Najib, Cricket and The Bitter Pill

Pakatan Rakyat is going through growing pains. But we must congratulate them for what they have achieved, and support them and wish them well in their journey to becoming a sustainably viable alternative to Barisan Nasional.

Suflan Shamsuddin

Up till Tun Hussein, UMNO had been led by those who wanted to govern like playing cricket. Principles and values were to be respected, no matter how difficult was the national agenda. It was all relatively stiff upper lip and gentlemanly. Those within UMNO who held extremist nationalist views, or who wanted more drastic action to be taken were held at bay. And ethnocentric opposition parties who challenged the equity of the agenda were treated likewise. But there was acceptance that a dominant one-coalition rule needed to be benevolent and fair.

But Malays did not get very far. And nor did the country.

When Dr. M took over, he changed all this. His political views were shaped by his own life journey. He studied in Singapore and competed in the top medical school and succeeded against all odds. He wanted Malays to be like him, tougher, more enterprising, slicker, more conniving, more resilient, etc. because he thought that this was the key to their survival and success.  Fancy values and principles are meaningless if you cannot feed your family, he must have reckoned. He also probably assumed that if the Malaysian economic pie was enlarged, these compromised principles and values would not be missed, since all Malaysians will be better off. 

So everything was done to support the creation of this ‘new Malay’ in the context of creating a richer Malaysia. And those of us old enough to remember his rule will remember just how he did it. Cricket had then become out of fashion.

No one can deny the success he has brought the country. But at what cost?

•    Under his administration, the ultra-Malays became key enablers to create and sustain the new Malay paradigm. Now they rule the roost and refuse to be dislodged. 
•    Under his administration, short cuts were tolerated to give Malays a leg-up. Now, many of them are addicted to special rights, and crippled without their fix.
•    Under his administration, patronage was utilized to create a Malay entrepreneurial class that would also help finance UMNO. Now money politics and corruption are a way of life.
•    Under his administration, justice, honesty and transparency were sacrificed to quell dissention. Now the separation of powers and the rule of law are almost an aberration.

The Pandora’s box has been opened and it cannot be shut. Race relations have gone from bad to worse. And the iniquity swirls viciously to destroy everything that has been built. Nothing is safe from its path, including Barisan and UMNO’s longer-term future. The country is now too ill for any single leader to fix, and we are all at risk. We just cannot go back to cricket as it was played before. A benevolent single-coalition rule is no longer an option.

The solution needs the collective effort of everyone from all sides. It lies in the creation of a stable two-party system of democracy, where each side of the political divide inclusively represents the interest of all Malaysians and communities. Once institutionalised, both sides will be forced to produce a moderate ideological platform and purge extremism to garner support across all Malaysians. Both will be forced to keep their houses clean and efficient in order to stay competitive. The distrust between communities can be minimised, since both alternatives would represent all communities under their own respective power-sharing formulation. With all that in place, the reforms that this country needs to create a civilized, harmonious and successful Malaysia can start to take root, no matter who is in power. This is the new game of cricket that we now need.

Pakatan Rakyat is going through growing pains. But we must congratulate them for what they have achieved, and support them and wish them well in their journey to becoming a sustainably viable alternative to Barisan Nasional. We must be patient with them as they try to overcome obstacles in their way. The Rakyat cannot afford for them to fail, no matter which party/coalition we support, given the irreversible rot that we are in. 

Acknowledging and supporting a two-party system is the bitter pill that UMNO/Barisan must swallow if it is to save itself, the communities it represents, and the nation as a whole.

To Najib, I say: Stop trying to destroy Pakatan Rakyat. Instead, do the exact reverse, and help make it secure as a sustainable viable political choice. And compete with it on even terms, fairly and squarely.

Do it in the name of your father, who knew what it meant to play cricket.

Take this bitter pill and do what’s right. Before it is too late.