Sunday, October 5, 2008

The seeds of BN’s Destruction lie UMNO’s Arrogance

The seeds of BN’s Destruction lie UMNO’s Arrogance
Posted by: dinobeano on: October 4, 2008

In: Democracy| Politics Comment!

UMNO’s arrogance can destroy BN
Sim Kwang Yang | October 4, 2008
For the first time in a long while now, the country cannot blame Anwar Ibrahim’s machination for a regime change as the sole cause of political, social, and economic instability in Malaysia.

MCPXThis time, UMNO is the culprit.

The coup detat within UMNO, culminating in two emergency meetings of their supreme council in recent weeks, has virtually ended the political career of the Prime Minister and UMNO president Abdullah Badawi. Fortunately for Malaysia, the forced change of leadership at the very top of UMNO would occur without resort to the kind of social upheaval that erupted in 1969.

UMNO and their partners in the ruling coalition suffered greater losses at the polls in 2008, than they did in 1969. It became apparent immediately after the March 8 general election that Abdullah’s position as the UMNO president was no longer tenable.

In the realm of realpolitik, whenever a political party suffers the humiliation of a massive electoral setback, heads must roll. And the biggest head must roll first. The Barisan Nasional was unceremoniously kicked out of government in five states and lost their two-third majority in Parliament. In the subsequent orgy of finger-pointing, it is natural for everyone to zero in on the Prime Minister. The buck must stop there!

And so, the private agreement on handover of power between the Prime Minister and his deputy Najib Abdul Razak had been questioned and overturned by two successive meetings of the UMNO supreme council. The Prime Minister is now expected to step down sooner than he expected, between October this year and March next year, instead of sometime in 2010. I cringe to watch him suffer his public humiliation, no matter how stoic he appears on TV.

Umno’s Arrogance at work

Here, we witness the traditional hegemonic arrogance of Umno at work.

In a vibrant democratic political party, the change of top leadership should be determined by the whole party at large, preferably through a fresh party election in a general assembly of delegates. Face or no face, a party president worth his salt should face the representatives of the party grassroots squarely, and abide by their verdict.

Instead, the current scheming for the Prime Minister’s political demise has been plotted and executed entirely within the inner sanctum of the UMNO supreme council, an eclectic collection of regional and factional warlords within the party, each coming to the negotiating table armed to the teeth with their support blocs as chips in this power casino.

The incident also illustrates how UMNO has regarded the office of the Prime Minister as their birth right. This latest round of Machiavellian manoeuvring for the handover of power from the Prime Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister was conducted without any consultation with other component parties of BN, as if these other parties were mere vestigial appendages of the main body which is UMNO..

Commentators are mesmerised by the latest round of courtesan politics at work in UMNO. Speculations are rife as to the unpredictable unfolding of events, and all eyes are now trained on the UMNO division elections October 9, for there resides the real battlefield between the various factions for nomination to the top posts of the next supreme council. The picture is far from clear at this moment.

There is an obvious move to present Najib and Muhyiddin Yassin as a team for the top two UMNO posts in the post-Abdullah era. But it is hard to tell, given that UMNO politics is always far from transparent. With a power vacuum at the centre, power blocs will seek temporary alliances and there would be much talk of horse trading. Then again, Abdullah may not have to be written off at this juncture.

Even if Najib succeeds in taking over the presidency of UMNO in the end, there is no guarantee that he will immediately become the prime minister of the country. This has been pointed out by our distinguished constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas in an interview on the net portal, The Nut Graph. With the backdrop of Anwar’s antic agitating our national consciousness to no end, Najib will have to demonstrate that he does command the respect of the majority of members of Parliament. The September 16 game begins again.

All these uncertainties must be very unsettling to the business community, at a time when the Wall Street market meltdown has plunged the global financial scene into chaos. This is a time when the country expects strong and enlightened leadership from the government. A beleaguered UMNO caught in another round of power struggle is like a snake swallowing its own tail; it is not likely to inspire investors’ confidence.

