Umno’s relevance lies in Ketuanan Melayu

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Umno’s recent General Assembly gives an impression that Malay nationalism might in fact be heading for a resurrection.

Actually, Umno has no choice. It was formed on the back of Malay nationalism back in the 1940s. If it were to abandon its nationalist ‘struggle’, then it would rapidly become irrelevant.

On 18 April 2005, I wrote: ‘Are we seeing a resurgence of Malay nationalism?

Excerpts of the article are as follows:

The MTRK (Majlis Tindakan Rakyat Kelantan) has been in existence for about five years now, formed around the time the Badan Bertindak Melayu organised the ‘Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia’ rally. Therefore, it was formed during the time Ibrahim Ali was still in the government, so he cannot be accused of trying to create a new platform now that he is out of the government.

If I were asked: what was the most significant aspect of MTRK’s Perpaduan Rakyat Kedaulatan Raja convention, I would have to say this was the first time anyone or any organisation was able to organise an event that could cut across all political boundaries. For once, Malays from Umno, PAS, keADILan and the many NGOs could look at something from a totally non-political party platform.

Ibrahim Ali may have finally pulled off the coup of his political career.

MTRK is not about political parties or general elections. It is about Malay education and the future of the Malays. Currently, MTRK has 40,000 members, mostly Kelantanese. But if MTRK can spread its wings to the other states, it could eventually dwarf even Umno itself. And, as Tun Ghaffar Baba said, the real membership of Umno is suspect as it is.

Will MTRK eventually transform into a new Malay political party? Probably not, but it would certainly become that new Malay platform that most Malays lament has been lost due to serious intra-party and inter-party bickering that has plagued Malaysian politics for the last three generations.

Is MTRK a mere flash in the pan that would soon die a natural death? With Ibrahim Ali behind it who can tell? MTRK has, after all, been around for five years and Ibrahim Ali is a man who is known to never give up. And now that he has succeeded in getting the Malays to set aside their political differences and unite under a common non-political party platform, Ibrahim Ali may yet pull off what even Dr Mahathir Mohamad has failed to do.

Are we seeing a resurgence of Malay nationalism? I suppose only time will tell. Then again, if Umno perceives MTRK as a threat to its own existence, there may be forces at work that may try to deliver MTRK a death blow before it outgrows the party that is supposed to be the defenders of Malay interests.

Ibrahim Ali may yet emerge as the new Malay nationalist if his plans work out. Rest assured, though, there will be many who would like to thwart him before he steals their thunder, so he will now have to watch his back every step of the way.

That was what I wrote more than three months ago and Umno’s recent General Assembly gives an impression that Malay nationalism might in fact be heading for a resurrection.

Actually, Umno has no choice. It was formed on the back of Malay nationalism back in the 1940s. If it were to abandon its nationalist ‘struggle’, then it would rapidly become irrelevant.

All Umno leaders through the ages, while on their way up, had to play the Malay nationalist card. There are no two ways about it. Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in fact, not only played the Malay nationalist card but the anti-Chinese card as well. The fact that Dr Mahathir was not Malay — and, to the Malays, you are your father’s and not mother’s ethnicity — seemed to have been lost amongst all that rhetoric.

No doubt, Dr Mahathir’s ‘seditious act’ and criticism of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman resulted in him getting kicked out of the party for almost three years. But the ‘positive’ side to all this was that his group, led by Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, managed to oust the Tunku. And it was because of his strong pro-Malay, anti-Chinese stance that Dr Mahathir became a ‘hero’ and went on to become Malaysia’s fourth and longest-serving Prime Minister to date.

Syed Jaafar Albar, Syed Hamid’s father, the ‘Lion of Umno’, was a Malay nationalist. So were Hussein Onn, Tun Razak, Sardon Jubir, Harun Idris, Suhaimi Kamaruddin, and the others. Name me one Umno Youth Leader who was not perceived as pro-Malay, anti-Chinese in their days. Najib Razak, the present Deputy Prime Minister, was even more seditious. He stood up on stage with an open keris and promised, to the rousing cheers of the Umno Youth rabble, to ‘bathe it in Chinese blood’ if the Chinese push the Malays too far.

Of course, just as soon as they discard their Umno Youth hat and secure a position in Umno’s main body, these so-called pro-Malay, anti-Chinese rabble rousers transform into the Chinese capitalists’ greatest friend.

And there are no exceptions to this ‘rule’. Just look at Dr Mahathir, as one example. Abdullah Ang, Tan Koon Swan, Eric Chia, Vincent Tan, Francis Yeoh, and many, many more became millionaires turned billionaires during Dr Mahathir’s 22 years at the helm. (Abdullah Ang and Tan Koon Swan eventually ended up in jail, as would Eric Chia if he does not die before his trial ends — but that is the type of company that Dr Mahathir keeps).

