Mariam Mokhtar | March 2, 2016
Free Malaysia Today
The disgruntled Umno-Baru members who are unhappy with Prime Minister Najib Razak should realise that he is not the only problem. The party itself is very much a problem.
Haven’t the rakyat been complaining about the excesses of Umno-Baru’s leaders and senior party members for decades? This is not an overnight occurrence. The problem has been around for at least four decades. Why have these disgruntled party members kept quiet for so long?
Former PM Mahathir Mohamad quit Umno-Baru because, he claimed, he could no longer recognise the party he once led. According to him, Umno-Baru’s sole function now is to protect Najib.
“I can’t be a member of such a party,” he said.
In 2008, Mahathir quit Umno-Baru because he was displeased with Abdullah Badawi’s leadership. He rejoined the party when Abdullah resigned in 2009.
As expected, Najib did not immediately say anything about Mahathir’s exit. The reaction from Abdullah was smiles and more silence. The pro-Najib blogs said good riddance.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said that Mahathir’s criticisms were hurting Umno-Baru and his membership in the party was therefore untenable.
Veteran journalist Kadir Jasin said the party had been dealt a debilitating blow. He described it as a kick in Umno-Baru’s groin.
PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali claimed that Mahathir’s departure from Umno-Baru would have far-reaching consequences on the Malaysian political landscape. “We are witnessing a sea change in Malaysian politics,” he said. “The old walls of division, built upon years of politicking, are finally collapsing.”
Should you be affected by Mahathir’s exit from Umno-Baru?
Those who were tiny children when Mahathir was PM and those who were born after 2000 associate him with progress and development. They overlook Mahathir’s many misdeeds.
The young, and many of the rural people, gaze upon the Petronas Twin Towers and swell with pride.
They associate Mahathir with modernity and credit him for making Malaysia worthy of international respect. Never mind that he is linked with the same crony capitalism and authoritarian rule that we associate with Najib.
Whether Mahathir leaves or stays Umno-Baru is of little consequence to the ordinary Malaysian. What you think about 21st Century Malaysia is more important. It is time for us to learn to think for ourselves and make demands on our leaders.
The Malays must wean themselves off Umno-Baru. The party does not protect the Malays. Nor is it true that it defends Islam.
Malaysians who are disillusioned with Umno-Baru need to consider the following when making up their mind about a party or a public figure.
Is the party in touch with the ordinary Malaysian? The administration, which consists mostly of Umno-Baru politicians, does not appear to give a hoot to Malaysian public opinion. The leaders are elitist. We don’t need leaders who tell us to wake up before dawn so that we can avoid traffic jams when we travel to work on roads without tolls.
Does the rakyat have confidence in the government? Where does one begin? Crime is soaring, but the IGP appears to be more busy on Twitter than with fighting crime. The idea of importing 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers fills many Malaysians with dread. There are already about four million migrant workers in the country, if we include the illegals.
Does Najib’s government inspire you? Few are impressed by the conflicting statements on the RM2.6 billion donation. Were we impressed with the press conferences in the wake of the disappearance of MH370? Are we inspired by the cancellation of student scholarships or the use of the Sedition Act to silence critics of the government?
No, Mahathir’s exit from Umno-Baru does not matter much. What matters most is how you think the country should be led and managed in the future.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist