Sharp Slap to UMNO’s Leadership

by M. Bakri Musa

The humiliation suffered by UMNO in the January 17, 2009 by-election in Kuala Trengganu, a seat previously held by one of its Deputy Ministers, is further proof that the party’s thumping in the March 2008 General Elections was the beginning of the end. Getting rid of its leader Abdullah Badawi will not alter UMNO’s fate; a future with Najib Razak will be no solution either.

The party is no longer salvageable; UMNO is now beyond redemption. Its leaders and members are incapable of appreciating and thus adapting to the profound changes now gripping the nation. As Tengku Razaleigh aptly put it when commenting on the results, “We are in uncharted waters with no one at the wheel.”

There are of course exceptions to the current lack of talent in UMNO’s leadership, but they are rare. Zaid Ibrahim had some sensible ideas on reforming the judiciary for example, but look what they did to him! Tengku Razaleigh’s speech at the recent ASLI economic conference was simply brilliant; he rightly pinpointed the major problems facing our nation and offered sensible strategies to approaching them. His was an insight and articulation Malaysians should expect of our leaders. There again however, he was essentially ignored by UMNO’s leadership hierarchy in his recent quest for the top slot.

In this by-election UMNO resorted to its old corrupt ways that had served it well in the past. There were the sudden announcements of generous public funds to key constituent groups as well as the usual co-opting of government agencies to do Barisan’s bidding. If those tricks were not enough, there was the literal stuffing of envelopes with cold cash for voters and reporters.

Judgement on Najib Razak’s Leadership

The victory by PAS candidate Wahid Endut is even more impressive considering that future (come this March) Prime Minister Najib Razak literally made his temporary home in Kuala Trengganu during the entire 11 days of campaigning, returning only briefly to the capital to take part in the Tahlil prayers on the anniversary of his father’s death.

Those voters viewed the upcoming transfer of power from Abdullah to Najib less a promise of better things and more a threat of the same tired corrupt and corrosive ways of the past. The political status quo would only further divide instead of bringing us together. Malaysians were rightly fed up with this.

Win or lose, this election would not alter the political reality; Barisan would still maintain its majority in Parliament. In perception however, this loss only reinforces my earlier “beginning of the end” and “beyond redemption” assertions of UMNO. Undoubtedly these were the reasons that compelled Najib to expend his political capital and risk his reputation by actively campaigning.

Ignored by voters, Najib tried to rationalize the outcome by dismissing it as a “minor setback” with “no impact on the national political landscape.” He was reduced to declaring that Barisan was “still relevant.” Pathetic!

I would have expected that as Finance Minister, Najib would be busy in Putrajaya dealing with the rapidly evolving global financial crisis now threatening our nation. Instead there he was in Kuala Trengganu acting like Santa Claus distributing candies to voters. They gleefully took the gifts, but being adults (and Muslims, at least most of them) they did not believe in Santa Claus, or Najib Razak.

These past few weeks reflect Najib Razak’s leadership priorities and sensibilities. Kuala Trengganu voters were rightly not impressed. Neither am I.

Greasing UMNO’s Slide

Come this March, Najib Razak will be the party’s (and thus country’s) leader. He will have as his deputy Ali Rustam, Muhyyiddin Yassin, or the Double Muhammad Taib, individuals with tainted pasts and less-than-impressive resumes. Sobering thought!

Barring divine or other intervention, this will also be the team that will lead UMNO and Barisan Nasional into the next General Elections scheduled no later than March 2013. UMNO has its leadership convention every three years; theoretically it could change its leadership before the next general elections. However, the party has a tradition of “no contest” for its top two positions and a past pattern whereby leaders would conveniently postpone the leadership convention till after the general elections.

That would be great news for Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Rakyat, further enhancing its chance of assuming power. This may occur even sooner if Barisan Members of Parliament, sensing the political change, were to abandon their parties. The shift could also come earlier if, as expected, Sarawak were to call an earlier election. Then there is the volatile political situation in Sabah.

The objective of any political party is in assuming power. Anything less and you will be relegated to the status of a perpetual fringe party. While that may satisfy the purists in your party, you risk being permanently dismissed by voters. The country’s political graveyard is littered by the ghosts of many such parties.

