Umno – buffetted by winds of change

by Tunku Abdul Aziz
26 March 2009

A monolithic organisation is by definition slow to change. This description fits UMNO like a glove. As it lumbered into its 59th annual party conference, the collective mood of the general assembly was much less confident than it had ever been in its history.

There was really nothing to celebrate, certainly not the succession of Najib with all that huge and unsavoury media attention he is attracting internationally. Even here in Malaysia, where standards of public morality and ethics are much less vigorously applied to those in high office, there is a real feeling of queasiness and unease that Najib appears to be so cavalier about the critical need to clear his name against what he protests are unsubstantiated allegations of impropriety.

The salvation of his personal honour and integrity depends on his clearing the air, using all legal means at his disposal. Swearing on the al-Quran is not really the answer: it is not just a matter between him and his Maker. More to the point, he needs to respond to the concerns of society as a whole. The sooner he gets to grip with this inconvenient blight on his otherwise unblemished character, the better it will be for him and the country. Put this episode to rest. It will be good for the soul.

Wrecked and bedevilled by one scandal after another, sordid and nearly all verging on the criminal, the once arrogant standard bearer of “ketuanan Melayu” is still licking last year’s electoral battle wounds. It was a Waterloo of sorts for a party that until then had largely assumed their right to rule as one of God’s immutable laws. The fallout was nothing if not surreal, a shambles of the first order if there ever was one. If it was a total shock for the party, then for Abdullah Badawi the man who led the troops into battle’ equipped with unreliable intelligence and an obsolete school boy atlas, it was a personal tragedy. Ever the gentleman, he took the blame for the debacle without a murmur.

There were no tears shed for him even as a keris was plunged, and twisted for good measure, into him. Naturally, there was no ‘requiem’ for the untimely political demise of its president, but then you would not have expected such a heart-warming gesture of decency and appreciation from a monolithic political structure bereft of common values of human decency.

Did they not do the same to the greatest ever Malaysian statesman, the man who came to be known as Bapa Malaysia? They demonised Tunku Abdul Rahman, and rewrote the history of our country’s independence in a way that blotted out his role in the fight for freedom. The Malays are rather good with their keris.

Abdullah Badawi will be remembered as the prime minister who had no stomach for the sort of vicious political infighting that is UMNO’s hallmark. His handling of the 12th general elections dealt the coup de grace to his political career. By his departure, he will also be remembered as the prime minister who did nothing to stop a scandal-strapped deputy from assuming the highest political position in the land. His decision to promote Najib may well have met with the approval of the UMNO membership, but what about the millions of other Malaysians who, unlike their UMNO friends, are fussier about the choice of the person to lead the country.

It is an act of irresponsibility to say the least, on the part of Abdullah Badawi, to foist on the nation a successor who has yet to satisfy the people of his innocence through the legal process. Pak Lah must realise that UMNO is not Malaysia, and by the same token Malaysia is not UMNO. It is this inability to distinguish between the party and the government that has cost UMNO its attractiveness as a party of the people, and that could work against UMNO come the next general elections.

The speeches have all been well crafted; the sentiments expressed resonated beautifully, but the test of the pudding will always be in the eating. We have heard thousands of speeches from UMNO politicians over the years, and if only a tiny fraction of those had been translated into action, Malaysia not have remained a divided country, a country that is in danger of being torn apart not only along racial lines but also, God forbid, class lines.

There is a lot of practical wisdom in Abdullah Badawi’s farewell speech for UMNO, but I am not sanguine that anything useful will come out of it as long as the same people remain in control of the party. The shake-up has been nothing more than a recycling process. I hope to goodness that I am wrong on every count, and there is hope for all of us yet.

Most of all I pray that the Najib years as many fear will not bring a return of the Dark Age of Mahathirism.

  1. #1 by ALLAN THAM on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 11:24 am

    Pak Lah made the most serious mistake with his departure by handling to the most “unknown” as PM. His make his mistake all the way. What I wast that have been voting him in 8 years ago?

    He has failed miserably a total failure. He was not leader material he is good to teach with his sentimental side. Please retire and being a religious teacher.

  2. #2 by gyp on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 11:56 am

    No one can do anything? because UMNO is corrupted to the core eveywhere, no one can do anything.

    UMON lead the Malays to be selfish and greedy without any shame or honor.

    Do not trust their words, they are good at telling lies for over 52 years.

  3. #3 by gyp on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 12:09 pm

    The main purpose people join the UMNO party is to be somebody, to associate with greedy, to make more money.

    Not for buiidling stronger Malaysian as a whole.

    How can anyone do anything to UMNO core – corruption ?

  4. #4 by wanderer on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 1:49 pm

    Leadership is not about ability alone, it comes with responsibility. Abdullah failed in his responsibility to all Malaysians….. leaving the stage, full of uncertainties, politically and economically and passing the baton over to a blemished character unworthy of the highest office of the land.
    This is UMNO of today, the rakyat and country are second to their greed and arrogance. Boleh Malaysia became Bohon Malaysia!

  5. #5 by dawsheng on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 2:32 pm

    Money talks, bullshit walks, what else is UMNO?

  6. #6 by chengho on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 2:54 pm

    Tunku Aziz,
    the market is very bullish today ,very receptive to Najib and his new team
    the cyber world surprisingly very calm since last night ,every body excited and jubilant with the new PM Najib ( next week ? )…
    Najib just have to apply the wisdom of MM and the style of LKY…

  7. #7 by kcb on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 3:38 pm

    And every time chengho is around, we smell foul air and shit!

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 4:52 pm

    Malaysian insider pointed out accurately that Najib has a headache in terms of choices for his cabinet from the winners of the Supreme Council. Most of them are weak, pretty crappy in fact. His Cabinet will be heavy reliant on the top four, down the line the talent gets pretty thin….

  9. #9 by ktteokt on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 6:05 pm

    Winds of change? What winds of change? UMNO has built “walls” around itself, shielding it away from any wind, be it winds of change or winds of unchange!

  10. #10 by DAP man on Friday, 27 March 2009 - 9:45 pm

    Tunku Abdul Aziz has written a brilliant article entitled “MACC: Chucking Out The Wine And The Bottle”.

    Please post it here for your readers.

  11. #11 by lopez on Saturday, 28 March 2009 - 8:41 am

    why r the men in blue out these days in the hiway and creepy spots with their blackmail apparatus.

  12. #12 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 29 March 2009 - 8:13 am

    Pak Lah had his chances but did not had the B…s to carry it out. What could be the reason? I believe there was one and will be one which will confront any future PM. The whole fabric of the society is so corrupted that even Hercules, if he could be found would not wash away all the shits!! It would continue to consume this country; unless people like you would take over!!
    We can all sense the change coming, albeit a little too slow for many of us. Get the message to the under 40s who are ready to find truh in spite of the MSMs being one sided. They are the ones who will not be cowed by moronic headlines created in the MSMs. They have stopped reading them.

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