The part on Umno’s history that Kathirasen omitted

That is very true. I do not wish to elaborate on this because I have written about this many times in the past. Suffice to say that at one time the Malays could be considered “brown Englishmen” and sometimes more English than the English. Then, along came Anwar in the 1970s, and Malays were turned into Arabs.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Kathirasen’s article “Umno needs a new face to regain glory” (READ HERE) makes interesting reading and to a large extent I agree with his version of the Umno history and the dilemma it is currently facing. Nevertheless, there are some important aspects of Umno and its history that Kathirasen left out, which I feel need mentioning.

“How the high and mighty have fallen! There was a time when Umno ruled the roost but today it is struggling to find its footing. From 1957 till the general election of May 2018, it was the dominant force in Malaysian politics. In the early years it was respected, then it was feared, today it is ridiculed.” (A. Kathirasen, Free Malaysia Today)

When Umno was formed in 1946, it was with a specific purpose in mind.

Soon after WWII, the British came out with the plan to form the Malayan Union. Under this plan, Malaya would more or less be turned into an unofficial republic, the role of the Raja-Raja Melayu would be downgraded, and the immigrant population (Chinese and Indians) would automatically be given citizenship.

The mainly elite and intellectual Malay population opposed the Malayan Union plan (the more uneducated rural Malay population did not really understand what was going on). After two years of opposition and street demonstration, the British abandoned the Malayan Union plan and changed it to the Federation of Malaya.

However, while the more feudalistic Malays were happy with the Federation of Malaya, the communists, socialists, etc., (Malays also amongst them) opposed it. And by extension they therefore also opposed Umno, plus opposed the British, of course.

So, the British had the choice of either working with Umno and help strengthen Umno or face the prospect of Malaya falling into the hands of the communists, socialists, and the anti-colonial or anti-British group.

Now, this was post-WWII when Britain was broke and 30% of Britain’s economy depended on Malaya (and India, the jewel in the British crown, had been granted independence in 1947 — so the British could no longer rob India like before).

In short, Britain could not afford to lose Malaya to the anti-British communists and socialists, who were also anti-Umno. Hence, they had to make sure that Umno becomes strong and dominant in Malayan politics. You can say it was a strategy of using Umno to protect British economic interests in Malaya.

The British encouraged Umno and even helped them campaign all over Malaya for support — while when the anti-British cum anti-Umno group did the same the Special Branch would arrest them and even detain them without trial.

Because of that, it was impossible for Umno to NOT become strong and dominant in Malayan politics, as Kathirasen had noted.

Then there was the problem of what to do with the immigrant population, which was almost 50% of the population. The British knew it was a matter of time when they would need to give Malaya independence. It was not a matter of if, but a matter of when.

But then that would raise another problem. What to do with the millions of Chinese and Indian immigrants, who were not Malayan citizens? China and India would not take them back so Britain will have to bring them to England — which in the 1950s was utterly impossible (in 1997, when Hong Kong went back to China, many Chinese were allowed into England, though).

So, Merdeka had to be ‘packaged’ with citizenship for the Chinese and Indian immigrants (the whole reason why the Malays opposed the Malayan Union in the first place). And the British had to ensure that an independent Malaya was under Umno, not under the anti-Umno/anti-British communists and socialists.

The British did everything they could to help Umno, while at the same time blocking all the others in many ways — arrest and detention included (which is one reason why the CPM or Communist Part of Malaya had to go underground and take to the jungles in 1948 soon after the Federation of Malaya was formed).

Kathirasen’s narrative of the Umno story is a bit too simplified and leaves out these important aspects of history and the role of the British in making Umno the dominant political force in Malayan politics, while killing off all those others that were threats to Umno and the British.

The second point in Kathirasen’s story is regarding how Umno changed. Phase two of Umno’s story (the change the party went through) can basically be summed up as the story of how Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim destroyed the old Umno culture in the 1980s and introduced the new culture of capitalism, cronyism, political patronage and money politics.

Umno was turned into a money-making machine and what we see today can be blamed on Mahathir and Anwar (plus to their cronies such as Tun Daim Zainuddin and a number of others). The Malays were taught Deng Xiaoping’s doctrine of “to get rich is glorious”.

It is impossible for China to now abandon capitalism and to return to its old socialist ways. The same goes for the Malays, as well. For 50 years Mahathir has taught the Malays that progress means millions in the bank, large houses, luxury cars, and overseas shopping and holidays every year. How do you turn the clock back to 1950?

“This was a time when more than a few Umno leaders held glasses of wine or alcohol but were not corrupt. This was a time when some Umno leaders enjoyed horse racing or dancing but were not arrogant; This was a time when a good number of Umno leaders visited temples and churches during functions, but did not abuse their office or powers.” (A. Kathirasen, Free Malaysia Today)

That is very true. I do not wish to elaborate on this because I have written about this many times in the past. Suffice to say that at one time the Malays could be considered “brown Englishmen” and sometimes more English than the English. Then, along came Anwar in the 1970s, and Malays were turned into Arabs.

I know many Malays are going to get angry with me for saying this, but I have to call a spade a spade even if the truth hurts. The Malays of the Merdeka era were an entirely different animal from today’s Malay. And Singapore, too, is facing the same problem when the government interfered in the mindset of the Chinese.

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are more or less the same — populated by arrogant, selfish, materialistic people who think they are the smartest people in the world and who look down on others who are not as rich as them. While Lee Kuan Yew destroyed Singaporean traditions, Mahathir did the same with the urban Malays. That is what Kathirasen probably does not see.