Then there is the crucial difference of being voted into office because of the positive choice of voters rather than their rejecting your opponent. Anwar Ibrahim and his fellow leaders in Pakatan Rakyat are fully aware of this. It is not enough for Malaysians to be fed up with Barisan Nasional, we must be sold on the promise and potential of a Pakatan Rakyat administration.

As leader of the party that is the centre of the political, racial and other spectra of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, Anwar has adroitly handled the many competing interests within his coalition by focussing on their commonalities and less on their differences. Differences there are, and they are many and consequential; they could potentially fracture the coalition. If that were to happen, it would crush the hopes of Malaysians long yearning for a change.

Besides, there are enough commonalities of purpose among the component parties of PakatanRakyat, from eradicating corruption and strengthening our institutions to reducing poverty and fostering economic development, among others. Ameliorate them, and you would have the cheers and votes of those currently advocating for an Islamic State, “Malaysia for Malaysians,” or Ketuanan Melayu.

Tackling each of these problems (and all must be addressed at once) would challenge the ingenuity of even the most enlightened and committed leaders. There is no need to harp on their differences. All these could be done without getting entangled with such highly divisive and emotional issues as hudud or special privileges. Besides, those slogans as “Islamic State,” “Ketuanan Melayu” and “Malaysia for Malaysians” have now become meaningless, having been corrupted to being code words for those with more sinister motives.

The corruption and incompetence of the Barisan coalition should motivate Pakatan leaders to focus on solving the glaring and pressing problems of our nation. That would be the sure way to power, quite apart from greasing the downward slide of UMNO and its Barisan Nasional coalition.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 11:49 am

    That’s the reason the electricity tariffs and petrol price has not been brought down to reflect the true price of USD39 a barrel– umno needs the money to spend in KT

  2. #2 by Godfather on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 12:23 pm

    Mamakthir – Badawi must shoulder the blame for wrong choice of candidate. Najib is blameless.

    Badawi – BN will support KT, Wan Farid will continue to work for the people.

    KJ – don’t blame the candidate alone, there are other reasons why BN lost KT.

    Ku Li – UMNO will continue to lose if it doesn’t change.

    Ong Ta Kut – the Chinese support for BN has increased.

    Semi Value – Bukan gua punya pasal.

    Lim Kam Put – Everybody except me is half-baked.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 12:37 pm

    Submarines, eurocopters, Valuecap and ISA abuse…… The people of KT were not dumb and they spoke, at last.

  4. #4 by k1980 on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 12:41 pm

    Kayvas – Now Farid has lost, make me a senator and a deputy minister PRONTO

    Koh TK – Now you see it is not politically correct to tear up my photos in public

    Ahmad Ismail – Looks like everyone in umno is gonna be a squatter. I am going to join PAS now.

    Muhidin – Now Jib has to go in December

    Chua Soil Lick – This is what happens when mca sidelines me.

  5. #5 by wanderer on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 12:56 pm

    UMNO-BN can see and hear the lightning and thunder striking from afar, if they do not take steps to correct their evil ways, a slap is too polite a ward to use. The rakyat will kick them out for good!

  6. #6 by monsterball on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 1:09 pm

    Melaka CM…Ali Rustam said he worked bloody hard …yet UMNO lost an election.
    He forgot…..he is one of those…corrupted to the core.
    Now let him eat his words….”UMNO will rule forever”
    Bakri Musa is right.
    Election over Lets move forward with eyes open wide…not letting UMNO make any moves to create fear or divide us.
    They are not capable to be honest and truthful…having won elections after election ….starting from Mahathir’s time..through briberies and creating race and religious issues.
    They must continue this way.
    It’s too deeply rooted with corruptions….for party and self.
    More and more Malaysians of Malay origin are beginning to see who they are.
    Bst example….Mahathir.

