In my last column I argued, premised upon the speech by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah during a book launch, about how privatisation of public assets and functions led to almost complete and systemic corruption of Umno. This column will focus on the other Umno person who spoke at the launch of Bridget Welsh’s book ‘The End of Umno?’ He has however resigned from Umno though.
That person is none other than my good friend Saifuddin Abdullah. We became closer friends after he was appointed as a councillor for the National IT Council (NITC) for the second National IT Council when I was the executive director. His first claim to fame was a paper he delivered in Singapore on the future of governance with technology assuming an important role as a medium of communication.
Saifuddin also wrote the foreword to the above Welsh book. His was a truthful and personal testimonial about his journey into and within Umno and why he finally had to leave Umno because there was no choice left. That really also begs the question as to why Tengku Razaleigh actually has never actually left Umno. Maybe it is his fear of irrelevance.
Saifuddin asks three important questions in his foreword and I have chosen to highlight them and to use his piece to support my thesis about Umno’s impending perish. His three questions or issues are:
- What is Malaysia’s future for every Malaysian?
- Does not systemic racism and racialism originate from within Umno?
- Umno’s new-found love to protect and preserve Islam; with a corresponding disregard for the role of sultans as the prime protectors of the religion of Islam and Malay culture as heads of states. Is that being sincere or equally another form of corruption?
Finally, then Saifuddin concludes with an expanded thesis about the future of the nation-state, its peoples, and some challenges faced by the country we all love.
Umno’s past, Malaysia’s future
In a very personal and truthful testimonial way Saifuddin argues why the Umno of his grandmother, the party that upheld the value of service before self as its pre-ordinate value, has now become a self-serving and rather self-abusive party. He upholds integrity as his golden standard.
The original leaders of Umno were mainly teachers and grassroots community workers who worked hard for the service of all mankind, never really for self-service but to promote the welfare of their community first. Service to others was their defining value and commitment of faith; ‘untuk Bangsa dan Negara’.
They called themselves Orang Umno but almost never as Ahli Umno. Being an Umno person was their all inspiring purpose, defined by their faith values and upheld by this sense of mission. They did it with faith in God and country; never really for their self-interest alone.
The new Umno of Ketuanan Melayu vintage replaced teachers with businessmen and in fact one of my former roommates, now an MP and deputy minister, once told me that even in the early 70s, it cost him about RM100,000 to succeed in and win the Umno branch elections. In fact at the height of his battle for state leadership of the party, he was even labelled the 6 million ringgit man by the other side.
Saifuddin concludes that Umno Berjuang had now become Umno Berwang and therefore he finally chose to leave the party. To quote Saifuddin Abdullah: “The 1MDB scandal - the mother of all scandals - involving Prime Minister and Umno president Najib Abdul Razak is a classic example of how money politics has corrupted the party to the core.”
The penultimate straw that broke the camel’s back for him was the total and complete rejection of the Government Transformation Programme after it was officially launched and adopted. In fact, the late Zainal Aznam, another good friend and former Economic Planning Unit (EPU) deputy chief, even argued against this reversal, simply because some warlords in Umno objected to the more even playing field for all and sundry.
Like Henry Ford had once said when questioned about the rolling out of all black Ford Cars; what was good for Ford was good for America. Apparently, what is good enough for a weak Umno leader must also be good enough for Malaysia, too. Forget their component eunuch parties.
Does Umno really serve even the majority of Malays any more? If it does serve the Malays, for which Malays do their bells toll?
Saifuddin quotes a study by Muhammed Ahmad Khalid that inequality is getting worse in Malaysia as follows: ...the trickle-down effect does not really include everyone... Some end up progressing faster and further than others while a sizeable section lags behind... hence creating a dangerous phenomenon: widening inequality.”
Muhammed Ahmad Khalid’s conclusion is probably most disconcerting: “According to a former prime minister, the supreme council members and the ministers... are mainly interested in what they can get out of politics for themselves.”
The current Umno leadership is self-serving and does not even have majority of Malays in mind. They exist for themselves, by themselves, and with their cronies.
Umno’s religious ploy
In response to the failure of their political race-based agenda; Umno’s unstated but visible agenda is to use Islam as a means to reinforce their failing support; especially in the countryside of Malaya. Their core argument is that Islam needs to be protected; especially from Chinese domination in Malaysia. No Middle Moderate Malaysian can believe this.
Their implicit assumption is that the royalty is therefore lame and no more protectors of Islam. The military is also impotent and the Parliament has become irrelevant. Their real but implicit theological argument is that their Allah is not able to defend his own name; to put it rather bluntly. Therefore, the consequential breakaway of all honest and truthful Muslims is inevitable from both Umno and PAS.
Whither then, Malaysia’s future?
KJ JOHN, PhD, was in public service for 32 years having served as a researcher, trainer, and policy adviser to the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the National IT Council (NITC) of the government of Malaysia. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback or views. -Mkini