MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Sunday, November 30, 2014


After the Umno general assembly has come to a conclusion, the party's leaders will discover that it will be even harder for them to win over the hearts of young urban voters, thanks to their miscalculations.
Before the Umno general assembly began, there were indeed signs for positive developments. For instance, deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin had instructed to withdraw motions on the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools. He also put it very frankly during the opening of the assemblies of Umno wings that he was concerned about the current situation of the party because the party was beginning to lose the support of urban voters. He warned that the perception of young people towards Umno would determine the future of the party.
Such developments and remarks have indeed given the general public something to expect from this year's event.
But, we are still going to be disappointed once again. On the one hand Umno has wanted to lure young urban voters to its fold, on the other hand it has made some really bad decisions. Such a conflicting attitude unreservedly reflects the painful struggle of the party's leaders between the aspirations of their party and of the general public.
As Muhyiddin has said, urban voters are generally more informed and open-minded. He pointed out that young Malaysians had made a 5-pronged proposal to the party: Umno is experiencing a trust deficit; it is a feudal party; there is a play safe and pak turut (yes man) culture in the party; it is controlled by warlords; and it suffers from a culture of intimidation. Because of that, he said Umno should move towards more openness and reverse such negative perception from the voters instead of doing things the other way round.
Repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 has been the prime minister's pledge since July 11, 2012. He said the act would eventually be replaced by the new National Harmony Act. But, he made a drastic U-turn at the Umno assembly, announcing that Sedition Act not only would be retained, it would be further "strengthened."
If Umno leaders had been able to withstand the pressure from the rightists within the party and honour the promise to repeal the Sedition Act, they would have been able to prove their resolution to reform the party while earning them points among young urban voters.
Reneging the pledge would only deal a severe blow on Umno's integrity that other issues could also be reversed. Moreover, BN's election slogan last year was "Janji Ditepati," and any breach of this pledge would have a far-fetching effect on the party's image.
Why have the party's leaders failed to effect change now that they see the crisis (continuous drain of young urban voters will eventually take its toll on BN's administration) facing the party?
The main reason is because they have failed to dispel the pressure from the rightists within the party, and they are unable to wean themselves from ethnic politics.
Mahathir, Perkasa and Umno leaders at various levels are all staunchly against the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948. As if that is not enough, Wanita Umno has even lobbied to get one million Malaysians to sign a petition to support the Sedition Act, while the grassroots have voiced out that the party leadership must revert to the fundamental Malay support base.
Such pressure has bogged down the Umno leaders to an extent that even a young Umno Youth chairman Khairy Jamaluddin is beginning to dance to their tune, hinting that he would adopt a more aggressive stance to handle issues relating to the rights of the Malays.
After this week's general assembly, it seems that the base tone of Umno deviating from the erstwhile middle path is basically taking shape, putting the party in a direct confrontation with the civic society in the end.
Such a turn of events has highlighted the party leaders' helplessness to steer the party back to the right track. They can only employ the old antics in an attempt to win back the favour of young urban voters, including the construction of more affordable houses, the "1Malaysia Youth" programme, "transitional houses" at merely RM250 a month, tax-free first cars for young people and the appointment of more young ministers. etc. The thing is, if such tricks are ever effective at all, the BR1M handouts should have helped BN recoup much of its lost territories in GE13.
What quality voters yearn for are democracy, liberty and more openness, while material and monetary handouts have very little effect on them. There is no way Umno should attempt to win back these voters by leaning decisively towards conservatism on the one hand, and camouflaging its real intent on the other.
Young urban voters have lost their faith in Umno because they know it is very difficult for Umno to change. To win back their confidence, Umno must fully implement its transformation agenda and not back down from it. – Sin Chew Daily

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