  7. #7 by ben nordin on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 1:10 pm

    Adding to Godfather’s comments:

    Ali Rustam – We are the ones doing all the work and bringing development, yet the diehard opposition supporters continue to vote for the Opposition in the belief that they will go to heaven.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 1:27 pm

    It is fatuous to dismiss Ahmad Farid as Pak Lah’s candidate to heap blame solely on him as a scapegoat for everything amiss in BN. The fact is Ahmad Farid was a BN candidate with joint consent of both the president and deputy president/president elect of UMNO, if not more likelier, the favoured of the latter.

    Najib’s rationalization that KT outcome was a “minor setback” with “no impact on the national political landscape” flies in the face of what he said earlier before the by election that it was important for BN to win : “We have to win (the Kuala Terengganu by-election) because we want to make the victory a starting point for BN and Umno’s revival from the defeat in Permatang Pauh” .

    Also being a Malay majority area, KT results threw a wench monkey / spanner in the works regarding assumption that UMNO could with its traditional methods hold claim to represent the Malay ground.

    Bedides, KT by-election was, though the last test for outgoing Badawi is, however, the first test of incoming Najib, and a set back on BN’s part will give thoughts to leadership contenders (one vocal one being Ku Li) to question Najib’s ability to lead in a way that will effectively thwart Anwar led Pakatan Rakyats gains and thrusts since 08/03/08 last General election.

    Now a PAS/PR victory in KT only now serves to give PR further impetus to get their act in order for the next challenge to persuade Sarawakians on the merits of political change in their own state, and if Sabah were to follow, that will surely represent the sounding of last knell/requiem of the BN’s over 50 year fortunes!

    Though, as expected, Tun Dr Mahathir would heap the blame on his own anointed successor – (what’s new?) – his statement “I think Najib is not to be blamed for (the by-election loss) but if he continues to elect or support corrupt leaders then I think he will lose the next general election” is not really helpful to Najib either, considering the track record and resumes of the powers brokers at the helm.

    On the whole, I have to praise M. Bakri Musa’s article here, which is good, certainly better than others he has written and uploaded in this blog.

  9. #9 by taiking on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 1:51 pm

    Who says?? Umno still got strong mandate to rule maa. And by ruling it means to do whatever it wishes. One seat in parliament only maa. What’s the big deal? If every year also got one by-election, by next general election only lose 5 MPs. Nothing to worry. Umno is very generous. Opposition can take the 5 extra MPs. Never mind. Umno still can carry on as gobermen one. Look MCA also got improve maa. Why scared. See one hundred something more than before ah. You know or not? So its ok one. Dont scared. No need to scared. Umnoputras can carry on as TUAN McBULLY to hantam HAMBA de BULLY.

  10. #10 by merdekablog on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 1:52 pm

    Prior to the 44th US presidential inauguration on Jan 20, President-elect Barack Obama boarded a train on Saturday with the route from the nation’s birth place, Philadelphia, to the nation’s capital, Washington DC. We heard the crowds cheering along the way of the train route.

    It was just a totally different scenario as what we observed in Malaysia. We saw the deputy president of UMNO, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam “kena boo” by the opposition party’s supporters, during his visit to Kuala Terengganu on the polling day.

    Oops, not a good day to start for datuk, and definitely not a good day to end.

    When asked about the incident, Mohd Ali claimed that he was “kecewa dengan tindakan penyokong pembangkang yang terlalu ramai berkumpul di kawasan pusat pengundi sekolah berkenaan.” (Malaysiakini, “Ali Rustam kena ‘boo’ di KT”, Jan 17, 2009)

    Well, sounds like he was okay with having UMNO’s supporters in the area – double standard?

    I wondered if he would be even more disappointed if he got thrown a shoe, worse with multiple shoes?

    Let’s get back to the topic. What I want to say is that we have seen Malaysians throughout the country calling for change. It’s a fundamental change that they are zealous about, not just some “reformed”, “independent”, “anti-corruption” commissions, e.g. Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) bills, that were alleged by our premier to “bring back confidence of the public in the judiciary” and to “increase competitiveness and attract more foreign investors.” (Themalaysianinsider, “PM declares victory for his reforms”, Dec 17, 2008)

    Regardless of the ability of the two bills to restore national and international confidence on the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the key institutes in Malaysia, there are some root causes that our premier had failed to acknowledge. Cronyism within BN, draconian laws to silence lawful dissents, power abuse of national resources, failure of handling governmental contracts, unprofessional and laughable misconducts in the parliament, corrupted judicial and police system, not-so-free media, etc., have been widely criticized by the public regarding the incumbent administration.

