UMNO should apologize to the nation

Dennis Ignatius

I’m amazed that UMNO would have the audacity to demand an apology from the DAP “for all its past statements and allegations” about UMNO. Initially pushed by UMNO Youth, the idea has now been endorsed by no less than deputy president Tok Mat who called upon the DAP to be “magnanimous” and apologise. Apparently, an apology would “soften” the hearts of UMNO leaders as well as help the DAP gain more Malay votes in the upcoming state elections.

More than anything else, this absurd demand, is a measure of the party’s desperation. They know their base is uneasy about working with the DAP. Decades of demonisation of the DAP – perpetrated by UMNO itself – cannot be changed overnight; party leaders might see the political benefits of working with the DAP but the UMNO base is still having a hard time coming to terms with it.

UMNO leaders know they are not going to do well; resorting to race-baiting is a desperate, last ditch effort to shore up support and outflank Perikatan Nasional.

But how foolish can they be? UMNO’s only hope for winning, at least in Penang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, rests on persuading non-Malay voters to support the party for the sake of sustaining the unity government. The DAP does not need UMNO votes to survive but UMNO needs the goodwill of non-Malay voters if it hopes to capture ethnically mixed constituencies.

After this foolish stunt, it’s going to be harder to convince non-Malay voters to support the unity government by backing UMNO candidates. To be sure, non-Malays don’t want to see the green wave triumph but there’s only so much of this nonsense from UMNO they can stomach.

Besides, what exactly do they want an apology for? It is an undeniable fact that UMNO – especially over the last two decades – has become the most racist, most corrupt and most incompetent political party. They single-handedly brought a nation with great potential to its knees. The DAP was right to call them out for all the damage they inflicted on the nation.

If anything, it is UMNO who should tender an abject apology to the people of Malaysia for their years of corruption, mismanagement, abuse of power, cronyism and destroying national unity.

And don’t forget that for decades, UMNO made all sorts of slanderous allegations against the DAP accusing them of being everything from Zionist agents, communist sympathizers, Tamil Tiger supporters and Christian evangelists to trying to split the country in two, working to undermine Islam, refusing to accept Malay rights, etc. Mahathir himself admitted that it was all part of a deliberate strategy to turn the Malays against the DAP.

Is UMNO ready to apologise for that?

This whole apology issue ought to also serve as an object lesson to the DAP about the folly of appeasement. In order to help Anwar obtain a majority, the DAP was forced to take the humiliating step of apologising to Sarawak leaders. Then, to appease the ultras, the DAP had to further castrate itself and accept a junior position in the unity government despite being the second largest party in parliament. UMNO and GPS (both with about half less seats compared to the DAP) were given more power along with many of the top jobs.

But even that is now insufficient for UMNO. What they want is for the DAP to commit the political equivalent of hara-kiri just so UMNO could strengthen its bona fides as champions of race and religion. I’m glad that DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke politely told them to take a hike.

Whatever it is, it shows that UMNO has learned nothing from its crushing defeat in the last election. Instead of working to rebuild trust amongst voters, UMNO remains as unrepentant as ever. What does it say of UMNO Youth, for example, that they would confer on disgraced former president Najib Tun Razak, now a convicted felon, the youth leadership award?

If UMNO continues on this path, it shouldn’t be surprised if voters teach it another lesson in humility by rejecting them at the polls yet again, green wave or not.