FROM MANCHESTER TO PULAU MANIS. THE CHRONICLES OF A ONE TERM ADUN. Part 7
The gains from UMNO’s struggle are hijacked and monopolised by the political elite. The ordinary Malay man wants money in his hands so that he can determine how to apply it. The UMNO mandarins want money to be entrusted to them to determine what is best for the ordinary folks. We can see the increasing concentration of economic and political power in the hands of elites instead of distribution to the rakyat. UMNO listens more to political intermediaries and lobbyists, who abrogate to themselves, an omnipotent wisdom to judge and interpret what the common man wants. Obviously as the results show, there is a huge crevice that separates theory from reality. The common man does read in between the lines and are now capable of forming opinions and giving concrete expression to their opinions.
UMNO was once the empire, spanning its reaches to all nooks and corners of the country. It has been managed by an elite core in the form of a supreme council comprising of a specific number of elected and anointed individuals chosen by the party and the president of the party. We may very well call them the ruling clique overseeing the parcelling out not of real development but the spoils of war. But like all empires, it is subject to the theory nothing lasts forever. On the other hand, if the theory is true, then the theory itself is not absolutely certain- therefore it too cannot rests of the qualification ‘forever’. That means perhaps, UMNO has still a chance to continue surviving, provided it can re invent itself. Can it do this with the existing leadership? UMNO members must now go back to the drawing board and study what not to do.
UMNO, the party we loved and believed to be the voice of ordinary Malays has suffered its worst defeat. In the general elections of 2008, UMNO MPs number only 79 in parliament. The voice of the ordinary Malays is no longer heard in Dewan Tun Hussein Onn or in Putrajaya. Is UMNO out of touch with the instincts and aspirations of the largely conservative Malays? Sadly, it is tiptoeing dangerously at the brink of a deep precipice. At the general assembly, what we hear are sanitised views of what ail the Malay polity. By and large it is an orgy of self adulation. In reality, the UMNO ruling cliques and warlords risked being ostracised by the Malays.
As an UMNO member, we must grieve even if it is a shade of what was once great fades away. And UMNO is by no means just a shade. It was born in 1946 on the resolve of the Malays to be architect of their own destiny. It was born from the fear of being annihilated and swept away and founded on the hopes and dream of a Malay nation. It arose from Malay nationalism.
Something must have happened between 2004 and 2008 that made people reject UMNO. Perhaps it’s a question of leadership, perhaps it’s a question of conflicting interests between leaders and the rakyat. The majority of the rakyat appears disillusioned with UMNO and its policies. They are fed up with the UMNO leadership.
I refuse to believe that this party founded on the trust, hopes and confidence of the Malays can no longer command support from the Malays. It must now regain the rakyat’s trust and faith. It has to re-engineer itself. And I do not for a moment countenance the idea that the leadership of UMNO is not sensitive to this monumental shift in public opinion. This party, born out of the selfless sacrifice of countless number of unknown rakyat must never fade into oblivion. Nor must we allow it to be butchered by an out of touch leadership at various levels. I mean at all levels, not only the top. Indeed we must address these issues calmly, devoid of drama and rhetoric and say what must be said.
Who is responsible for UMNO’s loss? It is neither reasonable nor right to apportion blame on one person only. UMNO says it decides collectively, so it must share responsibility and blame collectively. It is not right to suggest to Pak Lah that he resigns. If we insist Pak Lah resigns, then the whole UMNO leadership must also resign. Dato Seri Najib is as much to blame for this defeat notwithstanding his victory in Pekan Pahang. After all he is the national elections director for BN.
This is the opportune time to reinvigorate UMNO. We all must stand resolute behind the prime minister and not be participants knifing of our Caesar. The call by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for an EGM is good if it leads to an honest evaluation of our faults and weaknesses. But if the EGM is but a device to conceal an agenda to wrest control of UMNO from Pak Lah, then it is a misplaced call. Any changes to the leadership must be done democratically through the UMNO elections. Tengku Razaleigh himself remains blemished from his clash with Tun Mahathir in 1987. That resulted in old UMNO’s demise and its resurrection under a new name. Tengku Razaleigh went to war with thousands of foot soldiers who defiantly carried his banner. Now they looked askance, when the two protagonists in that war are making peace with each other.
We face trying times. The forces of error, doubt and despair seem to entrench themselves in the Malay psyche. I am reminded by a famous saying- where there is error, we must bring forth the truth, where there is doubt, we must bring forth faith, and where there is despair, we must bring forth hope. Now is the time we must stand resolute and fortify our trust and support for the prime minister. We must have faith, hope and truth.
I am also reminded of a few lines by the poet Wordsworth On The Extinction Of The Venetian Republic, 1802:
Men are we, and must give grieve when even the Shade
Of what which was once great is pass’d away.
As UMNO members, we must not delude ourselves the fact that a sea change in the rakyat’s perception has taken place. Indeed, it has been a political Tsunami. It is time to wake up from our slumber. Let us remember what Pendita Zaaba said:-
I tell you not in mournful numbers
That the Malays are a dying race
I only want the soul that slumbers
To wake up and work in these bright days.
 From Ungku A. Aziz; Jejak Jejak di Pantai Zaman, pp. 96.