FROM MANCHESTER TO PULAU MANIS. THE CHRONICLES OF A ONE TERM ADUN. Part 6
How does Malay understand the concept of the Malay nation to be? Looking from a Malay perspective, the following are the traits of a Malay nation. They understand it as being the homeland of the Malays, where the religion is Islam, its culture as that practised by Malays, bahasa Melayu is the official language. They understand it to be a land where the monarchy system remains an integral part of their cultural and political heritage. They understand it to mean, that Malays will control some degree of the economy. They understand it further as an embodiment of the inalienable right of self determination.
In the end, the unpopular idea of a Malayan Union was rejected. UMNO was the driving force behind this rejection. The Malay race is indebted to UMNO. After the first general elections in 1955, UMNO lead the other non Malay political parties to form the government. In 1957, UMNO gained independence for us. Since then, this country has developed in leaps and bounds. Yes yes, the UMNO Rottweiler and Dobermans can repeat ad nauseum the achievements of the government- felda land schemes, modern amenities, schooling etc etc. We are indebted to UMNO but never enslaved nor hostage to UMNO.
UMNO has won elections successively. In the 11th general elections of 2004, UMNO won 90% of the seats in parliament. By 2003, we had a new prime minister, the person everyone calls endearingly as Pak Lah. I too was part of the new administration winning a state seat in Pulau Manis, Pekan Pahang. In the 12th general elections, UMNO suffered a reversal of fortunes. It managed to secure barely 50% of the popular votes in the country. It lost five states. UMNO itself has only 78 MPs in parliament. My own political fortunes too were obliterated. I was no longer a candidate after being dropped. Matters in states such as Perlis and Terengganu where UMNO won, are topsy turvy.
As the debris from the political implosion settled, the question on every right thinking Malay is, what happened to UMNO? Unfortunately those asking questions are the ordinary Malays and sections within UMNO. The establishment, consisting of Malays co-opted into the ruling elite chose to discuss matters within close doors. Suddenly, the UMNO big wigs have become publicity shy. Previously, they would trample each other’s foot to have their stories in the media- officiating this and that, giving unsolicited cheap sale advice. The UMNO leadership is repeating the mistakes which cost them dearly- refusing to listen to the heartbeat of the rakyat.
Is UMNO on the road of decline? The halcyon days when UMNO can offer anyone as candidate and later win, are gone. My friends used to say, if you offer a songkok as an UMNO candidate, UMNO can still win. Though meant as a joke, it is reflective of the immense trust and even faith that are vested with UMNO. So I say UMNO is weakened when the trust and faith with UMNO, its leadership and commitment to the Malays are abandoned.
UMNO is in danger of becoming irrelevant to the Malays. It is dangerously ignoring the instincts and aspirations of the common Malay man. The fruits of UMNO’s struggle are carted away by the opportunist elites. There is rising disparity in income between urban and rural Malays. The GINI coefficient which measures levels of income inequality is not good for Malaysia. Malays outnumber the other races to ask for cheap housing facilities. Malays outnumber the other races as recipients of welfare assistance. Each year, the number competing for low cost housing keeps increasing. Each year the budget for welfare allowances grow. Lawmakers in the various dewan undangan negeri delude themselves into believing more welfare recipients means more Malay contentment. The New Economic Policy- a policy for affirmative action favours the few. Those who control the purse strings appear to sneer at the principles of transparency and accountability. Government departments are inefficient and operate with scant regard to transparency and accountability. They are by and large left to their own devices. Criticisms on deficit spending are treated as irritants. The sterile steers in the form of quick to please politicians and lawmakers will trip over each other to justify deficit financing. Privatisation has not led to efficiency, transparency and de regulation. UMNO endangers itself if it trivialises the voice of ordinary reasonable Malay man. It inflicts self harm by insulating itself and listen only to the voices of political intermediaries.
What are the foundations of UMNO’s relevance? To my mind it is Malay nationalism. This is the overriding thread that binds all other Malay interests. All other interests are subsumed under the force of nationalism. Malay nationalism is about primacy of Malay interests. They must be protected, expanded and defended. This was the basis of trust given by the Malays to UMNO. I fear these interests are perceived as being watered down by the Malay public. It is watered down by weak implementation, failure by UMNO to provide leadership, by rhetoric more than substance, by mere words more than action.
These sentiments and emotions emanate from the breasts of ordinary man, not those in the halls of Putra World Trade Centre. These powerful forces can only be sustained on the backs of economic and educational strength, areas in which the Malays are weaker by the day. After 50 years of independence, wealth distribution among the races and within the Malays themselves is not improving. Put it simply, UMNO has not taken care of its own members. The perception is that ordinary UMNO members on whose backs the vision of UMNO is carried are marginalised. When Malays rallied behind Tengku Abdul Rahman, in the early 1950s they were looking for a leadership that can defend and fight for their inalienable rights to call Malaysia their home. They placed their trust and faith in UMNO. They came from all walks of life. They pawned whatever material wealth they had to fight for a cause. As Francis Fukuyama said, trust and faith is founded on the principle of reciprocity. When there is trust, people cooperate. We give you our trust and faith believing that you will honour that trust and faith by fighting for what we want. Once trust and faith are wasted away, you lose our trust. Can it be, after 62 years of UMNO’s founding, it has forgotten our trust and faith?
 Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues And The Creation Of Prosperity.