I am not a member of UMNO.
Well, I need to qualify that. I am not, as far as I know, an UMNO member. I have to say this because I might be a member unknowingly. Sometime, in my kampung, an UMNO guy could have collected 1 ringgit from my mother and filled in the membership application form himself and voila, I became a member although at that time, I was in a boarding school some where!
Although I am not a member, I of course do have friends who are UMNO members. I even have friends who are UMNO hot shots.
About 3 weeks ago I had a drink with some of them. And they asked me what UMNO could do to regain it's position as the premier Malay political party. And of course, to regain power.
UMNO was, until this year, almost synonymous with Malay and Malaysian politics. In my opinion, it was complacent and this complacency led to the March 8 debacle. Drowned in its self proclaimed Malay supremacy, it became arrogant. It forgets that its power is derived from the people. And its arrogance does not endear it to the people. And the people got tired of it. And the rest is history.
The Mahathir era was replete with self importance and arrogance. That era catapulted UMNO warlords to the status of feudalistic leaders, which were worshipped, idolised and feared instead of being respected. Respect was demanded rather than earned.
That era also saw the emergence of money politics, which by now infested UMNO so badly that it has become endemic at all level of UMNO. It came as no surprise though. Mahathir's motto was Malaysia Boleh. We can. UMNO can. In street lingo, everything oso can.
You have political contact? Here is a project. You go and do it. I would call up the bank and ask them to finance it. We all make profit. Can? Yes, we can. If you fail, well, don't worry. I would ask Petronas or EPF to bail you out. In the meantime, project costs were hiked up, for the benefit of all and sundry, except the nation and the people. You cannot make money? Well, here's a concession. A no-brainer concession. 30 years. And extendable indefinitely too. And it is reviewable too. Reviewable to your benefit, of course.
That was how it worked. And everybody, I mean every body in Malaysia got used to that system. The easy-peasy way of making money. All you need is a hot shot contact. The rest is provided to you on a silver platter. Mahathirnomics was about "shortcutism" to "bankable-lyism". Just imagine. A business which rakes in the millions, and even billions sometime, without the risk and effort. Only in Malaysia.
That mantra goes to the root of UMNO. You want to be a leader? Pay me and I will support you. Yes we can. And now, it became endemic. Mahathir himself is now regretting it. Of course he doesn't admit it. He is blaming the current leadership. He is shouting and screaming away and even threatening to disclose the names of those whom he thinks had partaken in money politics. But even he himself admits that he has no proof. That is how insidious UMNO money politic is. Even Mahathir can't prove it!
In Mahathir's era, everything is short cut. If a business venture could be measured as a path from A to Z, Z would be achieved first. Than we would all work backward to A. Oh look, we have a problem at R and let's solve it. Oh, another problem at C. Let's solve it. That was how it was.
This methodology crept into UMNO. It had not only crept but had become the way of UMNO. Thus, men of suspicious character became leaders. Men of untested character became leaders in UMNO.
Meanwhile, men of character, of intellect, of reason, visions and plans, were side stepped. These men refused to play the game. They were steadfast in their resolution not to partake in corruption. They were men of principles. They would question. They would seek answers. They would support the righteous rather than blindly follow. What did these men get? They got killed off. They got side stepped. They got sacked.
The UMNO leadership vacuum, as it exists today, is caused by non other than Mahathir. As such it is laughable that Mahathir himself is lamenting that fact nowadays. The totally undemocratic methods of election in UMNO must change. The current method promotes feudalism and nepotism in a wider sense. How can an incumbent have an advantage over a challenger, for instance? But in UMNO, this is considered acceptable and democratic. All in the name of unity. An undemocratic process will stay undemocratic even if it is premised on unity, tradition, consensus and what have you. Those are but false premises. But that is the system preferred by UMNO. That has to change, if UMNO values true leadership and true democracy. Without true leadership, UMNO would have to swim in idol worshipping and unbridle powers where leaders are feared rather than respected. Just like in the feudal days. That, in the end, would bring the end for UMNO. Remember the Abassid caliphate? Why did it disappear?
How many time have we heard a deputy so and so in UMNO saying that he or she has been loyal to his or her chief? I remember Najib Razak saying something to the effect that "I have never argued with Pak Lah. He is my leader. I have never been disrespectful to him". Remember what Shahrizat said about Rafidah? The same thing too. In UMNO, opposite opinions are not appreciated. They are not solicited nor are they welcome. Loyalty means you keep quiet and agree with me. You say what I say and do what I wish you to do. All the deputies would then sit quietly while waiting for the day the chief announces his retirement. That is leadership UMNO style! How is leadership going to be developed then? Is it any wonder why there is a dearth of true leaders in UMNO currently? Just look at the nominations for the top posts in UMNO. I get frighten just reading their names. This has to change.
In my opinion, UMNO has to unshackle itself from that arrogant image. It could start by re-branding itself and by re-imaging itself. The UK Labour and Conservatice parties came up with new logos in the wake of the new millennium. Perhaps UMNO should start by doing the same. Ditch its out dated keris and red logo for starters. Turn it into some modern aged logo with blue as its main colour scheme. Have a softer image. And more pleasing. Red and the keris are so fierce. So menacing. Change that for starters.
UMNO also has to realise that the people are tired of all the lies the mainstream mass media, which it controls, are telling day in day out. It is not as if the people don't know the truth. Ages ago, of course, the people did not have the ability to know the truth and they took the various lies in the mainstream mass media as the absolute gospel truth. But that is not the case anymore nowadays. Nowadays, the people, especially the young and the internet savvy, check out the net and compare the news and choose NOT to believe the mainstream media. Because they know how to differentiate facts from mere fictions, or lies. UMNO has to realise this. Propaganda is one thing. Lies are another thing altogether.
Lies don't work anymore. Lies don't work because the people are now educated and sophisticated. They have analytical minds. We are not living in the 50s and 60s anymore for heaven's sake. The people don't believe all the mainstream "news" hook line and sinker anymore. They read them. They analyse. And they form an opinion. UMNO may not appreciate opinions, especially when the opinions differ from the leadership's opinions, but UMNO must accept the fact that the people are not followers anymore. They might be supporters, but definitely not followers. There is a difference between supporters and followers. While the latter follow their leaders, the former choose to support and they would only support if they think the leaders are worth supporting.
That is the situation now.
The people's perception about UMNO now is that its leaders are in it just because power could bring untold wealth. And the ability to control. That is the perception. They could drive nice luxury cars in nice single plate number. They could park anywhere they like. They could jump que. Heck, they almost could do anything they like! Before March 8 this year for instance, there was this black Perdana with an MP crest always double parking beside my car when I sent my daughter to school every morning. He wouldn't even apologise to me. I would have to wait for him to come before I could move my car. And he would give me a dirty look if I grumbled at his blatant rudeness and inconsiderate manner ( well, after March 8 2008, this guy, I am happy to report, does not go to that school in the black Perdana anymore. The MP crest is also gone! For obvious reason). That just about encapsulates the arrogance of UMNO so called leaders. That has to change. The people are tired of it.
UMNO also has to have a new battle cry. All these shit about "the Malay struggle" and "ketuanan Melayu" are now old songs. The "struggle" now is the struggle of Malaysia and all Malaysians. It is about globalisation. It is about neo-colonisation. It is about religious extremism which translates into terrorism. It is about how to make all of us better. About education, health care, proper infrastructures (economics and physical development). About empowerment. About justice and fairness. About transparency and accountability.
All these are lacking. And frighteningly, nobody is championing it. You want example? Well, has anybody at all accepted the responsibility for the Bukit Antarabangsa landslides? None! How about forex losses? None. And how are moneys from our natural resources spent? Don't know. How are we going to live when crude touches 20 usd per barrel? Don't know. Nobody knows. UMNO wants to be the people's champion? Well, all these things must be addressed.
Stripped of all intellectual considerations, the theories and philosophies, politics is just about the act of persuading people to agree with one's position. It is the art of persuasion. Of course, the end result is power. But political power is not the end. It is just a means to an end. UMNO has to realise this.
That was my answer to them. It took me 40 minutes to lecture them. They nodded and paid for my coffee.
Well, at least they were nice to me.
Happy new year everybody. May the new year bring us all everything that is good. May it also bring us enough so that we can give to those who are in need.