Yes, this Ketuanan Melayu, ‘Chinese better not push us too far or else you will get a keris in your belly’, and all that other crap routine is just one huge shadow play (wayang kulit). Do you think the Malays really want to send the Chinese back to China on a slow boat? No way! If they do, then who are they going to sell all their APs to if not to the Chinese car dealers? And who will finance Barisan Nasional the RM1 billion required to win the General Elections every four or five years if not the Chinese businessmen? But they do have to impress the gullible Malay voters and make them believe that Umno is ‘looking after their interest’. So this grand standing is absolutely necessary to ensure Umno’s continued relevancy.

And, of course, MCA will be informed beforehand of the impending anti-Chinese rhetoric so as not to alarm them. And MCA will then pretend to be flustered by all this anti-Chinese rhetoric and will make small amounts of noises whenever the Chinese voters are looking. After that, the Umno and MCA leaders will all go for a drink and laugh the whole thing off.

So, my advice to the Chinese is, ignore all this crap. Umno does not mean it. Better still, act like you are scared shit. Maybe piss in your pants or something like that. This would really help Umno convince the Malay voters that the Chinese are running scared. Then Umno would be able to continue ruling this country until there is no longer any country left to rule.

Let us just call this a ‘smart partnership’ between the Malays and Chinese.

As I said, Umno would become irrelevant if they were to discard the Ketuanan Melayu cloak or drop the call for a resurrection of the New Economic Policy (NEP). In that same spirit, the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) would become equally irrelevant if it was to abandon its Islamic state ‘struggle’. A PAS without the Islamic state would be a PAS no one needs. Therefore, the Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) call for PAS to drop its Islamic state agenda before it would consider rejoining the opposition coalition is like asking a duck not to swim. A duck that doesn’t swim is not a duck. In fact, PAS would be a sitting duck if it drops its Islamic state agenda and Umno could then easily take pot shots at it.

I mean, can you imagine PAS asking DAP to drop its fight for more democracy when the very name of the party is ‘Democratic’? No way, Jose (pronounced HOOZEY for the uninitiated)!

Anyway, Umno, PAS and DAP are not problems. We know what they are. Neither are the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) whose party names are very clear as to what their stand is. The problem would be Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). What is PKR’s niche?

Yes, PKR is a problem. It is facing an identity crisis. It claims to be fighting for reforms; Reformasi. Its critics say it is fighting for Anwar Ibrahim. But Anwar Ibrahim is no longer in jail; so we only have Reformasi left.

There are certainly many things that need reforming in Malaysia. In fact, the opposition itself needs reforming. But what if Abdullah Ahmad Badawi were to deliver these reforms that people are clamouring for? Would they still need PKR? Certainly not! If Pak Lah can deliver these reforms then we would need a PKR with its solitary Parliament seat as much as we need a PAS without its Islamic state.

You might find fault with Umno and its Ketuanan Melayu and NEP. You might hate PAS and its Islamic state and proposed Hudud laws. You might despise DAP and its ‘no to Islam; retain secular state’ stand. But dislike them as much as you want, at least they have clear platforms to stand on. What is PKR’s platform with a ‘struggle’ being hijacked by the wily Pak Lah?

Instead of focusing on Umno and running them down for their so-called racist policies; which I already said is mere shadow play; we should instead worry about PKR. Umno may be bad, but they have millions of members and supporters. So does PAS, the second largest party in Malaysia. And DAP has the most number of opposition seats in parliament. What does PKR have? At the moment it does not even have Anwar Ibrahim!

It is time PKR reflects on what it currently is and what it currently is not. Forget about telling Umno what it should do. Ask, instead, what PKR should do and in what way this could be better-achieved. And explore how PAS and DAP could be persuaded to share common ground to enable the opposition coalition to work.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change
You gotta get it right, while you got the time
’Cause when you close your heart
You can’t close your… your mind
Then you close your… mind!
That man, that man, that man, that man, that man
That man, the man, you know, that man
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself then make a change
Gonna feel real good, yeah
No, no, no, no
I’m gonna make a change
It’s gonna feel real good
Sure mon
Just lift yourself
You know, you got to stop it, yourself, brother
I gotta make that change, today
You got to, you got to not let yourself, brother
You know, starting with that man, the man
You got, you got to move
Sure mon, sure mon
You got to
Stand up, stand up, stand up
Stand up and lift yourself, now
Gonna make that change, sure mon
You know it, you know it, you know it, you know
Make that change

‘Man In The Mirror’ by Michael Jackson