Is UMNO Beyond Repair?

The party leaders have a lot of work to do to repair their public image and they thought they could achieve this simply by hiring a fancy public relations company APCO Worldwide that costs RM20 million of our money – such a waste looking at the way things had turned out.

by Syed Zahar, Malaysian Digest  

There’s no denying that things has been going downhill for post-Mahathir UMNO. The party’s recent form under its previous and present leadership seems to be inherently incapable of providing the right-minded direction it emphatically needs. Its integrity and credibility after 52 years of rule are waning in the eyes of many and indications are there for all to see from the way it is leading the government.

It’s a sad truth that the only honourable grounds UMNO seems to stand for now is in championing the cause of the Malays. One can’t help but ponder at the state of the once dignified party as it is being reduced to using their race card as a trump card. As for their opponents, Anwar’s KeAdilan meanwhile are headstrong in advocating and disseminating their multiracial ideals – yet another brownie points for the Opposition.

The Twilight of Race Politics?

It’s hard to convince people of the validity of 1Malaysia concept when the country is adhering to a race-based political model which UMNO will always uphold. The problem is, more and more people, especially the younger urban population, are beginning to show their willingness to accept the idea of a truly multiracial party henceforth government that champions the cause of all races, of all classes.

Even Nik Aziz is seriously considering to allow non-Malay Muslims to run as MPs for Pas. Perhaps it’s high time we consider meritocracy over ethnicity. Wariness of this multiracial ideals are bound to surface among conservative Malay majority that prefers to not have the privileges they were born into taken away from them. Pakatan Rakyat’s Common Policy Framework (CPF), which it pulled from it’s sleeve during its inaugural convention late last year to counter UMNO / BN’s 1Malaysia, may well pacify these conservatives as the drafted policy says the Malay rights would remains as it is.

Corruption and General Consensus

UMNO’s trouble was already brewing when Abdullah took over its leadership. In February last year, Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research interviewed 1,031 Malaysian adults to ask them about the governing party’s main problems. 35 percent of respondents cite corruption as UMNO’s most serious flaw. Being out of touch is second with 15 percent, followed by having weak leaders with 12 percent, having weak economic managers with 11 per cent, being arrogant also with 11 per cent, and being racist with 10 per cent.

Things were not getting better for the party when Abdullah resigned. Instead, with Najib at helm, UMNO’s leadership now is at its most controversial in the party’s 52 year history. The man is entwined with several allegations involving the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu and purchase of submarines. Two veteran leaders, Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh, had urged the new president to come clean on the matter. On top of this, there’s the unfolding predicaments by the likes of the Perak power grab, PKFZ, Teoh Beng Hock’s death inquest, ‘Allah’ usage, church attacks and the stolen jet engines (which took place when Najib was Defence Minister), implementation of GST, price hikes, and the police and MACC‘s involvement in politics. The accumulated strife are weighing down the UMNO leader and it looks like it would take a miracle for Najib to regain trust and reverence from the Umno members, let alone, the rakyat.

The rampancy of money politics has also shattered the public’s hope of national renewal via UMNO. The people definitely want more transparency in the government. This is easier said than done as Umno leaders has been so pampered for so long they’ve become like little tots; Once you take some privileges away they’re bound to make noise. The question is how much and what kind of racket are they going to make.

Challenges That Lie Ahead

Political crisis are inevitable but looking at the way recent issues of national concern are being handled, the government only have themselves to blame for the mounting negative perceptions of the public. Therefore, making positive changes is in their hands. They should see this as their last chance to turn their crisis into an opportunity and their unity and sense of direction.

Can the present backbone of UMNO – Najib, Muhyiddin Yassin, Shahrizat Jalil and Khairy Jamaluddin provide a new impetus for the party’s resurgence?

The party leaders have a lot of work to do to repair their public image and they thought they could achieve this simply by hiring a fancy public relations company APCO Worldwide that costs RM20 million of our money – such a waste looking at the way things had turned out.

Several issues come into play which the new leadership must address quickly. UMNO has grown into a party that manifests itself as arrogant, corrupted, autocratic, feudalistic and even racist by former party president Mahathir himself. One of the biggest challenges for the UMNO now is to prove to that it is ready and capable of governing a multiracial society. An UMNO which caters exclusively for the Malay community may help to extend the lifeline of the party but not the coalition’s. As it is, BN components MCA and MIC themselves are in dire need of rejuvenation.

Change in Approach and Attitude

Najib’s leadership has given us a perception that UMNO is not committed to promote and defend the rule of law, the federal constitution and democracy. We cannot refute that UMNO led BN has done so much for this country but that was the old UMNO. This new one did a lot too but their leaders also profited from it at the same time. They’ve taken things for granted and became haughty and distant from the people.

The interest of this nation should supersede as the main priority over one’s own political dominance. The Malaysian public are smarter now and they don’t like to be taken for a fool anymore.

How can UMNO leaders ever relate to and know the needs of the blue collars and rural folks when you are seen living it up with everything first class all the way? How can they win the heart of the commoners when these folks have seen the way UMNO leaders have been gallivanting into their kampungs come campaign time in their latest RM1million plus Beemer. If they think the rural folks are not worldly enough to give an accurate price estimate on their set of wheels and contemplate where the money comes from they have another thing coming.

When it comes to the manner of carrying oneself in public, it won’t hurt for the present UMNO leaders to take heed from their predecessor Mahathir’s moderate ways. When Mahathir was prime minister, he rode in a modest Proton Perdana (souped-up, nonetheless) and he even had his two heart surgeries in a government hospital. I mean, this type of choices really exemplify how much faith he has in his own products and system  instead of going off for a costly medical tour overseas.

To win points in playing the political game, what UMNO really needs to take a different approach and return to the basic. Come down to the field, or turun padang, so to say, and be with the average Joharis. At this stage, it’s more than about meeting the rakyat’s expectation by appearing to do the right thing; It’s about doing the right thing for the right reason. I don’t know, maybe UMNO leaders should seriously consider driving Peroduas or Nazas, admit themselves in local government hospitals, send their kids to government schools, travel economy class and take the LRT. Tough chance…