Same Old UMNO, Same Old Ethics

By M. Bakri Musa

Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat! (Sacrifice your child if need be, but never your tradition!) Growing up in Negri Sembilan, that wisdom of my culture was continually drummed into me. To those outside the clan, that adage may seem extreme, an ugly manifestation of unyielding and irrational conservatism.

With my children now grown up, I recognize the verity of that village wisdom. Yes, it was hammered into me on the importance of our cultural tradition of fealty towards elders (our parents in particular), but there was also the equally important reciprocal tradition for the elders (who are presumably wiser) to be more patient and forgiving of their young.

It is this fidelity to adat that made my parents not put a guilt trip upon me when I chose a path that was not what they had expected. Cognizant of this adat too is what made me not stand in the way of my children when they too decided to venture on a journey beyond what is familiar to me.

My old Negri saying could be more accurately re-stated as: Jaga adat, jaga anak! (Save our tradition, and save our children!) Such an intricate system of social norms however, would easily be shattered if any of its component parts were to be compromised or exploited.

Consider the esteemed cultural trait of respect and loyalty to leaders and kings, and the associated severe penalty for derhaka (treachery). In tandem with that however, there is the reciprocal tradition encapsulated in the saying: Raja adil raja di sembah; Raja zalim raja di sanggah (Venerate the just king; defy the tyrant).

Yes, my culture demands that I revere and be loyal to my leaders and elders, but they must also be fully aware of the traditional countervailing restraints not to abuse that reverence I have of them.

Consider the nomination of Isa Samad to be UMNO’s standard bearer in the upcoming Bagan Pinang by-election. He was a Mentri Besar for 22 years and a Federal minister for a few years after that. He is the typical ‘local boy done good.’ His fellow villagers in Port Dickson have every right to be proud of him. To them, no honor however exalted would be adequate for him; they would wish upon him even more.

Thus it should not surprise us or Isa Samad that they would want him, and no one else, to have the singular honor to represent them in the state legislature. The surprise is that many are surprised by this expected and proper gesture of generosity on the part of Isa’s people towards him.

As per our adat however, it is not for the people to deny Isa Samad this honor; that would leave a bitter taste in their collective mouth as well as an affront to their cultural sensitivities. Rather it is for Isa Samad to have the wisdom and magnanimity to decline that honor. If he were to do that at the first round, again as per custom, they would again beg him to reconsider, and again Isa Samad should decline.

The social norms demand that these back and forth offers and declines would go on for at least three rounds, all to demonstrate (or at least make a show of) the “genuineness” of the gesture. Anything less and it would risk being interpreted as perfunctory, and less than genuine.

It is through such displays of finesse and subtleties that our culture and traditions have stood the test of time and smoothed our social order. Alas today our traditional values and generosities have been abused not by outsiders but by our own people. It is our own leaders and kin who betray us and our values, as so crudely and ruthlessly demonstrated by Isa Samad.

Nonetheless true to our tradition of “Raja zalim raja di sembah; Raja zalim raja di sanggah,” we should not hesitate, and do so in no uncertain terms, to sanggah (defy) these leaders.

UMNO’s Wet-Finger-In-the-Air Leaders

When UMNO chose a disbarred lawyer to contest the recent by-election in Penang, I commented that the next time around expect the party to scrounge even lower in search of even slimier characters to represent the party. I ventured that it would be difficult to find someone more unworthy than a disbarred lawyer, but trust those UMNO folks, they would find someone. I did not expect to be proven right, and so soon.

In Isa Samad UMNO has someone who had been expelled from the party for “money politics,” the euphemism for corruption. Knowing UMNO’s shady ethics, to be expelled for that must take some doing.

In justifying his party’s pick, UMNO’s Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin declared, “We have decided that this is what the people want.” He was jubilant when making that declaration. Surrounded as he was by senior leaders of the Barisan and fellow ministers, and judging by their beaming smiles and other body language, they too shared his enthusiasm for the candidate.

Just in case we might miss the point, Muhyiddin went on to reassure everyone that the choice was made “after much thought and scrutiny.” Meaning, it was deliberate.

