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Sakmongkol ak 47

Saturday, 5 July 2008


Annus horibilis.(horrible year)

2008 is an horrible year for Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi. UMNO is on the brink of total collapse. The UMNO president is also facing revolt within UMNO. it is UMNO’s bellum domesticum or strife or war among familiy members.

At the time of writing these lines, a lot of changes were already taking place in Malaysian politics. The government of Dato Abdullah Badawi is facing a much stronger opposition with 82 seats in parliament. With 140 seats, it has lost its two thirds majority. At state level, the UMNO led government managed to secure 307 seats to the opposition and independent with 198.

Bellum domesticum.

The ruling party, UMNO is plagued with internal dissension. The average UMNO member and the Malay public blamed the Prime Minister for the heavy losses UMNO suffered. They blamed his indecisive and ineffective leadership. They also blamed his apparent lack of control government and party apparatuses. His non- chalance is very disturbing.

People are becoming less and less enamoured by his humble and gentle approach. Perhaps the only people who continue to hold him in high esteem are those politicians beholden to him in a number of ways. Among those beholden and therefore must stay loyal is Dato Seri Najib. He cannot do anything but wait for the permission of the Prime Minister to take over, if that is possible at all. He serves at Pak Lah’s pleasure. According to political fortune tellers, Dato Najib will never become the next prime minister. He carries to much excess baggage, filled to the brim with skeletons from his past.

In the parliamentary seat of Pekan which is headed by Dato Najib, which has 4 state seats, two new wakil rakyats have replaced my colleague Wan Iqbal and I. After serving for one term, we were politically despatched. We have now become ex wakil rakyats.

We wish our incoming colleagues and the incumbents well. We are thankful for the opportunity to serve as wakil rakyat even it is only for a term. We would of course liked it better if we were given a chance to serve longer. We accepted the fact that we were no longer needed.

And so, I will now tell you a story about UMNO as seen through my personal experience. I have elected to tell mine ahead of my colleague Wan Iqbal. He will in due course write his version. Meanwhile, the world has moved on in all sorts of respects, not necessarily in the manner we would have preferred.

For example, who could have foreseen the calamitous changes that were to bear on UMNO? UMNO lost in the states of Penang, Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan. It lost the richest states in Malaysia to the opposition. If a firm were to lose the firm’s crown jewels, that would have resulted in the dismissal of the entire board of directors. Unless of course that board of directors is composed of shameless rhino-skinned executives. I sincerely hope the UMNO leadership has some scruples. I realise this hope has to be balanced with the observation made by Nikita Khrushchev ‘that politicians are the same all over. They promised to build a bridge even where there is no river’ [1]

UMNO is the principal party of the Barisan Nasional. It is its undisputed leader. We could not have imagined that UMNO failed to capture 30 seats out of the 109 it contested. We could not imagine for example that after over 50 years of gaining Independence, over 360,000 did not know how to vote. Perhaps the most chilling threat to the survival of UMNO is the fact that over one million UMNO members did not vote for UMNO candidates. UMNO says it has 3.5 million members and yet only 2.4 million UMNO members voted for UMNO candidates. That would suggest, that UMNO has lost the confidence of the Malays.

After the elections, it would appear that the party itself was and still in disarray. Party leaders were scrambling to discover what has gone wrong. In an apparent effort to show to the questioning and the ever suspicious public that they were doing something, a multitude of reasons were advanced to explain UMNO’s cataclysm. UMNO’s defeat symbolised a larger defeat for the party. The Malays who were UMNO’s supporters have lost confidence in the leadership and the party. Perhaps it is the beginning of UMNO’s winter of discontent. The winter of discontent in England during the strikes of 1978-1979, brought down the government of James Callaghan and saw the emergence of Margaret Thatcher. Will the winter of discontent within UMNO dislodge the UMNO leadership? The whole atmosphere was that of a fin de siècle to the party’s 62nd anniversary. Could it be UMNO’s Closing Chapter?[2] .

But it is also true that the UMNO world that is can be best understood by those familiar with the UMNO world that was. It was the Spanish born American poet and philosopher George Santayana who said, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And to our current leaders, I would like them to remind themselves of the words by Friedrich Von Schiller- the history of the world is the world’s court of justice.

The history of UMNO especially that between 2004 and now, is now OUR court of justice. I was part of the UMNO that was- the UMNO that has never suffered its worst defeats , that has never lost such a large number of states, that has never alienated such a large number of its own members. The UMNO that is, is an UMNO plagued with turbulence and is suffering from haemorrhaging. I have chosen to relive UMNO that was, through my own personal experience as an UMNO member and a former wakil rakyat.

[1] There is a joke running around concerning Dato Samy Vellu. On one occasion he was telling the people around that he will build bridges in that place. When informed by his aide that that’s not possible as there is no river to construct over, he said, oh it’s all right, we will build them a river first.

[2] The title of a book by Lord Denning, The Closing Chapter.


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