Relevance in jeopardy

Frankly, I doubt if the business community or the Malaysian society at large care two hoots whether Abdullah or Najib sits at the helm of government. For the large swathe of opposition supporters across the country, they represent the same ideology dictated by the half-century of UMNO narrative.

But the acrimonious in-fighting in the current UMNO crisis is also very telling for those who try to gaze into the crystal ball to gauge the future direction of Malaysian politics.

In the aftermath of the March 8 election debacle, there have been calls within UMNO for party reforms, with a view towards reinventing the party identity in keeping with changing times. The relevance of the party in future Malaysian politics is in jeopardy. In fact, the continued viability of the concept of Barisan Nasional is at risk because of the arrogance and racial posturing of UMNO.

Very recently, even Muhyiddin sounded the alarm that if UMNO did not change, it might not survive the next election in 2013!

Unfortunately, recent events show that all they can think of in terms of reform was a change of their top leadership. UMNO is very much stuck in a time capsule in which the Rule of Man always supersedes the Rule of Law. They mistakenly believe that by changing merely the personality at the top, they can change the party.

Perhaps they are still wallowing in the legacy of their former supreme mentor, the former UMNO president Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Under his iron fist for 22 years, UMNO did enjoy a monopoly of political narrative in Malaysia unseen before his time. UMNO seems addicted to strongman politics, the sort that dominated developing nations after WW2 until very recently.

With the tectonic plates of warlord factions and vested interest groups grinding against one another in the bid for supremacy within UMNO, who will heed the call for the real reform that UMNO must indeed go through to survive in the future?

Who indeed will caution UMNO that the secret to their electoral success in the past, the so-called Three M’s (money, media and machinery), can no longer guarantee victory at the poll in the new political scenario in Malaysia?

Who within UMNO indeed will alert the party rank and file that the Malay ground in Peninsular Malaysia has shifted, and that the Malay community has grown very diversified. Unlike the 1960s, UMNO seems to have lost touch with their Malay grassroots, the reality that ordinary Malays have to confront in their struggle for existence everyday in the face of high inflation and dwindling spending power.

In fact, after the March 8 polls, the UMNO leadership has not shown in any concrete way how they are going to win back the support of their Malay constituency, either in the Malay heartland in rural Malaysia, or among the urbanised Malays who are growing increasingly alienated by UMNO. They have no answer for PAS and PKR!

Why, they have even seemed to be blind to the crisis of confidence among their Barisan partners, the other component parties of the ruling coalition which begin to mumble about leaving BN altogether.

In short, in their post election trauma, the UMNO leadership has chosen to turn inward, and pursue another round of internal crisis that infects UMNO every 10 years or so.

True enough, UMNO has always managed to survive their in-fighting in the past. It may have given UMNO leaders and members the false belief in their supernatural ability to survive their internal contradiction forever. This current round of UMNO crisis though, may just prove to be the last straw on the back of the UMNO camel!

With Pakatan Rakyat snapping at their heel, UMNO may perhaps prove to be a spent force after the 2013 general election. They will have nobody to blame but themselves.

SIM KWANG YANG was member of parliament for Bandar Kuching from 1982-1995.


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Don’t Blame Others, Get on with the Job, Mr. Prime Minister
12 Responses to "The seeds of BN’s Destruction lie UMNO’s Arrogance"
1 | Mind Matter

October 5th, 2008 at 12:14 am

Dear Din,
Good write up. I’am really glad that so much have been documented and make known what Umno is all about. Any nation will take a long time to mature especially with diverse race and religion. If anything we can learned and benefit from it is - Not to repeat what has occured.
I strongly remain optimistic with people like you and Zaid who dares to remain open minded and see the future as one nation and one bangsa. Its never easy but that again, we need to start somewhere and somehow. Malaysia has plenty to offer and should new Goment form by PKR, I tell you Malaysia will never be the same again. With the right people in place to do the right job, Malaysia will be a nation to be reckon. No joke, and not dreaming. Im cock sure.

