How can UMNO take out Mat Sabu


I write this article with the full knowledge that UMNO will not strategize. Its advisers will suggest the sledgehammer approach. Its advisers are motivated by headlines in the media. Not for them the strategic content and advantage.

There is no mileage in UMNO escalating the Mat Sibu extolling communism issue. If it pursues the issue further, in the end, UMNO will be exposed for what it truly is- a racist non-inclusive Malay political party. Don’t allow the hawkish and extreme right wing supporters of UMNO succeed in causing UMNO to be regarded as such. UMNO leaders must stop the madness. Don’t sacrifice potential long term gains for the allure of short term gains.

The short term gain is winning the argument against Mat Sabu. The longer term gain is to ensure UMNO retain its image as a voice of moderation and reasonableness. The former produces divisiveness. The latter earns credibility for UMNO not only from Malays but non Malays. But if UMNO doesn’t care about this, then it will be true- UMNO is imploding.

The strategy is to isolate Mat Sabu. Not to widen the issue by dragging Islam into it. What Mat Sabu said has nothing to do with communism. The godless creed remains Islam’s eternal enemy. UMNO foot soldiers will find it increasingly difficult to defend its fictional creation. Will UMNO be able to defend its contention that PAS the Islamic party supports communism?

PAS leadership will stand behind Mat Sabu insisting that what he meant was historical injustice done to one Mat Indera. UMNO can simply demolish this allegation of historical injustice by saying that it is the UMNO led Johor government that honored Mat Indera by listing him as one of the influential Johoreans who have contributed to the state.  The Johor government has done substantially more to the memory of Mat Indera than Mat Sabu’s rhetorical stunt in his speech.

The issue should have stopped at just that. Nail Mat Sabu for his stupid stunt. Cite him for impetuousness and insensitivity that indicate clear lack of leadership credibility. Take Mat Sabu out. Mat Sabu doesn’t have the coolness and presence of mind to be a leader of caliber. But to widen the issue to include communism will be self-defeating. No one would believe that PAS will go to bed with communism. If UMNO uses this argument, it will find itself fighting with Islam and shows it is just a xenophobic political party consumed by paranoia all through.

The reason why UMNO has succeeded in earning credibility and legitimacy is because it has always operated on the principles of moderation and reasonableness. UMNO leaders and members must realize where historical extremism and bigotry is leading UMNO to. By historical extremism and bigotry we mean the chauvinistic treatment of history in the furtherance of an xenophobic position.  What is it? The whole issue is reduced to a racial war simpliciter.

Chinese out killing Malays. This is what the hawkish and right wing UMNO supporters want UMNO to become. So we have articles claiming people of Batu Pahat will never forget the reign of terror inflicted by Bintang 3. Or suddenly we are lectured on the atrocities of communism- or more particularly Chinese atrocities on Malays during the communist reign of terror. Did the 10th Regiment inflict the same terror on the Malayan people?

Mat Sabu didn’t mention anything about communism. He mentioned the name of Mat Indera, the Malay ‘communist’ who led the attack on Bukit Kepong police station in 1950. Most of the police who were killed were Malays. Most of the communists who attacked were Chinese.

If Mat Sabu had wanted to correct the historical mistreatment of Mat Indera, he has chosen an insensitive way in doing it. The Johor government has issued a publication that listed Mat Indera as one of influential Johoreans who had shaped the history of Johor. That proper historical rehabilitation was done by the government of Johor.

Where is the political premium for UMNO in debating this issue? These are only short term gains. First, this is an opportunity to denounce PAS, where in fact, it should have been only Mat Sabu. Second and more important, the Bukit Kepong incident can be turned into a racial issue.