    Former premier Dr Mahathir responded that the failure of UMNO in the KT by-election was a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Abdullah Badawi, and Najib was not to be blamed for the loss. (Malaysiakini, “Vote of no confidence against Pak Lah”, Jan 18, 2009)

    But listen to what Dr Mahathir said about the deputy PM in the previous interview, “He (Najib) always merely says ‘I support’, ‘I am very touched’. He never says anything about the people’s wishes.” (Thestar, Dr M: Muhyiddin can beat Najib, July 16, 2008)

    However, the former de facto law minister, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, back-fired on Mahathir, said “You (Mahathir) have destroyed the fabric of our lives as a democracy. Have you not done enough?” (Themalaysianinsider, “Zaid: Mahathir is back in power with Najib”, Oct 11, 2008)

    “Why would someone trained and schooled by Dr Mahathir introduce reforms? Have you heard Najib speak of reforms?… You had 23 years of Dr Mahathir, so let’s say Najib lasts for 10 years as PM with Mahathir behind him. That means a total of 33 years under Dr Mahathir,” said Zaid during the same interview.

    On the next day, Mahathir revealed his true motive.

    “If asked, I would be willing to serve for free (for the panel of advisers for Najib).” (Thestar, “Dr M still speaking his mind”, Oct 12, 2008)

    Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah responded on the loss of UMNO in the KT by-election. “A party leadership in denial is unlikely to form a government with the realism and guts to face an economic meltdown that it also denies is happening. We are in uncharted waters with no one at the wheel.” (Malaysiakini, “Third humiliation in 10 months”, Jan 18, 2009)

    What we know for sure is that majority of Malaysians have rejected not just UMNO but Barisan National based on the three “humiliations” in a row. The current ruling coalition has failed to meet the needs of the rakyat, and worst, have failed to unite the nation. That’s why we see the multiple campaigns held by the public to call for change. And that’s why we see the tremendous crowds wherever the ceramah held by the opposition leaders. But sadly, the ignorant yet arrogant incumbent administration still doesn’t wake up!

    Sure enough, the rakyat would not expect a better change to reach upon Malaysia with Najib taking over the number one post in a couple months.

    Allow me to borrow a line from Barack Obama. “Let’s make sure this election is not the end we do to change America (Malaysia), but just the beginning.”

    We have seen Barack Obama’s popularity grows as the inauguration nears. Would we see the same for Najib? Would we expect a vote of no confidence in Najib’s administration?

    Every nation has her own problems, but there is hope if someone is able to unite the nation.

  11. #11 by k1980 on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 3:45 pm

    Yes lah, under umno we get tons upon tons of SPM students scoring 10As and above year in and year out, while our useless neighbour to the south could only manage to produce 1 measly student getting 10As in her O-Levels. Why, we can even send an umnonut to space, while they can’t afford to pay for a place in a Russian spacecraft. And they are already in recession while our ministers are claiming that we are not going to be touched by the global financial meltdown. Never mind about our 45,000 retrenched workers, they can always go to Indonesia to work as maids and labourers. HIDUP umno!

  12. #12 by boh-liao on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 4:41 pm

    No, no! It’s not sharp slap to Umno’s leadership.

    It’s because voters are taking advantage of the ultra-generosity of the BN during a by-election. Voters are getting smarter and fully understood the concept of money politics and buy-election.

    Whenever there is a by-election, BN will be in town in full force to buy hearts and votes. BN will flood the constituency with all sorts of monetary offers (including ang pau and hijau pau), contracts, services, land title giveaways, lucky draws, makansutra, etc. It’s usually ‘Ask and your wish will be granted’ time. Furthermore, most of the BN tai kors will be in town to put on their false smiley faces and to go walking and meeting people, distributing goodies at the same time. In fact this is the only time the small ordinary people get entertained by these big bullies and keris-wielding racists. Nowadays, the added bonus is they sometimes even put up pathetic and apologetic faces and beg for forgiveness: ‘Please lah, we have changed, we are not racists or lap dogs, give us another chance to serve you’, etc. etc. etc.

