Saturday, December 10, 2011

Umno Baru at a crossroads again — Nur Jazlan Mohamed

DEC 10 — The recently concluded Umno General Assembly came and went and offered little in terms of the new manifesto of the party. The public were disappointed with the lack of new policy initiatives. Many Umno delegates who had to sit through many stale and uninspiring speeches were left with little enthusiasm to return to their respective constituencies to rally their fellow members in preparation for the impending 13th General Election soon.

The uninspiring lack of ideas put forward by the members best describes the state of the party at the moment. Umno has the largest base of members and voters of any political party in the country. It is the party that claims to have the most support from the Malay population which is the largest ethnic group and expected to be about sixty per cent of the population by 2020.

But as a party that claims to represent the majority race in the country , it doesn’t seem to able to break away from the “Malay under siege mentality” rethoric it has used since the fight for independence to attract support from the public. The party is frozen in time and is paralysed to steer the nation through a more challenging future.

The party has failed to offer new ideas to attract the young Malays to support its idealogy which in recent years has drifted more to the right. The Prime Minister, Dato Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, through the concept of One Malaysia has tried to bring Umno back to the centre space of national politics where race and religious tolerance is at equilibrium.

But his message doesn’t seem to resonate with the majority of the delegates and even among his bench of Supreme Council members who may have come to a conclusion that another event of racial and religious strife in the country is the best way to retain Malay power.

The underlying message from many of the speakers at this years General Assembly was that the Malays were under threat from the minority group of non Malays who were trying to grab power and overcome Malay supremacy by defeating Umno and Barisan Nasional. The statements made by many of the delegates had strong racial and religious undertones aimed at the Malay population to alert them to the threat posed by the non Malays especially the Chinese who are determined to take power.

Many of them were not even subtle in communicating their extreme views especially when attacking the DAP , the everlasting bogeyman of Malaysian politics. The DAP were accused of playing racial politics and inciting the Chinese to hate Umno and hence the Malays which interests it protects.

But the speakers failed to mention that it is impossible for the Chinese who represent about a quarter of the country’s population to take power in the country without the support of the Malays. None of them offered any explanation on why many Malays shunned Umno and had decided to vote for Pakatan Rakyat in 2008. None of them wanted to admit the weaknesses of Umno that caused a significant number of Malays to choose Pakatan as their preferred government.

None of the speakers and the top leaders of the party bothered to raise the issue of corruption and financial mismanagement which is the main reason for many Malays especially young to reject the party. The silence on the issue was deafening in the light of the revelations from the National Feedlot centre issue which involves a senior leader of the party.

The DAP is in an excellent position to take advantage of the situation. The anti-Chinese message from Umno is driving more and more Chinese voters away from it. If this situation continues , the DAP can expect to win the forty five Chinese majority seats in the country’s parliament and claim legitimacy to represent the Chinese community in the country.

The Chinese community may decide to dump MCA and Gerakan for the DAP. The MCA and Gerakan would be history and the Barisan Nasional would consist of Umno and the Sabah and Sarawak coalition partners. Barisan Nasional would lose its legitimacy as the party that represents all the races and religions in the country.

Dato Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak would become the first Prime Minister in history to be elected without a majority of Chinese support. He would have to consider the risks of being the leader of Barisan Nasional and Prime Minister without the support of the majority of the Chinese population.

He may have to consider extending the olive branch to the DAP just as his late father Tun Abd Razak Hussein did to the then opposition Gerakan party in 1970 for the sake of achieving overall national unity. If that happens, will it come at a price that Umno can accept?

Will Umno have to swallow its pride again?

* Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed is the MP for Pulai.

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