Rebranding Umno and PAS?

22 Sep 2019 / 19:45 H.

IT is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, the poster advertising the leadership of Pemasyhuran Piagam Negara Penyatuan Negara Ummah under the tag name #HPU914 must be worth several thousand words.

But what are the words that the Malay and larger Malaysian audience will utter when they view the pictures of Datuk Seri Najib Razak (chairman of advisers); Zahid Hamidi (chairman); Hadi Awang (deputy chairman); Mat Hasan (vice- chairman); Ibrahim Tuan Man (vice- chairman); Annuar Musa and Takiyuddin Hassan (secretary-general); and the nine other lesser leaders of this latest rebranding – not reinvention – of Malay/Muslim politics aiming at takeover of the government after GE15?

Four years ago when the 1MDB and donation into Najib’s personal account scandal took its toll on Umno’s standing, one Malay blogger posted a piece on the future of Malays. The post had the provocative title, “Kita ni apa? Burung merpati dalam sangkar?” (see http://deminegara.blogspot.my/)

In the reflective article in March 2016 the blogger, KijangMas had some advice for his fellow Malays.

He began his post by noting: Ok, UMNO is history. In its current flavor, state and form . . . UMNO is no more. No point talking about what could have been . . . or the endeavors of many – including yours truly – to make the party see the light, to reform and renew and remain relevant in contemporary politics, to cleanse itself of corrupt criminals asphyxiating it to a gory demise.

And, possibly with the 1MDB scandal as the tipping point of his total disillusionment, he admitted: It was to no avail. We failed ... and failed spectacularly as the “parti ...” got intractably hijacked ... propped by a flaky collection of self-serving ... and hangers-on wallowing in the muddy road to self-destruction ... .

It is significant that despite his lack of faith and his disenchantment with what many in his circle regarded as the only political vehicle capable of leading the Malays to a better future, he remained optimistic of the fate of his community.

He reassured his fellow bloggers and friends in the following terms:

The Malays will do just fine ... once we rid ourselves of the opiate of false security offered ... at great socio-economic cost amid an induced sense of perpetual vulnerability to looming threats of imagined pendatang bogeymen lurking in every nook and cranny of the land.

We must realise the ludicrousness of the threat of impending doom of the Orang Melayu ... IF the ... were to lose power. We must be emancipated from this culture of irrational fear, of crippling institutional dependency, of inability to take charge and be responsible for our own welfare, our own destiny.

Since that post he has not written again.

Was his disillusionment as a nationalistic opinion leader complete as he helplessly watched Umno’s leaders circle the wagons and find ways to absolve the party and its leaders of wrongdoing or responsibility for the 1MDB controversy, while deflecting the blame to the opposition?

KijangMas had also called for a mental revolution. As he put it

Kita harus berjuang lah brader. Buang sifat malas. Perkuatkan minda. Tingkatkan ilmu. Jangan manjakan diri sangat. Tak payah terlalu sensitif, terlebih tersinggung, tercepat terkilan, terlajak terkempunan, tercenderung berdengki, tergigih berdendam. Dan buang lah segala macam kepercayaan karut ... .

Was it also his last hurrah when he saw his hopes for a turnaround mental revolution not happening?

Can a rebranded Malay coalition lead to political emancipation?

KijangMas did not identify who or what would help change the mindset of Malays. But what he described as “this culture of irrational fear, of crippling institutional dependency, of inability to take charge and be responsible for our own welfare, our own destiny” appears to have deepened.

All the activities and pronouncements from the new coalition indicate that the battle lines on which they will contest GE15 will solely be focused on the renewed exploitation of racial and religious sentiment with the focus of attack on the Democratic Action Party.

Drawing on the clear electoral majority of Malay voters – to be considerably augmented in the next election by young Malays voting for the first time. The Election Commission estimates the number of voters could go up to 22 million by 2023 compared to 14.9 million in 2018 – this playing up of the racial and religious card appears a sure win strategy.

Umno’s deputy president, Mat Hasan, has confidently predicted that the Umno-PAS opposition will be able to win eight states in Peninsular Malaysia.

What can make the difference in GE 15 may be those from the high levels of Malay society – the political leaders; the upper echelons of civil servants and academicians; the heads of GLCs and corporate Malaysia, etc. They are not only the community’s key opinion leaders. They, and their children, are also likely to be the biggest losers should a conservative Islamic and hardline ketuanan Melayu government come into power. Studies have confirmed that the biggest beneficiaries of the NEP and post NEP policies have been the wealthy and ultra wealthy Malays.

Can this group be the trail blazers who can provide the Malay masses with an inclusive and self-reliant vision that rejects the poisonous brew of narrow religious and racial dogmas.

If this can happen – once we have this group of moderates as agents of change – then perhaps that burung merpati dalam sangkar identified by KijangMas may be freed.

This article is the tenth in the series on the state of Malay dominance. Lim Teck Ghee’s ‘Another Take’ is aimed at demystifying status quo orthodoxy.

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