The fall of PR government in Perak has boosted the ego of UMNO. The loud call for change which we heard right after the last general election has turned into the same old voice of racism, extremism and arrogance again. The only UMNO leaders who are persistent with their call for change are Tengku Razaleigh and Zaid Ibrahim. The latter had resigned from the party with disgust and formed his own organisation to promote non-racialism.
Tengku Razaleigh is still reminiscing the old UMNO which was to him a great and generous party. In an interview with Astro Awani, which I was a guest caller panelist, he claimed the party was very generous to the other races. The party had given "memberi" the other races freedom to practice their religion, to receive their mother tongue education, to earn a living etc.
I support Kuli in his call to reform UMNO but I am disappointed with his old mindset. UMNO as a political party has been entrusted to rule this country for the last 52 years. Like any other political parties, it is responsible to govern fairly, efficiently and transparently. Our rights and freedom were NOT given by UMNO but are guaranteed under the federal constitution. This is the highest law of this land. Like other Malaysians, I am not indebted to the party. UMNO leaders should be indebted to all Malaysians for trusting them with the power to rule this country for more than five decades.
The earlier Tengku understands this fact the better he will be able to speak for us. This is a fact which has not been fully accepted by UMNO. Until and unless this party starts to accept the minorities as equals it will be difficult to see how the BN coalition can do well in the next general election. UMNO is not capable to rule by itself. This is a hard lesson it should have learned from the last general election. The BN which claimed to represent multiracial Malaysia has lost its lustre and its diversity.
It looks like the reform we are seeking is not forthcoming. Najib said he will not embrace radical reforms to the country's race-based economic system that critics charge has stunted development and fostered corruption. He said that Malaysia could embrace some reforms such as liberalising the services sector but was not able to dismantle policies favouring ethnic Malays.
The lack of political will to change an archaic policy which has obviously outlived its relevance showed that the NEP is no longer simply a poverty eradication and wealth redistribution mechanism. It is highly politicized and linked to the party's race supremacy agenda. The policy had contributed to uplift a large segment of the Malay community out of poverty but its implementation was twisted beyond its original intention during the Mahathir regime. Instead of focusing on the poor, the policy's focus had shifted to equity ownership of the community. The fact that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few is no longer an issue as long as these cronies continue to obtain handouts.
This is not going to be the only disappointment for multiracial Malaysia. The party has gone back on its words to lift the ban on "Allah" being used by Malay publications on Christianity. UMNO's divisive policy continues into the realm of religion and language. The party has often reminded Malaysians to be sensitive towards Islam but is not able to practice what it preached. The fear of conversions among Muslims to Christianity if the word "Allah" is allowed in Christian publications showed how little faith the party has on Muslims in Malaysia.
How can UMNO help to make the Malay community more confident of its own capability and identity if it is behaving this way? The paradoxes of UMNO are mind boggling. Apart from its insecurity, the party has used huge amount of resources to create and run programmes to project the greatness and paramount of Islamic civilisation and creed.
It is precisely the fact that Islam is a great religion that the party should be confident enough to allow the use of "Allah" in Christian publications. The party's reaction to the use of the word "Allah" reflected very little of its commitment as a defender of Islam but exposes its lack of faith as believers. UMNO should look at how Muslims who are confident of their faith are able to co-exist and prosper in any systems even in Western democracies.
Not enough toying with both race and religion, the party is now trying to manipulate the monarchy in Malaysia for their own political leverage, if there is any. However, the monarchy must be a willing party in order to be taken advantage by a political entity. It is rare for the monarchy to take side although some members of the royal families had entered or are still in politics. Tengku Razaleigh is one of the more popular members.
They have turned the Perak power grab as an attempt to challenge the position of monarch in the country. Between defending the constitution and the monarchy, UMNO's preference and commitment is clear. This party has no qualm to ignore the rights of minorities, indigenous people, freedom of expression et cetera but it is now taking action on those who had criticized the Sultan of Perak's decision to sack the elected state leader and questioned his constitutional right to do so. Ironically, UMNO has turned a blind eye on its members who had insulted the other races. Its coup leader, Zambry, has turned into a monarch by accusing his political opponent, Nizar, of treason (Derhaka) for putting a plague to commemorate the "tree-assembly". I have a problem with Nizar not for his treachery but for reminding us of the dark hour of Malaysian democracy.
UMNO should not be over confident of its own immortality. It can be defeated regardless of the resources it has. The party must make correct choices; between democracy and autocracy, between rule of law and rule by law, between right and wrong, between rationality and arrogance, between racism and humanity, between isolation and co-existence and between Malaysia and self-interest.
Ultimately, UMNO must be ready to halt the election process. Otherwise, it must choose between winning and losing as a political party.