2 | Ling

October 5th, 2008 at 12:30 am

UMNO had a vestige of hope in one man who was brought in as the de facto law minister, Zaid Ibrahim. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get his reform ball rolling as he realised he was manoeuvring round an obstacle course so he left. Therefore one must seriously wonder: is UMNO serious about reforms? As Mr Sim said, UMNO lives in a time capsule. Life has changed, people have easier access to information via the Internet, attittudes have changed but UMNO is still UMNO!

3 | Mr Bean

October 5th, 2008 at 6:55 am

“Fortunately for Malaysia, the forced change of leadership at the very top of UMNO would occur without resort to the kind of social upheaval that erupted in 1969.”

I do not think the race riots of 1969 were anything like a well thought out coup detat planned to oust the Tunku and install Tun Razak as PM. I believe though it was planned to restore the balance of power between the UMNO as a member of the Alliance and the opposition parties which made historic inroads by changing the electoral map.

Tunku sadly was collateral damage.

4 | Mr Bean

October 5th, 2008 at 7:06 am

“But the acrimonious in-fighting in the current UMNO crisis is also very telling for those who try to gaze into the crystal ball…”

No wonder Badawi has been seen walking in a daze staring between his legs now and then to find out what his crystal balls are telling him.

5 | Hussein Talabani

October 5th, 2008 at 10:25 am

UMNO is like Saddam Hussein’s political party, Ba’ath. Too long in power, it is corrupt, repressive and intolerant of dissenting or contrarian views. I was reading the Malaysian Insider about the struggles of Mr. Zaid Ibrahim who tried to initiate changes in Malaysian judiciary. He failed and resigned in disgust.

Both Dr. Bakri Musa and Brother Din Merican were right when both these Malay public intellectuals argued that UMNO will implode. For me, this is true. Because of its hubris and unwillingness— or may be incapacity is a better word—to change, adapt and be close to its membership and the Malaysian people, UMNO will self-destruct and when that happens, it will be good of Malaysia. As an outsider, I see is no room for race-based politics in Malaysia.

Mr. Sim said the same thing. It is even more tragic that its partners in the coalition it leads too are unable to adapt to changing times and expectations. MCA, MIC and Gerakan leaders are part of the corrupt system and as beneficiaries, they will not alter the political culture, which enabled them to enrich themselves, their families and cronies through UMNO patronage.

As I said before, the Middle Easterners will not put any money into Malaysia, until Brother Anwar Ibrahim becomes Prime Minister.We believe Brother Anwar has the political will and the right people who can help him to change the system. Frankly, there is little choice for Malaysians. Until and unless Malaysia opts for good governance, it will remain among the most corrupt nations in Asia.

I welcome your comments so that I can understand Malaysia better. Help me change my mind so that I can persuade the rich in the Middle East to take a bet on your country. Eid Mubarak.

6 | Din Ahmad

October 5th, 2008 at 10:27 am

Abdullah needs to understand that he plays different roles at different levels. At each level, he has different enemies and foes to fight. His problem is his inability in differentiating between friends and foes because his friends and foes play different roles at different levels.

He thought that his most dangerous enemies now are Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat but in fact it’s Najib and the UMNO goons that wanted him out because the most critical game for him now is the UMNO game not who can control the federal government.

What he needs to do now is to identify his actual foes and play hardball with them. He will only be able to protect himself if he can negotiate from a position of strength and for him to do that he needs to make it clear for everybody to see “Who is the Boss?” So, Don Badawi, find your immediate foes and fight them first.

If he is able to stamp his mark at UMNO’s level, then only he can turn around UMNO to maintain his position in Putrajaya, if not UMNO/BN’s days are numbered. I do not think Najib will be able to turn it around either because UMNO has lost its purpose and direction. It’s just a bunch of arrogant and greedy mercenaries against Anwar’s guerillas.

7 | Jong

October 5th, 2008 at 11:29 am

Bean, judging from recent events, don’t think he has any crystal balls left except prunes!

Don’t we all know all along Badawi’s real enemies are the ones closest to him and from within Umno? But just too bad he is too densed to even realise that Mamakfler’s behind alot of strategic moves to confuse him further.

