Umno leadership must stop exodus

THERE is a WhatsApp message circulating with a list of 17 Umno MPs who could potentially leave the party.

Of the 17 named, two have already announced their resignation from Umno – Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

Mustapa is a quintessential Malay gentleman with gravitas that comes not from a magnetic personality or soaring oratory skills but sincerity and earnestness. He is a genuinely nice person with a down-to-earth persona who became increasingly out of step with an Umno that had become arrogant, cocky and ostentatious.

His decision, while shocking to many, did not really surprise those who know him and followed his political career.

Having been in Barisan Nasional for 10 years, I am a keen observer of Umno and how it managed the machinations of power. While it was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, after the Semangat 46 split in 1987, who created an “imperial” presidency, this was taken to a new level after the 13th General Election. Dissenting and differing views were seen as treacherous, and there was simply no room for contrarian views. And this was extended to Barisan as a whole.

The concept of internal democracy, while augmented by the increase in the number of electors in the party election, was not effective because most of these electors were completely beholden to gratification.

The concept of “cash is king” had seeped through and permeated Umno and Barisan. Struggle and sacrifice were replaced by allocations and handouts.

This ultimately led to the loss in the GE14, and one would think that after such a devastating defeat, lessons would have been learnt and things would change.

Alas, that is not to be.

The current Umno leadership is desperate to get back into the corridors of power. Previous averments by Umno that Dr Mahathir’s attempts to unseat the Barisan government were akin to “toppling a democratically elected government” have been abnegated.

While that is a concept completely repugnant to the principles of parliamentary democracy, Umno should practise what it previously preached.

The dalliance with PAS is completely self-destructive as Umno will need to cede its base for a party it had fought tooth and nail with before. It would have to play second fiddle despite being the “big brother”. It would also be an exclusive arrangement that would push Umno further away from the mainstream of Malaysian politics.

Such a course of action, simply because of the myopic actions of its leaders, would only hasten the irrelevance of the once grand old party of Malaysia.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the grand old party in Mexican politics, lost power after over 70 years in 2000 but regained it in 2012, only to lose it again this year. This shows that comebacks are possible but only if leaders heed lessons from defeat.

Umno must now reflect on the reasons for its loss in GE14 and take reparative measures to regain the support of the rakyat.

The constant use of race, religion and the concept of Malay supremacy was rejected in GE14 where Malaysians voted for clean governance, inclusivity, economic and social justice and, most importantly, against corruption.

These are themes the current Opposition should champion as it charts a path back to power. Malaysians experienced such a seamless change in government that I am sure they will not hesitate to do so again in the near future.

I have propounded that Umno can only be Umno if it’s in power, and this has proven to be true to a certain extent.

However, the loss of power will also engender a process of attrition, or as the Malays say: “Buang yang keruh, ambil yang jernih”, which means to dispose of that which is bad and retain that which is good.

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multicultural country. It needs political parties that respect this diversity and not seek to upend it. Umno has always respected this and strove to protect it.

Umno was previously an anchor for moderation but in the past 15 years, it became associated with extremism and race-baiting, choosing to prosper in the fault lines of politics as opposed to rising above it. However, the biggest disappointment for me was its cooperation with PAS.

After GE14, a general sense of shock and disbelief engulfed Umno and Barisan. The loss of support, especially from the non-Muslim community, was seen as a slap on the face of then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

As it is with politics, one governs in the interest of one’s supporters. For example, if the Republicans win the election in the United States, they would push for lower taxes, greater social conservatism and economic deregulation. This is the platform of the party and it would be akin to implementing its manifesto.

However, pushing for the Syariah criminal law was never part of Barisan’s manifesto and platform. By allowing PAS to hang the amendments to Act 355 to facilitate the implementation of Syariah criminal law in Kelantan, a sword of Damocles was hung over the heads of Malaysians. It was a low point in Malaysia’s political history because values and principles had given way to the retention of power.

Gerakan tried its best to fight the amendments to Act 355, but we lost at every turn. I would argue that the system was already tuned to ensure our defeat.

However, it’s now history and I hope it is a lesson others would learn from.

While politics requires changing positions and compromises, values and principles should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of power. I hope the current leadership of Umno understands this and prevents the exodus

IVANPAL SINGH GREWAL 

Gerakan Selangor Youth vice-chairman

Secretary, Gerakan Political Bureau


Source : https://goo.gl/BaMR15

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