Even ignoring Isa Samad’s blatant bribing of UMNO delegates and then bragging about it (the reason for his expulsion), the more fundamental issue is this. The man has nothing more to offer the state after serving as Mentri Besar for over 24 years. If he had any talent or innovative ideas, that should have been obvious during all those years.

At this stage of their careers, leaders like Isa Samad should be seeking out and mentoring the next generation of leaders, not desperately hogging the stage, and their followers’ fast dwindling reservoir of respect and gratitude.

Only last week Muhyiddin was at pains to point out that he was intent on seeking fresh talent, especially after the Bagan Pinang branch folks brazenly declared that Isa was their only choice. In succumbing to local pressure, Muhyiddin’s leadership is nothing more than wet-finger-in-the-air variety. That is fine in leading a herd of kerbau (water buffaloes) but not a nation aspiring for Vision 2020.

There is nothing wrong with a leader sticking his wet finger in the air to check the prevailing wind if that would lead him to trim his sails and steer his ship of state better, while keeping his eye on the compass. Indeed that is the hallmark of a skilled skipper. However, if you keep changing course and be oblivious of the compass, you will never reach your destination.

The earlier rhetoric about UMNO having “to change or be changed” is now proven to be nothing more than just “cock talk,” to put it in the local vernacular. Muhyiddin is also Deputy Prime Minister, a heart beat away from the nation’s top job. This preview of his leadership does not reassure me.

In picking Isa, Muhyiddin obviously had to compromise his principles and abandon his commitment to reforming the party. He should be reminded of the old Xeno mathematical paradox: You will never reach your destination if you are satisfied at reaching only the halfway mark at every try.

Once you start compromising your principle at the first obstacle, then it gets easier the next time. Soon you would have no scruples compromising all your principles. By that time you would not only be willing to dispense with your adat but you also would be willing to part with your first-born, just to get your way.

Your corruption then would have been complete, with nothing worthy left to defend or honor. Then it would be: Mati adat dan mati anak (Death to your culture, and death to your children).

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 3:42 pm

    What adat? What is happening in Bagan Pinang is no Malay adat I recognize.. To me its hicksvile pork-barrel politics – a western corruption of the Malay culture. Ini bukan Maleyu, ini adat penjajah asing – dan tanpa kebaikan penjajah putih…

  2. #2 by taiking on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 4:08 pm

    We thought sleepyhead badawi flipped and flopped too much. Now najib proved himself to be much worse then sleepyhead. Sleepyhead may change his mind and make u-turns after a while but at least he meant what he said at the first instance. Najib said things without meaning them at all. But wots the diff joe? Well badawi is a pendulum and najib is a deceiver/cheater.

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 4:52 pm

    ok lah, only guilty of money politics
    makan $$ here n there like most Umnoputras
    same same as C4, murder, oral sex, extramarital sex, poke here, poke there
    MCA, Gerakan, MIC, etc also happy to campaign for the corrupted
    soon peluk here, peluk there, undilah ISA, birds of same feather
    question is can the PR candidate win against ISA

  4. #4 by Godfather on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 5:23 pm

    Bakri, here in Bolehland, we don’t use “cock talk”. It’s called “talk cock” especially amongst BN politicians.

  5. #5 by Godfather on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 5:28 pm

    Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Wanita Chief Alice Lee was prominently quoted in the Star today about tainted politicians being required to go away quietly. This was basically a blatant support for Ong Ta Kut in his fight with his deputy Chua Soi Lek.

    Would she say the same thing about Bagan Pinang and Isa ? Would she tell the Chinese voters there that there is a tainted candidate that UMNO has put up ? I don’t think so. People like Alice Lee are hypocrites of the highest order. When Tai Kor UMNO say it is OK, everything is OK.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 5:42 pm

    UMNO ministers where go principles in life.
    Want fresh faces…then old corrupted one is back.
    They are doing this to get Isa head the 13th GE in Negri Sembilan.
    “People wants him”..and when disaster happens….”It’s God’s will”
    This is the safest seat for UMNO…compared to to all previous by-elections.
    UMNO mana ada adat. Umno gila curi wang from Rakyat…and party must be ready for… …”Mat adat dam mati anak”

  7. #7 by Loh on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 5:45 pm

    Isa Samad practiced money politics in UMNO election, who did not?

