UMNO – From Feudal Bureaucrat to Comprador

By batsman 

The UMNO government recently announced that teachers will be allowed to take part in politics once again. Apparently it is worried that its membership profile seems to have shifted from majority teachers to majority businessmen. But why is it so worried now when only a few years ago it seemed to be quite happy with the change? I would imagine that most will shrug it off as reflecting development and changing times.

My belief is that UMNO is meeting immense problems in its new role or new existence and is trying to drag up the past to try and hide or overcome these problems. It is the same with its shameless attempts to seduce and marry PAS as well as its public relations blitz with 1Malaysia. 

UMNO is even finding its old skin of nationalism quite uncomfortable because it has changed into a different being and needs Perkasa to take up the old faded racial issues. 

What is this new monster that UMNO has become? I believe UMNO has turned into a comprador. Its old feudal ties are becoming frayed as it sees itself greater than the Malay Rulers and has even taken aggressive and hostile steps when TDM was PM to knock down the prestige of the Malay Rulers by quite a few notches. 

However, in line with its new difficulties, it has swallowed its great ambitions and started to pander to the Malay Rulers once again. This does not mean however its ambitions are gone. Like macaque monkeys, it can cough them up at will once the conditions are right again. 

It can also no longer sit comfortably with nationalism since as comprador, it has to pander to foreign power and foreign money and foreign powers do not tolerate militant nationalism too well as witnessed by the former EU representative Herr Rommel’s complaints about UMNO policies and behaviour. 

Just as UMNO does not mix well with nationalism these days, it also no longer mixes comfortably with the small man. Its well being is tied up with big money as a comprador. There is no place in it for the small man except as deluded voters and hopeful buyers of its unit trusts. MIC being less powerful was just exposed much earlier. UMNO will go the same route. It is just that with huge funds available to it and the MSM under its control it is able to cover up its contradictory nature much better. MIC, MCA and UMNO are all essentially the same type of creatures, the only difference is how rich or poor each is. 

As in nature and life, vacuums are abhorred. The role of comprador is already filled in Malaysia so UMNO has to kick out the existing compradors. This it seems to be doing quite successfully and many of the Taipans are slowly pulling out of Malaysia and bringing their wealth with them. 

Needless to say, some of these Taipans do not feel too happy with being forced out and they may have some sympathies with the reform movement even as a few try to get even closer to UMNO and become UMNO’s dogs as a survival strategy. I believe the LLS episode is a small warning from UMNO to some of the old compradors not to be too friendly with the reformers. 

I happen to believe that the reformers should also not be too friendly with the old Taipans and must never allow their influence to determine policies and thinking. For example, it is quite crucial to fight chauvinism of all sorts and cut-throat capitalism, even if chauvinists and free-market capitalists try to wheedle themselves into reformist ranks. Their unimpeded participation in the reform movement can only lead to disaster sooner or later. 

UMNO’s bureaucratic power is proving to be extremely useful as are its old feudal ties. However, over-use of bureaucratic power will have negative consequences even as it solves some short term problems for UMNO. Fondness of bureaucratic power leads to arrogance and autocratic behaviour and subsequently to outright dictatorship. Corruption will also become a way of life and it has already been proven that arrogance, corruption and abuse of power will alienate more and more people. The country’s systems and institutions will become unreliable and unusable for all except a handful of corrupt cronies, bureaucrats and dictators who will turn Malaysia into an oppressive and corrupt state. 

Social change involves huge numbers of people and it trundles along regardless of the attempts of a few individuals to delay it or even divert it. UMNO-Apco is using large amounts of money to give people the impression that UMNO is becoming a benevolent force for good through public relations spending. A handful of individuals will change their perceptions and start believing this public relations exercise especially if they are given more attention, a bigger role or promotions. The question is whether there will be enough money to change the perceptions of huge numbers of people on a long term basis. 

I suppose if UMNO-Apco is able to change the perceptions of huge numbers of people even on a short term basis, they will consider their public relations exercise successful. This will of course be a set-back for reformers, but there will never be enough money to change perceptions permanently even if UMNO bankrupts the country and steals everything in sight. In fact the more UMNO steals, the worse perceptions become for UMNO. 

In the old days, UMNO depended on rich tycoons for funds with the understanding that the tycoons will be free to make money and conduct their businesses unimpeded. It then grew too big and too greedy for the rich tycoons to handle. This created a new contradiction and new demands for abuse of power and corruption to be controlled. Reformers have taken advantage of these new contradictions to push their agenda for improvements and for change. Such is life. 

Even with foreign investors, there are many kinds of foreign investors – those who are relatively decent and wish only to do business without causing trouble, those who are bad and wish to increase their profits and returns on investments by using whatever means available to them even those that are foul and unethical and those who are vultures. It would seem that we have relatively good recent experiences with foreign investors even if our some of our past experiences with abusive colonial miners and planters have not been too good. We are lucky to have escaped the attention of the vultures and are still below their radar as they are occupied with oil in Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, etc. as well as in lucrative building and body guard contracts once a country has been reduced to ashes. 

Those who are unable to lift those rose tinted glasses and see foreign investors with greater clarity and analyze them with greater understanding might seek greater objectivity by doing some decent research on their own. To help out in a very small way, you might want to check out this article from the BBC – Rubber soldiers. I guess this is my tiny contribution to fight chauvinism and cut-throat capitalism. 

Still, life being what it is, it is up to reformers to form friendships and alliances and to take advantage of contradictions in a way as to push the reform agenda forwards without falling under the spell of unethical people – whether local or foreign. Then worst thing now is to fall under the spell of 1Malaysia and think that UMNO is all powerful and without weaknesses and contradictions. 

By the way – you don’t even have to fall under my spell. In case you do, I shall have my sharp wit and keyboard at the ready to dispel any folly. heeheehee