“Some creatures are weak, but they survive because they’re being protected by the strong for one reason or another. You may think that, because of the circles you move in or whatever, that you’re one of the strong creatures, but you’re not, you’re one of the weak ones. That’s nothing against you, you’re just weak because you’re young. But you’ve survived because you’ve been protected by the strong. But they’re not strong anymore, and they’re certainly not able to protect you.”
– Animal Kingdom (Australian crime drama)
“Do not take lightly the challenges posed by that Umno splinter party. Though we are certain Umno is stronger and greater, do not forget that this ‘flower’ party will dip our supporters. So let there be more no more cracks and fissures in Umno. The more fractured we are, the more supporters we will lose to them (PPBM),” sagely intones Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin in the ongoing Umno general assembly.
The problem is that Umno is not “stronger or greater” than how it was during the Mahathir era. This is why it has to make uncomfortable alliances with its sworn enemy PAS. This is why new laws such as the National Security Council Act has to be introduced.
This is why outsourced thugs like the red shirts have to roam the political landscape threatening and intimidating all and sundry, especially Malay opposition figures. This is why the royalty has to make overt political statements condemning Malay oppositional figures and reminding them not to destroy the Malay community or burn the country.
This is why millions of ringgit have to be pumped into the electorate and electoral delineation exercise have to be carried out. This is why Sabah and Sarawak have to be threatened with severe punishments if they step out of line. This is why the Chinese community has to be vilified and condemned as harbingers of doom to Malay institutions like the royal houses and the sanctity of Islam.
If a political party were strong, they would not have to resort to such measures.
My first two columns or thereabouts for Malaysiakini was about the fracturing of the Malay community. It was a response to Khairy’s badgering of the DAP on the actual numbers of Malays joining the political party and generally about the race politics of this country. Khairy has at one time or another attempted to redefine the concept of “Ketuanan Melayu” to “Kepimipinan Melayu” but the reality is that you cannot rationally redefine a racist concept into something logical and benign.
As I have argued before, “The concept of Malay has changed so dramatically over the years through the social engineering agenda of Umno, these days it would be easier for the divergent forms of political and religious ideologies which manifest in the Malay community to further fracture the concept of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ and in the end, the Umno choke hold.”
Umno began its slow descent when charismatic political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim redefined the political landscape after he was ejected from Umno paradise, but more importantly, when the opposition realised that regime change was a group effort that involved the sublimation of political egos and good-faith compromises.
While the current Umno grand poohbah can dream that Umno will survive 1,000 years, the reality is that Umno people are wondering if it can survive the next election. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s fear that the Malays will be “bangsat” in their own land is a self-fulfilling prophecy of his own making. The reason why the Malay polity is fractured is because for decades, Umno ignored the simmering class tensions within the Malay community.
No, that is incorrect. For decades, Umno exploited the simmering class tensions within the Malay community. This idea that the Malays will lose power is slowly wearing thin because if anything, the Malays already realise that they are becoming foreigners in their own lands. While rural Malay enclaves are for the moment safe from foreigners, the high cost of living, social problems and the numerous other institutional failures that urban polities can withstand, are slowly but surely agitating the rural Malay underclass.
It is pointless pushing the “Malay” rights line because it is an idea of diminishing returns, much like the antics of the red shirts – “It is also important to note that these red shirts are the dying embers caught up in a fast-changing geopolitical struggle that will ultimately undermine whatever notions of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ privilege they think is owed. The corrupt regime that they choose to defend, that colony of thieves and plunderers will soon pay homage to a regional power, or maybe regional powers, whose influence will change the Malay community in ways that one could never fathom.”
I have no idea how on one hand, you can claim that your political party is not “anti-Chinese” and on the other, claim that the Malays will lose their privileges and institutions if the “Chinese” dominated DAP comes into power with its Malay proxies. It is this kind of delusions that has fractured the Malay community and weakened Umno.
Realpolitik demands that the expectations of the various communities here in Malaysia be addressed in a way that ensures some sort of equilibrium. However, because Umno is in a weakened state, the desire to maintain hegemony in a fractured polity means that you have to say and do things, or you think you have to say and do things, which could burn this country down.
When people realise that being Malay does not necessarily mean you have a better life, and that being in Umno means you are entitled to ride on the gravy train, people will naturally get angry and disruptive.
This is why Umno demonises everyone from politicians to jazz queens for pointing out that the system is failing the average citizens of this country. It is pointless attacking the messengers because ultimately the messengers are not the ones the ordinary rakyat will blame when they can’t buy food, or lose out on jobs and realise that their way of life is in danger because of debts they had nothing to do with.
The irony is that what made Umno strong in the past – religion, race and certainly, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – is what is making Umno weak now.
Umno people should wrap their minds around that.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.