    Isa Samad was caught in the act, some suspected of doing, and others got away scot-free.

    Should UMNO reform be limited to barring those caught in UMNO disciplinary net, and pretending that all is well? Should UMNO weed out programmes that enrich only selected persons?

    AP scheme was said to be in pursuance of NEP to allow Malays entry into trading of motor vehicles. Proton was established, and needed AP to survive. Proton cannot survive competition from vehicles of other makes, and non-Proton cars have to be sold at a higher price, through taxation. Yes, government collects taxes, and the people pay more.

    Proton eventually sells at a price competitive to other makes, but yet hifher thanwhat it should fetch based on quality. Taxes waived for Proton, not collected by government, were profits of those vendors who supplied parts and material to Proton. Obviously, vendors supplying vehicle parts to Proton are much fewer than the Proton vehicles owners. They pay market price for Proton vehicles, but they could have paid much less, if Proton purchased their parts from the vendors at arm-length basis, under the conditions that the vendors were efficient. But NEP came to play, and vendors had secured contract similar to government service. That arrangement trickles down to require Proton owners to pay more because of government regulations. When proton drivers pay their installments on car loans, part of that goes towards paying for the comforts of vendors who supplied vehicle parts to Proton. By declaring Proton a national car, the people are then forced to pay a higher price so that those who have business dealings with proton can continue to enjoy themselves. This is an indirect means of putting money, consumers’ money which might have been converted to tax, to a few selected Proton-linked traders. This has been going on for over a quarter century now.

    Proton as a national car needed APs. We know that APs made a few hundred well connected persons unusually rich. People pay car loans for non-Proton cars, and some of the proceeds made APs’ holders extremely rich.

    These are corrupt practices, but done in the name of NEP. UMNO is not removing APs, and neither is government going back to public tender on projects and procurements, again in the name of NEP.

    UMNO has not reformed, and it does not show intention to reform. So it really does not matter whether or not Isa Samad was selected as UMNO candidate. Like the challenge to those who had not been involved in money politic throw the first stone, no stone would ever hit Isa Samad.

    Mahathir wanted to use UMNO disciplinary board to remove his son’s opponent, by establishing Isa Samad as a precedent.

  8. #8 by Ken G on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 5:51 pm

    It was an unwinnable seat for PR but Umno has managed to hand PR a moral victory in lieu of the seat. This is the first by-election they can win since the G.E. and they did that. It’s like managing to get a date with a girl after 10 tries and then showing up with pants unzipped the one time he got lucky.

  9. #9 by OrangRojak on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 6:19 pm

    Is that an earthquake, or have the termites got really bad?

  10. #10 by newchief on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 6:27 pm

    a lot of west malaysians has decided to change their votes to pk. however, this is not the case in east malaysia.

    pk should spent more time in this 2 places especially the ulu-ulu area voters whose brains are stuck in their ass. they are easy manipulated by bn to vote for them.

    as such, i appeal to pk to work VERY VERY HARD on e.m’sia to take away this so-called fixed deposit of bn!!!

    if not, bn will still be the majority and we have not bn to blame BUT PK for not being convincing enough !!!

  11. #11 by One4All4One on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 8:47 pm

    Talk is cheap. UMNO did the talk. So UMNO is cheap. Simple lesson in logic.

    UMNO is right even if they are wrong. Others are wrong even if they are right. Sounds familiar?

    Money politics = corruption = NOT a crime. Isa’s logic ( read : excuse, or act of pulling others’ leg, or pulling wool over others’ eyes…)

    Lost all previous by-elections in Peninsular, therefore MUST win Bagan Pinang by-election at ANY cost, even at the cost of defying one’s own principles, or announced or published principles which the whole nation is admonished to practise. What a load! ( of shit! ) 1Malaysia goes not down the drain, but straight into the Waste Treatment Plant.

    Talking about UMNO’s ethics, one may be excused to ask, “What Ethics? Do they have any?”

    When UMNO talks, filth fills the air. Muhyiddin should know that he had done Malaysia thankless damage, perhaps an equivalent to an atomic bombing of our intelligence and dignity. He should know when to talk, and when NOT to talk. Perhaps it is better that he NOT talk at all, because of the atomic carpet bombing effect.


