Goodbye Barisan Nasional

THE story of how the Barisan Nasional (BN) came crashing down from being the ruling coalition for over 60 years to a sinking ship that it is today must be one of the most amazing in Malaysia's political history.

From 13 parties in a congested and unique power-sharing arrangement not seen anywhere else, it has since its May 9 general election defeat been reduced to just three with the other 10 jumping ship.

The latest to do so is the 50-year-old Gerakan which quit last week following a move by four parties in Sarawak to pull out and form their own coalition. It was the same for MyPPP and the BN's partners in Sabah with Umno being the sole flag-bearer in the state.

Now Umno, MCA and MIC are left to lick the wounds of the BN's electoral fiasco and word is MCA is mulling to do the same.

Will the BN die a natural death?

By all accounts, the BN is the victim of its own "success" in power-sharing among parties, mainly race-based, with different vested interests but over the years has become rather unwieldy with Umno as its linchpin calling most of the shots.

For one, it resulted in a bloated Cabinet often dubbed the biggest in the world with many party leaders scrambling for Cabinet posts. Juggling such posts to the satisfaction of the component parties had never been an easy task for the prime minister of the day.

Which was why we have seen the previous Cabinet having more than 10 ministers in the Prime Minister's Department alone with so many deputy ministers even to the point of being redundant. All in the name of "power sharing" but certainly at great cost to taxpayers.

It's also the story of when one has been in power for so long, especially for Umno, the attitude of taking things too much for granted, living in comfort zones and in denial have become embedded in its DNA.

The culture of self-criticism let alone criticism against top BN leaders was almost non-existent at the annual Umno general assembly even when the nation had to go through some harrowing times with the scandals involving 1MDB, arguably the biggest elephant in the room in our living memory.

During the often heated debate at such an assembly while Umno was in power, speakers who took to the floor didn't have the guts to call for action to be taken against those players who have brought shame to the nation with this scandal but instead were more focused on petty matters.

Everything was swept under the rug or whitewashed until Malaysians woke up on May 10 to see the BN swept away by an unprecedented political tsunami.

It's an open secret that parties like MCA, Gerakan and MIC for instance, have not had much leeway or freedom of expression in the BN fold and often had to play the "Yes man" to the perceived big brother Umno even when they were fighting for a better deal while pursuing the vested interests of the parties they represent.

These parties were seen by members and supporters as limp and impotent and even irrelevant moving forward.

As a result, they were annihilated at the recent general election. MCA for example at the height of its glory days had as many as 31 members of Parliament (in the 2004 general election to be exact).

But guess how many MPs it has now? Only one. From 11 state assemblymen that it had before the May 9 election, MCA now only has two.

Sabah and Sarawak before the general election were always regarded as the "fixed deposits" of the BN for their almost total domination of these politically strategic states but this all came to an end at GE14.

For the electorate, enough is enough and business as usual is no longer the way forward for the new Malaysia.

This no-criticism behaviour of speakers against party leaders at the Umno general assembly is bound to change at its general assembly this weekend which certainly is a hot affair topped by the election of a new set of leaders.

The focus is on who gets to become its new president to succeed Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

Only two states in the peninsula, the biggest Pahang and the smallest Perlis, are still run by BN or more specifically Umno.

Now in the opposition at federal level, BN's deterioration was apparent when its leaders failed even to resolve the post-election crisis in Perlis and it was only after over a month that this tiny state had its mentri besar sworn-in.

In the opinion of Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, the fiery Umno politician and ex-veteran Cabinet minister, BN is "as good as gone".

"It might be a good thing to dissolve BN now and have Umno go it alone in Peninsular Malaysia," said Nazri.

Political analyst Prof Datuk Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff likened BN to a patient in the intensive care unit without any chance in the near future of making a comeback unless it could prove to the people it has the potential to be a formidable opposition in Parliament.

"If Umno still rides on issues like religion, Malay rights and other matters, then they are going nowhere.

"Malaysians are already moving forward, discussing more pressing matters like the economy and transparency in the government. BN has lost badly in the last election and if it behaves the same, it will never go far," he said.

Parti Amanah Negara vice-president Datuk Mujahid Yusuf Rawa said this marks the end of the era of BN's old politics, with the theme of race and religion replaced by a more inclusive form of politics that is issue-based and represents a new hope.

For the four Sarawak parties that quit BN, it's more a strategic move ahead of the 2021 state election in the sense that if they remain in the coalition, the anti-BN wave seen in the general election could very well hit them hard as well.

Two local English dailies amusingly had the very same headline on June 13 when reporting on the Sarawak move – Bye-Bye BN. Will it be Good Bye BN soon?

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com