Time for UMNO leadership to consider Onn Jaafar’s proposal 66 years ago for UMNO to open its membership to non-Malays so that UMNO leaders can also be leaders of all Malaysians


The Minister for Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak asked why UMNO must open its membership to non-Malays, describing this as a non-issue because UMNO has never claimed to be a multi-racial party.

It is sad and pathetic that present-day UMNO Ministers and leaders are quite proud about their national blindspot and their inability to see or understand what the founding UMNO President Datuk Onn Jaafar saw very clearly and vividly 66 years ago in 1950, which was why he proposed that UMNO open its doors to non-Malays in order to lead in the building of a united nation.

How can the nation have a Prime Minister from UMNO who could also be Prime Minister for all Malaysians when the very ration d’etre of his political existence is to be the champion of one race against the other races?

This anomalous situation may be understandable and acceptable in the early years of the communal politics of plural Malaysia, but it should become increasingly anachronistic with passing decades of Malaysian nation building, especially based on the Rukunegara principles proclaimed in 1970 – which should see the old mould of the politics of race give way to the new mould of the politics of national issues of justice, freedom, good governance, integrity, progress and prosperity for all.

Onn Jaafar have the foresight and vision that we cannot build a united nation out of our diversity of races, religions, languages and cultures unless we go beyond the colonial tactics of “divide and rule” and create a common national identity where there is an overarching common national identity and consciousness, and where what is close to one ethnic community is not only articulated and championed by that ethnic group only but also by other ethnic groups transcending ethnic barriers.

In other words, Malays will not just champion Malays, Chinese champion Chinese, Indians champion Indians, but where Malaysians regardless of whether Malays, Chinese or Indians champion the rights and interest of Malaysians of other ethnicities not because they are from the same ethnic group, but because of their common accord of what should be protected and cherished by all Malaysian citizens, regardless of race.

DAP Secretary-General and Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, is so far the only example of a political leader who went to jail, sacrificed not only his Parliamentary position but his civic rights to stand for elections and even to cast his vote for five years after release from prison, in defence of the honour, dignity and human rights of an underaged Malay girl.

Why is it so difficult to find another example in the 58 years since Merdeka and 53 years since the formation of Malaysia to find another example of a political leader who is prepared to pay the highest price for another Malaysian of a different ethnicity?

The time has come for the UMNO leadership to consider Onn Jaafar’s proposal 66 years ago for UMNO to open its membership to non-Malays so that UMNO leaders can also be leaders of all Malaysians.

I recently read with interest the proposal of the MCA President, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai suggesting the MCA open its membership to all races, but which was spoiled when he indicated that he would have to get approval from UMNO “Big Brother” for such an initiative!

We must make a clean break from the colonial tactics of “divide and rule”, which must mean the replacing of the old mould of race-based politics by the new mould of issues-based politics.

Malaysians regardless ethnicity must champion the rights and interests of other Malaysians, regardless of ethnicity, on common national issues of justice, freedom, good governance, integrity, progress and prosperity for all.

This has been the practice, commitment and vision of the DAP right from the beginning of our formation 50 years ago.

We shall continue our practice as in the five decades, to be a party by and for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region or socio-economic status.

Just as had been our practice since the first general election contested by the DAP in 1969 general elections, and in the subsequent general elections, DAP will continue to field candidates from all race, religions and regions in parliamentary and state assembly seats.

The old-mould politics of delegating or sub-contracting the interests and rights of different ethnic groups to different ethnically-based political parties cannot long continue if we are seriously to build a united, peaceful and harmonious plural nation.

If UMNO in 2016 is not prepared to give serious consideration to Onn Jaafar’s challenge 66 years ago to open its membership to non-Malays, UMNO may have to face the fate of becoming a political dinosaur in the 14th General Election in 2018.

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