UMNO and Utusan: stuck in their time-warped narrative of race

By Sim Kwang Yang

After March 8  last year, we began to hear the new political language of a new era that expresses inclusive, universal values such as justice for all, democracy and human rights.  We even hear calls for the People’s Dominance, as an alternative to Malay Dominance.

As Michel Foucault would tell you, any public discourse is a platform, in which various different narratives are engaged in a war for power to dominate the political conversation.

I truly do not know to what extent the new inclusive narrative of universal justice and people power has succeeded in capturing the public imagination.  Malaysia is in a state of transition, and small battles and scuffles are fought on many fronts all over the country between the two warring elephants, the BN and the PR.  The battlefields are very confusing.

The battles are waged in earnest, because during a time of transition in any evolving society, the old order of the status quo will want to cling to power at all costs.  There is too much vested interest at stake.

If they are smart, the old order will go through a make-over and a re-engineering of their identity and purpose.

One such success is the Nationalist Party in Taiwan (Kuomintang KMT).

Taiwan politics is always painfully complicated and parochial.  Briefly put, it was a one-party dictatorship under Chiang Kai Shek from 1949 until the 1970s.  Then the KMT went through a series of reforms under President Chiang Ching Kuo and Lee Teng Hui, allowing more democratic practices, and opening up public spaces.  In the presidential election in 2000, the party lost to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) candidate Chen Shui Bian.

Much happened in the KMT during this period.  The long and short of it is that in 2005, Ma Ying-jeou, the popular mayor of Taipei, became the first elected president of KMT in the party’s 93-year history.

Ma defeated the PPP candidate in 2008, and became the new Taiwan President, thereby regaining KMT’s glory in the island republic.  I followed that election, and watched Ma speaking the language of change, democracy, accountability, and good governance, the sort of new narrative of which the KMT of old would never dream.

What happened in Taiwan may not necessarily be duplicated in Malaysia.  But it offers insight into the dynamics of how human societies can change.