There is a world of perception and a world of reality. There is also another realm, a domain of willed fiction that is impervious to reality and treats facts like enemies. Example: UMNO is very strong or has regained its lustre, or has attracted the support of second and 3rd generations, are some of the manufactured fictions. It's the imaginarium of Dr Rais or whoever with PhDs out there.
UMNO is strong to certain UMNO people. It's strong to people who have benefited directly from an UMNO doing business as usual. These are people who continue to spend money like nobody's business while the government hasn't got sufficient funds to feed students in boarding schools on weekends. UMNO is strong to those proposing to build two tallest buildings in Kuala Lumpur.
When PM Najib took over, my sense is that what motivated very many Najib enthusiasts was loathing of Abdullah Badawi and the desire to oust him and place someone cool in his place. Najib is cool but he is surrounded by political buffoons.
We accomplished this. We pressured Abdullah Badawi to leave before he does more damage to UMNO and the nation. But we never gave much thought to the public policies PM Najib and the UMNO leaders backed. We got our Obama in to replace that George Bush but now we are realising that Obama is just like Bush in many ways.
Theirs was a politics of style, not substance. They got the style and maybe most of us like that, but we don't much like the substance. And we don't like "the stench of crony capitalism, bailout favouritism and earmark corruption" which is increasingly creeping into PM Najib's record. Think I am imagining? - wait till RMK10 comes out; the mega projects are already reserved.
It is the Delusion Zone and, judging by the results of a recent Merdeka Survey Centre earlier this year, large majorities of Malaysians especially Malays have been trapped there since PM Najib took up residence in the Sri Perdana.
The judgments of a sampling of 400 UMNO members can't be wrong, can they? Yes, they can. Najibmania appears to destroy brain cells and disable both short- and long-term memory.
Hmm, let's see.
UMNO thinks it's on the mend. You transport busloads of ululating party faithfuls to Hulu Selangor. That's already an accomplishment, you console yourself. Nowadays, people just refuse to listen to UMNO operatives. They humour and indulge them. Show the PM tens of thousands are in attendance. You conclude that UMNO support is great.
You delude yourselves. The UMNO of today has a different kind of politics. It's the politics of style rather than substance.
Ah yes, the substance. What's binding them up? What bounded the early generations of UMNOans? It was the spirit of voluntarism and sacrifice. Aunties and uncles pawned their precious belongings to put into party funds. Leaders mortgaged their houses to keep party finances alive. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah spending millions of his own money to keep the spirit alive. That's the essential element missing- sacrifice and a sense of realism.
The best took up the mantle. People refused positions fully aware of the onerous responsibilities. It was a question of fitting into the clothes. Most knew their place. People wanted substance.
It is different nowadays. The party is filled with ne'er do wells, the riff-raffs, the pompous windbags. People who are always on the lookout to leverage party positions for personal gains. People with style overwhelm the Party. But they didn't bring substance along.
Have we looked at the elements that are worth developing, defending and reinforcing to ensure the things that bind party UMNO solidarity remain there? Attendance is not a reassuring element to infer UMNO's solidity.
Start with quality leadership first. At the branch levels. Since they are going to elect the leadership at national levels. Get rid of the riff-raffs, the village bullies, the ne'er do wells.
How do you do that? Dismantle the power structure. There has been much hoo hah about the election reforms that UMNO is undertaking. A closer look will reveal that these changes are but wine in new bottles. The various preconditions put in place ensure those currently in power have advantage over those seeking out to make changes. The previous quota system was designed to do the same. The present rule of 3 is doing exactly the same.
The top leadership must show it's serious in wanting to transform the entire UMNO body politic. Why the rule of 3 then?
One needs to be member of a branch for 3 years to offer one's leadership to the branch? One needs to be a division committee member for 3 years to offer one's candidacy for higher position at divisional levels? And one has to be an MKT member for3 years to offer oneself for higher posts? Fresh blood with new ideas and new work ethics have to wait for 3 years to offer leadership choices?
The usual retort is you can serve the party in any capacity. Try doing that without position and prestige and therefore authority. Nobody will listen to the PM talk about Malaysia if he were to talk without the position, prestige and authority of the premiership. You lead with capacity of application. You apply when you have position, prestige and authority. So, don't patronise people by saying you serve in any capacity. You serve better in leadership capacity.
The problem is this. If you have been that long in the old hierarchy, it means you are set in the ways of the old school. Would it be reasonable to imagine that a person steeped in the old ways wants to transform the party? The idea of transforming is revolutionary itself and is assuredly at variance with a person type casted in the old mould.
Nazri Aziz says something off tangent with what the DPM says over this Allah issue. In effect, there are squabbling in public over the issue. Nazri is pre-empting the appeal court decision on the Allah issue. Muhyiddin is straining to do damage control.
Don't insult our intelligence by saying; the differences aired out in public are symptomatic of the democracy UMNO practices. That's a lot of bull. It's emblematic of the fissures in UMNO leadership.
We want you UMNO leaders to know, that this is exactly the type of frustrating political behavior that sickens people. It's childish, and it alienates votes by making the party look disunited and spineless.
We know the reasons why. Perhaps you have been up there too long. You people are too set in your ways to be creative and bold enough. People can pre-read your next moves and people adjust by being indifferent. Once indifference takes hold in the public mind, what can UMNO do?
Who is the most crucial UMNO operative? He is the ketua cawangan or the branch head. Though he is the most important, his importance elevated more when UMNO implements its 'direct elections' of UMNO leadership, the branch head on average is often ignored. If you have over 100 branches and you have a minister as a division head, most likely, the division head will not be able to know everyone.
How do you explain the listlessness and fossilization of UMNO at the grassroots level? I think becoming fossilized in the most appropriate term. Certainly, there is a great loss in the spirit of voluntarism or even the spirit of sacrifice among UMNO members. This trend needs to be arrested first before UMNO begins to talk about transforming.
Any transformation must begin at the branch head level. What is happening to UMNO branch leaders is similar to what is occurring among grassroots leaders in almost all political parties; you can have countless numbers of retreats, courses, etc, - efforts which are designed to transform the mentality of UMNO leadership, the reality is, the minds of the branch leaders have hardly moved an inch.
Take what happened last year. There were no jostling for positions; hence there was an enforced truce momentarily. No jockeying for positions means no roundabouts, no chinwags, and no clandestine rendezvous. Which in turn mean, less room for money transactions?
While the top leadership entrust the responsibility of connecting with the masses to the branch chairmen, the UMNO divisional chairmen are doing the opposite. They are on the prowl for titles, patronage, contracts, other business opportunities, directorship in GLCs and the like.
Change the leadership at branch levels and then change the leadership at the national levels. Don't institutionalise any leadership level as sacred. Its burn, baby, burn.