Umno turning right leads BN downhill

Ooi Kee Beng
The Malaysian Insider
Sep 02, 2011

SEPT 2 — On July 9, the streets of Kuala Lumpur played host to animated engagements between demonstrators and the police. Bersih 2.0, which started out as a simple and hesitant attempt to revive public interest in electoral reforms, became a huge demonstration that captured the imagination of many young Malaysians.

It seized their imagination more strongly than anyone expected, leaving little doubt that Malaysia is in transition.

But what needs studying is what it is transiting away from, and what it is transiting to. The two are, of course, strongly related but what is this widespread eagerness for change a part of, which now pervades the country?

The situation is complicated no doubt but we do not need to go very far back in time to find an answer.

Let us remind ourselves that the long-lived Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition enjoyed its best electoral results as late as in 2004, under then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. As many as 91 per cent of voters supported him and the honeymoon period that the public gave him as prime minister was a long and gracious one. It was only in 2007 that signs appeared to say that a lot was not well under Abdullah.

So what was it that happened? And why is it that the BN has not been able to turn things around since then? It still has a lot of power; why can’t it correct itself?

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent comment that the problem was not with the BN model as such but with the lack of good leadership, was but the latest and rather desperate attempt to limit the credibility crisis that the ruling coalition suffers from.

After the General Election of March 8, 2008, the country went through an uncertain though exciting period. This was to be expected after the shock results that saw five states coming under the rule of opposition parties and the long-lived BN losing its power to amend the Federal Constitution at will.

The opposition parties immediately had their share of problems — ranging from a serious lack of experience in governing, to sabotage by civil servants unable to distinguish party from government, and the economic and political measures by the federal government to punish and undermine them.

The federal government naturally tried its best to control the damage it had suffered. This included putting on trial — again — opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy; regaining the state of Perak through dubious means in February 2009; and manoeuvring PM Abdullah Badawi from power in April 2009 and replacing him with a more dynamic and debonair Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Najib’s main task was to generate public confidence in the BN’s ability to respond to changes for the national good, to regain the trust of the Malay middle class and to rejuvenate the coalition.

The Sarawak state election on April 11 this year, when the opposition made impressive gains, showed that he was not doing enough and that he was not succeeding. Bersih 2.0 showed that the government was more alienated from public sentiment than ever before.

Things began to go seriously wrong when Umno began turning right after its historic victory in April 2004.

In mid-2005, Umno Youth brought the Malays-first New Economic Policy back into the national consciousness and the swing towards the right was most noticeable in how the movement’s leader, the present-day Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, unsheathed and brandished his keris at the party’s general assembly. He would continue to do that for two more years despite extensive criticism.

The arrogance stemming from the 2004 victory spread quickly and with the absence of a national vision following Dr Mahathir’s retirement, divisions in Malaysian society became worse and deeper while Umno thinking was vulgarised into simple racialism. Religious tensions began rising when Muslim authorities and individual leaders recognised the new freedom being allowed them to win political points through creating friction with other religions.

What we see today — the impudence of right-wing Perkasa, the use of draconian legislation instead of criminal laws, the steady subsuming of government institutions under the ruling coalition and the conjuring of a Christian threat to Islam — are the results of this imprudent swing to the right that began six years ago.

In short, the strong longing for change now evident in Malaysia is largely a public reaction to the inability of the BN model to create a society that is open-minded and diverse enough to be the harmonious and liberal Malaysia that the founding generation had imagined possible. — Today

  1. #1 by limkamput on Friday, 2 September 2011 - 10:50 am

    As far as I know this government has never changed, whether in terms of governance, policy, or leadership mentality since the beginning of Mahathir’s administration. It is the same abusive, opaque, racist and incompetent characteristics all round. It is we the people who are slow, indecisive and ignorant. We were so easily hoodwinked by Mahathir’s grand design; we fell heads and shoulders to Pak Lah’s “work with me and not for me” and now we are about to be mesmerised by Naj!b’s “1Malaysia, people first and performance now”.

    I took offence of you said about “division in Malaysian society became worse” after Mahathir’s retirement. For goodness sake, look not what the say or promulgate. Look at what they do. Of course they will continue to mesmerise you with the virtue of multiculturalism and how the country is blessed with diversity. But then, have you looked at what they did in earnest but did not tell you? Who set up BTN to inculcate supremacy and exclusivity, b*stard!sed the Education Ministry and the civil service and abused the NEP to the core?

    You said BN would lose big because they have gone right. I hope so. But has it ever occurred to you they probably have worked out the maths. If the non Malays can be kept divided and the Malays ignorant, turning right could just generate the momentum to win the next election.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Friday, 2 September 2011 - 11:16 am

    Yes, UMNO turning right is bringing BN downfall but why? Emotionally the UMNO leaders feels immediate gratification from turning right – they believe it cements their powerbase, they believe their constituents can be moved and influenced by it. Why can’t it for most of the 60% of the population which is more than enough for them to hold on to power?

    The truth is simply that hate as a mechanism for development don’t work. Ultimately what people live on is hope. Hate can be used as a tool to secure power only, NOT deliver the promises. The truth is using hate is a cop-out, its an excuse when you are failing to deliver. Instead of figuring out why they need the excuse, they simply indulge in the excuses and so the failure to deliver continues.

    In other words, UMNO turning right is an indulgence of their very failure to perform. Rather than figure it out, turning right takes them further away from needed solutions that the people demand sooner or later even if you distract them temporarily..

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Friday, 2 September 2011 - 11:46 am

    CUKUP lah, Umno/BN – after >50 yrs of failed n incompetent governance, time 2 harakiri
    Rakyat SICK of reading/watching msm -mostly negatif news: murder, corruption, failed projects 1 after another, racist remarks, seks n more weird seks, religious bigotry, etc

  4. #4 by dagen on Friday, 2 September 2011 - 12:31 pm

    Oh yeah. Umno may have “right” in its view and as the intended direction of travel, but know wot? Umno has unknowingly engaged the gear in “R” mode. Wot’s worse perhaps is the fact umno does not seem to realise that the objects in their desired destination is getting smaller and growing fainter by the day.

    ….. loook loooook out, umm. (arrrggghhhh) Oh. Dear. Heck. WTF. Lets celebrate malaysia.

  5. #5 by Godfather on Friday, 2 September 2011 - 1:47 pm

    We are not just going downhill, we are about to go over the cliff. Of course UMNO knows it, hence the contradictory messages to confuse the hell out of the public especially the rural folk. The talk of helping the poor is nonsense because they continue to issue concessions and contracts to themselves. They continue to rape our jungles and displace the aborigines.

  6. #6 by yhsiew on Friday, 2 September 2011 - 2:06 pm

    Umno will never admit they have made a big mistake by turning right.

  7. #7 by Loh on Friday, 2 September 2011 - 4:29 pm

    ///In mid-2005, Umno Youth brought the Malays-first New Economic Policy back into the national consciousness and the swing towards the right was most noticeable in how the movement’s leader, the present-day Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, unsheathed and brandished his keris at the party’s general assembly. He would continue to do that for two more years despite extensive criticism.///–OKB

    The claim by the son-in-law of AAB, the ambitious Khairy Jamalludin who was said to have declared that he would be the PM before he was 40, that Malays in Penang were marginalized set the competition of racist championhip. The fact that the statement was uncalled for and stupid did not stop other UMNO leaders wannabe out-racist one another. That started the downfall of AAB. Najib proves to be worse, judging from the inflence he allowed Mamakthir to stire up racism using Perkasa.

You must be logged in to post a comment.