorrhaging grassroots members to Bersatu, and to a lesser extent, PKR.

While PAS may have picked up some support because of the new anti-Mahathir feeling of some UMNO members, the biggest draw by far has been Bersatu, which is seen as the new face of Malay politics.

Bersatu They Stand

While some folks have no problem demonising Anwar for his apparent racial and religious politics, the fact is that Bersatu as the so-called champion of Malay rights and Islamic superiority is the main draw for people who want to abandon UMNO.

My reading of why Anwar is blathering on about race and religion is that because he understands that the Malay vote base is more comfortable with a race-based party like Bersatu, and not a nominally multiracial outfit like PKR.

Indeed, Bersatu benefits from Anwar’s and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s rather silly pronouncements, because eyes are diverted away from Bersatu and the old maverick’s shenanigans when it comes to policy decisions, the Harapan manifesto, and the ambivalence towards the rising tide of Islamic provocations in this country.

Not to mention, the old guard of Umno who really did not like former president Najib Abdul Razak is working the levers ensuring that Bersatu is the main beneficiary of those exiting the former ruling party.

While Anwar may say that he has no fear of Mahathir and his personal relationship is good, his actions and those of his supporters betray the deep anxiety they have of the way the political terrain is shaping in this post-Umno reality.

So the old maverick does the needful and reiterates his pledge that Anwar would be the next prime minister. But you have to wonder if Mahathir is saying this amid talks of a unity government, doesn’t it just further the narrative that Anwar is impatient, which inflames the Harapan (non-Malay) base against his former protégé, because the majority of the Malay base is already skeptical?

‘Glory Days’

People who think that the destruction of UMNO is some sort of closure to the racial and religious politics in this country are fooling themselves. Beyond the urban centres where Bersatu and PAS are eventually going to have their showdown, the politics of race and religion will be the battleground. This will seep into the urban enclaves. It always does.

Back in the day, Dr. Mahathir, the current Prime Minister had no problem with the help of his non-Malay counterparts launching offensives against PAS, but at the same time, working the Islamic angle to his advantage.

Many UMNO supporters who are thinking of jumping ship tell me that what they see forming is a return to the old days, when the Chinese and Malays were “working together” under the great Mahathir. They see this as a return to the glory days. This is swell for them, but it was then that the roots of destruction of this country were planted.

Rational Malaysians should not buy into this propaganda of a unity government pushed by the political elites. The narratives that Harapan rejects any form of unity government, or that some in Harapan are working towards this aim, should be rejected.

Remember, the ‘Ketuanan’ system that many in UMNO find appealing has been replaced with the slowly forming pillars of BN Redux – “don’t spook the Malays” and “coming as close as we can to get the government to say those laws are wrong.”

The first is the foundation of the ‘Ketuanan’ system, which is what UMNO political operatives – and really, every mainstream Malay political operative – need to sustain political power, because they do not want to discover new ways.

The second is the compromise with non-Malay power structures, which is the easy power-sharing formula that worked so well at the height of Mahathir’s reign.

In the current climate, there will be more big-name casualties when it comes to the malfeasance of the Najib regime, and there will definitely be more defections – after a suitable period of contriteness of course – of UMNO members to Bersatu and PKR.

Anwar’s Port Dickson gambit will determine if he remains a player when it comes to this high-stakes Malay political game. But make no mistake, the unity government is already forming, and while the body of UMNO will be destroyed, its soul will find a new vessel.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


9 thoughts on “BERSATU They Stand: Bersatu, the new face of Ketuanan Melayu Politics?

  1. Hidup Second Caste! We are a caste above all, except for one. We are fortunate and blessed. Penumpang, is how my great great great great great great great .. probably a few more great grandfathers been calling themselves. We are proud Hakka penumpang under Tun Dr’s bersatu leadership. Hidup Melayu! Hidup Melayu. Jesus wept. Tunku wept. I live a different dream counting my days in America. Welayu as Melayu hidup! Jesus wept.

  2. Can’t understand why so much praise is heaped on this ass . What is so great about him aside from him being an ass?

    He goes to the UN General Assembly meeting and talks at length about the Rohinga’s. This is good. The Rohinga’s deserve some attention. Then he talks about the Palestinians and their plight. This is good too. The Palestinians too deserve international attention.

    But did this ass even utter a word about the Tamil minority who have been decimated in Sri Lanka? NO IS THE ANSWER.

    I guess , as far as this ass is concerned, one has to be a MUSLIM before he can focus his attention and concern on a community. And of all people , this is the ass the likes of Lim Kit Siang , Guan Eng , Ramasamy, etc., feel comfortable with as their Prime Minister.

    Maybe that is why there is so many Rear Admirals in Port Dickson now.

    • The Prime Minister’s in – country policies and his foreign policies seem to be the same . Like in the country, in international forums too , he only highlights the plight of Muslim communities and remains silent on the plight of non muslim communities . He champions the cause of muslim minorities in Burma , Palestine and during his first term Bosnian Muslims. I laud and commend him for championing these causes .

      Muslims , Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs or Hindus – they are all humans and belong to the human race. Here, what i cannot understand is why he only champions the rights of Muslims and Muslim communities .

      Does this make him an international statesman? I think not – however polite Kevin Rudd and people like him are when they find themselves in front of him.

      Does this suggest that he is a changed man? Again, i think not. Tommy Thomas, Lim Kit Siang , etc., i think are wrong to suggest that he is a changed man.

      He just sees an opportunity to redeem himself for the error of his ways and his policies that wrecked the very fabric of the country during his first term that allowed his successors to ransack the country’s coffers.

      And he has people like Art Harun, Tommy Thomas , Guan Eng , Kit Siang, etc., in place , to do this for him. These are all Malaysian first Malaysians. But ironically the Prime Minister does not seem to be. Maybe these Malaysians should rethink their role in this evil man’s schemes.

    • And this scheme will take about 2 years ( from May 2018 ) to bear fruit and for history to remember him not as the evil man but as the reformed man.

      Alas, why are human’s such fools?

  3. ‘ Ketuanan ‘ is totally unacceptable and most offensive in a modern, civilised and progressive multi racial and religious country…..these people want to ‘ LORD ‘ over others like hamba abdi or slaves.

    Basically, these irresponsible and shamless Malay/Muslim poliical ‘ leaders ‘ and their supporters want ‘ self entitlement and previleges ‘ without having to get a real job to contribute to the economy and country, eventhough there is a RM 1 trillion debt to repay from decades of rampant corruption and gross mismanagement.

  4. Honestly, have the Malays no pride? Unity govt? Backdoor to power? How about finally taking the high road after more than half century of underbelly politics that started from the “curi lamp ajaib” period? UMNO or anyone else even in PH think everyone else will let them back in via the flank or underbelly after decades experiencing the result of “curi lamp ajaib”???

  5. The problem is not the mentality of any of the ethnic groups, be they Malay or non, in the country. The problem is that the political elite in all of the parties – UMNO, Bersatu, DAP, PKR, PAS, etc – still believe that their best hold on power is by playing the race and religion card. You never hear them challenge it. You never hear them champion an alternative to it, except for token statements about multiracialism etc. But despite all this, the toppling of the BN has given us a lifeline – a brief period while the people are still vigilant during which key political reforms can be enacted to reverse the mess that Mahathir made to the checks and balances. Hopefully, that will allow the growth of a new vision among the next generation to break us out of the ketuanan trap.

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