It is most ironic that the UMNO-PAS Malay unity talk failed to raise a pertinent question. Is there real Malay disunity? What are the symptoms and implications of the disunity? What are the social threats to the society?
In the last eleven general elections, the Malay voters were expected to show their allegiance for UMNO by voting en bloc for the party and its coalition partners in BN. This did not happen in the last general election.To make matter worse, other communities have deserted the BN too.
UMNO sees this as an opportunity to drum up communal sentiments, hoping to divert Malay support back to its party. Unfortunately for UMNO, time has changed. Many Malaysians including majority of the Malays have seen through the political ploy of UMNO.
Unlike before, not many Malay voters who voted for the opposition are going to believe that the lost of support amongst non-Malays for the UMNO led BN is tantamount to a challenge against Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacism).
In fact, it is time of the party to learn to accept the fact that the Malay community has grown more sophisticated than UMNO as a political entity which claimed monopoly of Malay representation.
Political loyalty cannot be used as a yardstick to measure social cohesiveness. UMNO's lost of support did not translate into socio-economic displacement or political marginalisation of the Malays. If fact, Malay representation in the legislative bodies and key institutions remained strong and significant.
The perceived threats to Malay special rights and the sanctity of Islam is an imaginary perception concocted by UMNO and its supporters to reaffirm its hold on the communal-based politics in the country. As a dominant communal party, UMNO cannot afford for the transition to non-communal and more Malaysian centric political model to materialise.It must be portrayed as the champions of Malay interests and special rights to remain relevant as a political entity.
However, the rise of other Malay majority political parties most significantly the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has dented UMNO's almost untouchable position in the community.The support garnered by PKR and its charismatic de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has proven that a large segment of the Malay community is ready to march beyond narrow communal polemics.
Anwar, during the last general election and until now, has been consistent in promoting his party's two key policies - the New Malaysian Agenda and People's supremacism ( Ketuanan Rakyat) - which are direct juxtapose to UMNO's communal biased New Economic Policy and Malay supremacism (Ketuanan Melayu).The fact that more than half of Malay voters in Peninsula Malaysia supported PKR's policies and dumped UMNO's should have gotten the latter to do some serious soul searching.
Unfortunately, the party has refused to acknowledge some of the policies serious defects and injustices. Instead, the party has argued for the continuation of these policies by using the equity onwership, inter-community income disparity and poverty level benchmarks of the Malay community as its prime justification.
These are, beyond reasonable doubt, the symptoms of the failure of UMNO's policy implementation and governance despite its near total control of all power levers in the country. If the party, at this crucial juncture, cannot fathom the real causes of its lost of popularity and accept that the BN coalition is now near defunct, it should not be trusted fully to run this country and hope to provide a brighter future for all Malaysians.
If the lack of support of Malay voters for UMNO and its coalition parties is seen as a sign of Malay disunity, then shouldn't the self-proclaimed "wira-wira bangsa" (communal champions) in UMNO evaluate what were the main causes?
Three words summed up the main causes. Arrogance, ineptness and inefficient are the main reasons. In short, the Malay voters were not misguided and influenced to ditch UMNO. They did so because there are evidences of poor leadership, political arrogance, power abuse, corruption, nepotism and inept governance. These are a powerful cocktail can even knock out an elephant.
It is time for UMNO leaders to sober up. It must take cognisance of the importance of promoting true inter-ethnic harmony, good governance, prudent socio-economic management and a progressive democracy to stay relevant and become powerful again.
Fixation over ethno-nationalism to fire up communal fervour and hope to turn this negative energy into political support will eat away whatever goodwill left in the party and the BN coalition.
At this moment, UMNO needs the coalition partners support more than anything else. The push towards this politically motivated Malay unity talk will affect other component parties badly. When comes to the question of survival and when these parties are forced to face a situation where it is a choice between UMNO or their own survival, the choice is straight forward.
Although many of us are willing to support Prime Minister Abdullah's reform agenda, there is caveat. Reforms made must benefit all Malaysians and not only a certain segment of the society.
He must have the wisdom to avoid any zero-sum game.