  12. #12 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 11:34 pm

    the photo of a smiling KohTK holding n raising his hands with SV in support of ISA
    is so, so sad n sickening to look at
    here’s a guy who totally sold off his moral principle
    a guy whose head had been decapitated by his Pg Umno kawan
    a guy whose face had been trampled by feet of his Pg Umno kawan
    now in support of a confirmed corrupted Umnoputra
    just to hang on to a post
    such a pitiful n nauseating sight, a morally bankrupt fraud
    how can he ever tell his children n grandchildren to be righteous
    to be jantan to stand for their rights
    namo amituofo, ou fu ai chai, ou fu ai chai yeh

  13. #13 by Onlooker Politics on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 11:34 pm

    “Is that an earthquake, or have the termites got really bad?” (OrangRojak)

    Yes, there was an earthquake bursting off at about 18:16pm 30.09.2009. It happened under the sea near West Sumatra.

    Ancient Chinese believed that earthquake must be a bad omen to the power-that-be. It is an indication that certain policy implemented by the power-that-be has already annoyed the heavenly immortals. A natural calamity is a fore-warning sign about the heavenly wrath since the Heaven will sooner or later pass judgement and punishment upon the corrupted political leader.

    Isa Samad may not win the Bagan Pinang by-election if the present MB Dato Sri Hj Mohd Hj Hassan refuses to help him to get support from the postal votes. Isa Samad is seen as the intimidation to the present MB since many Isa’s supporters like to put blame on present MB for not acceding to their greedy demands, which used to be easily satisfied by Isa Samad when Isa held the post of MB. Isa was a seasoned politician who liked to promise land grant to his supporters in the past. However, Isa’s not able to satisfy every single demand of his greedy supporters may also be a liability burden to Isa. Indeed, money politics can turn backfire on Isa if Isa fails to ensure that money will safely reach the hands of each and every money-seeking voter in Bagan Pinang!

    If Isa on average pays RM10 per vote, he will be in trouble if an outspoken beneficiary of Isa’s money politics shouts out loudly to the public that the exact payment for each person is RM1,000 per vote. If Isa pays each and every voter an amount of RM1,000, he will go bankrupt easily. If he only pays RM10 per vote, then most likely the vote will be cast against Isa but in favour of PAS due to dissatisfaction and jealousy on suspecting other people are better off because of getting more than RM10. Therefore, Bagan Pinang is really a high risk betting ground for the betting bookies. Whoever bets on the victory of Isa will risk the chance of losing all of his betting stake! Whoever bets on the loss of Isa may not necessarily lose out all the chances of betting on the right horse. Umno members’ greediness on small amount of money will possibly ignite big fight among the Umno members themselves due to jealousy since the distributor of the dirty bribe during the by-election may make a fatal mistake of uneven distribution of the bribery money!

  14. #14 by OrangRojak on Thursday, 1 October 2009 - 12:32 am

    Thanks, Onlooker Politics. When I wrote that comment, the equipment on my desk was still swaying! I thought those might be my last words!

    I wonder exactly how upset the immortals are. It’s not uncommon for immortals to vote in Malaysian elections, is it?

  15. #15 by Joshua on Thursday, 1 October 2009 - 4:28 am

    Are these people doing thatUMNO retreat (see below) at public expenses when they are likely ‘elected’ rep drawing salaries and allowances and having good private time there? These people are working largely for their personal interest abusing their public positions. Joshua Kong

    Retreat to chart Umno strategies

    KUALA LUMPUR: Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak leads the party top brass in a special three-day retreat beginning today in Janda Baik, Pahang, to chart strategies for the party and an action plan for the next general election.

    The retreat, themed Kursus Orientasi Perdana (Prime Orientation Course), is specially targeted at the 191 division heads.

    Supreme council members and heads of the Wanita, Youth, Putera and Puteri wings are also required to attend.

    For the pow-wow, they will be divided into several groups focusing on specific topics and issues.

    The event at the Umno training institute will have a “SWOT analysis” to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats faced by the party, according to a Sept 14 notice issued by party executive secretary Datuk Abd Rauf Yusoh.

    Another session focuses on the party’s constitutional amendments.

    pw: sickled Commis-

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