    Voters learn to take all the goodies showered upon them by BN but play the trump card by voting against BN. Must not yield to BN’s false kindness. Must not encourage the racist BN politicians to draw their keris and yell their blood chilling ‘pendatang, go away’.

    Prayerfully, more BN MPs will meet their makers in the next few months to allow more buy-elections to take place, so that more constituencies will benefit from the ultra-generosity of the BN. Who is next in line for national service, we wonder?

  13. #13 by Mr Smith on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 4:48 pm

    BN handed out RM 1 billion and yet lost. (Please refer to the statement by the national institute of electoral integrity).
    When will BN realize that money and threat cannot buy votes anymore.

  14. #14 by ktteokt on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 4:56 pm

    Much can be learnt from the KT by-election:

    1. The people are not sidelined by the lures and threats by UMNO;
    2. The people are not sidelined by threats of Islamic nation as claimed by MCA;
    3. The people were wise in their choice for they saw BN as a hopeless government for Malaysia;
    4. The people wanted change after more than half a century rule by BN which has brought no progress to the nation;
    5. Dirty tricks played in the past by BN did not work in this by-election;
    6. Money cannot buy votes!

  15. #15 by Godfather on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 5:47 pm

    Now come the days of Najis, which will herald the return of Mahathirism. Najis will ensure that the old Mamakthir will return to UMNO as special advisor, and Baby Mahathir will win the UMNO Youth election.

    Then it is nepotism and cronyism all over again – UMNO knows no other formula.

  16. #16 by k1980 on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 6:45 pm

  17. #17 by Jong on Monday, 19 January 2009 - 10:52 pm

    A tight slap it was! Hahaha, don’t they deserve it! :D

    Congratulations Kuala Trengganuites, you made it! You kept the momentum going and sent the message to this corrupt UMNO-led government that you have had enough of their lies!

    Dr Mahathir came to Najib’s defence, said UMNO fielded the wrong candidate, Najib is blameless, so the blame goes to Prime Minister Abdullah. That’s a mamak joke lah! If Najib had been the candidate, PAS’s candidate Mohd Abdul Wahid bin Endut would have won by a much bigger majority and Kuala Trengganuites would have buried him at sea, the South China Sea way before 5 pm on sat 17 Jan 2009!

  18. #18 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 - 4:10 am

    Yes, I have a dream. A dream that I went to the top of Mount Salak. I have seen the Promise Land. I have a dream of the fierce urgency of now so urgent that I’d need to go to the bathroom. Excuse me.

  19. #19 by k1980 on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 - 9:05 am

    Yes, I too have a dream. A dream that Dollah has stripped Mamaktiak of his Malaysian citizenship and sent him back to his home village in Kerala. Unfortunately ’twas but a dream.

  20. #20 by ktteokt on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 - 9:23 am

    The sharpest slap on the face of all UMNO goons is not the loss of this KT by-election but the fact that UMNO was led by a non-Malay, a MAMAK, an Indian Muslim for 22 years! Looked like there are no more MALAY talents in UMNO, so they had no choice but to put the MAMAK up there.

  21. #21 by Yee Siew Wah on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 - 12:06 pm

    As I have said before, seems that most of the racial and religious issues happening in our country are probably caused by all these MAMAK bums who try to be more malays and religious themselves.
    Umno seem not to have any talented original malays who can run the country. To support and let all these mamak bums running the country is really shameful to say the least.
    However, I personally believe after 50+ years, there are substantial talented and capable malays who are able run the country forward.
    Perhaps they have been sidelined by those corrupted and greedy and holier than thou politicians in BN, UMNO in particular. How sad.
    Its time to get these BN bums out and move the country forward.
    It can be a malay, chinese, indians chief irrespective as long as they can deliver what the general rakyat want.
    God bless Malaysia.

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