8 | Isa Manteqi

October 5th, 2008 at 11:54 am

However one analyses the goings on in UMNO, one thing is clear. The party as it is constituted is incapable of reforming itself in any meaningful way. It just does not have the necessary people of stature; and years of using the party for the main purpose of enriching themselves at the expense of the nation has left them completely bereft of credibility. That is why I feel that some years in the political wilderness are necessary - years that hopefully will see the emergence a new generation of leaders who are capable of reviving the party. We need a strong UMNO and a strong BN but this is not going to be possible with the current lot.

That is why it is imperative for PR to take over the country. It is an interesting alliance and if it sticks to its founding principles faithfully has a good chance to be a government Malaysians wish for. Currently Malaysians have no other choice but to back PR.

The name Talabani is a distinguished one in the Middle East and if this gentleman is who I think it is, it is good that such leaders take an interest in our small country. As you are aware, sir, we are perhaps the only Muslim nation that is a functioning and stable country and the fact that we are able to sort out our differences peacefully is a tribute to all Malaysians. I hope you will encourage your people to invest here.

9 | Isa Manteqi

October 5th, 2008 at 11:56 am

Jong : From hot buns, scones… to prunes!?
Funny, funny, funny indeed!! Running out of ideas and views?—Din Merican

10 | Din Ahmad

October 5th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Hussein Talabani,

Malaysia will continue to be considered a “pariah” country as long as we continue to have the present crop of leaders in UMNO/BN managing this country. At the last election, BN was rejected by the non-malays in West Malaysia. Even among the urban Malays, BN have lost its appeal. In the Permatang Pauh by-election, where Brother Anwar won, more than half of the Malays in the semi-rural constituency rejected BN.

The only group now remains to be totally convinced by the Pakatan Rakyat message is the rural Malays. Reasons are well known – propaganda by the BN controlled mainstream media due to lack of readily available alternative information sources and spirit of UMNO, which currently is only vibrant among the grassroots in the rural enclaves. This spirit is still there although their leaders in metropolitan Kuala Lumpur have already abandoned it for self-interest, greed and mercenary causes.

What is saddest to me is the mentality of the Malays who largely do not have the self-confidence of competing and standing up for themselves. UMNO have created the “crutch” mentality by perpetuating the perception among the Malays that they are dependable on subsidies and neeed to be protected. This probably is the worst thing that UMNO has done for the Malays. In addition, this perception is being stamped in their mentality so that UMNO leaders can justify their continuous raping of the country’s resources under the guise of affirmative actions for the Malays.

Pakatan Rakyat is important for this country because it provides a reasonable alternative for governance but more importantly, it is able to provide the dignity for the Malays to want to compete for their own survival.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “ Nature has made up its mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended” In short, if UMNO/BN continue to manage this country the Malays would join Hang Tuah, existing merely in the annals of history.

11 | Hussein Talabani

October 5th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Brother Isa, we are a big clan here in Mosel and Baghdad. I am an ordinary businessman who works very hard. I have very strong connections because I travel through the Middle East. Given the security situation in Iraq, my family and I have moved to Amman, Jordan. My intention is to return to the land of my forefathers as the situation is improving. Tell me, is Manteqi your family name?

Brother Din Ahmad, you sound like a political scientist with your keen insight into the politics of Malaysia and you are very knowledgeable about Brother Anwar. Do you know Brother Anwar?

I hope the Pakatan Rakyat which is an alliance of Brother Anwar’s party, the Islamic Party and the Chinese dominated Democratic Action Party will stand behind Brother Anwar when it comes to the crunch. Except for Brother Anwar, the other leaders seem to lack experience in affairs of state. Remarks by your PKR Chief Minister in Selangor show his inexperience, for example. How will the Pakatan Rakyat overcome this? I know, Brother Anwar is respected by all Pakatan leaders, but is that enough at crunch time.Thank you.

12 | Jong

October 5th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

I’m amazed, ‘middle easterners’ are so interested in our our local political situation? Wat’s next Din & Din?

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