The oxymoronic world of Umno’s politics

by Edwin Yapp
The Malaysian Insider
Dec 07, 2011

DEC 7 — Oxymoron.

That’s the word that has been on my mind of late. Why? Because that’s exactly what we, Joe Public, are being fed on a daily basis.

Etymologically speaking, the word is derived from the fifth century Latin “oxymoron”, which in itself is derived from the ancient Greek to mean “sharp, dull,” according to Wikipedia. The noun describes “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.”

And therein lies the connection — such is the frequency of contradictory ideas and terms used in today’s local political sphere that it’s almost as if our government has nothing else to worry about.

Case in point: The highly controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill passed last week in Parliament, and our Prime Minister’s declaration that the Bill is “revolutionary,” and that the amendments follow international norms. That’s oxymoronic.

Also, the war cries of one Umno leader last week that labelled those who support opposition parties as “bangsat” (bastards) and that a vote for DAP is a vote for the destruction of Islam. Hmm… that’s another one.

And finally the PM’s quote in his closing speech, “When I started 1 Malaysia, I did not say — let’s neglect the Malay agenda.”

I can go on, but I’m sure you get my drift.

Granted. One might argue that some of these oxymoronic statements are part and parcel of the ongoing political rhetoric and that they might have been uttered recently in the context of a recently concluded party convention.

But rhetoric or not, still, it all seems contradictory, doesn’t it?

What isn’t the diff?

Umno’s strategy, for one. Come election time, Umno’s war cries invariably include all the usual suspects — elements that touch on the two “Rs” in this country’s political landscape: race and religion.

After all, doesn’t anyone remember what happened a few years ago when certain Umno leaders waved the keris at its general assembly, thumping their chest and shouting about “Ketuanan Melayu?” (Malay supremacy).

Given the proclivity of the dominant party ruling the current government to do such things, I’m not at all surprised that their fairly predictable playbook, has gone something like this:

The non-Malay opposition is the tyranny and enemy of Islam and the Malay opposition doesn’t practise true Islam. The non-Malay opposition doesn’t care for Malays and is undermining the religion, the Malay way of life, and the national language, Bahasa Melayu. Therefore, a vote for the opposition is a vote against the Malay race, culture and Islam. Umno is the only protector of Malay rights. QED.

After 54 years of independence, is this the best the “big brother” in the ruling coalition can think of? Scare tactics and the endless vilification of the opposition, in hopes that the electorate will be taken in by all these claims?

As Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the former mufti of Perlis noted in a news report last week, a nervous Umno has failed to bring new ideas to voters ahead of the expected general election. “Umno is talking among themselves. I see Umno is now anxious and has no idea what will happen in the coming elections.”

What other strategy isn’t different? The doling out of cash and incentives, that’s what. Right now, it’s still early days as campaigning for the ruling coalition has yet to start. Come that day, expect more “incentives” in the form of cash or kind to be given out.

But is this what the rakyat (people) want?

Perhaps it’s poignant to note what Asri had to say, “The current generation is different from those in the past. They will not be attracted by just cash and handouts.”

And what’s the diff?

The most obvious one is the fact that this is the first election after the one where Barisan Nasional got hammered and lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament, which has prompted the deputy prime minister to say that GE13 is the “mother of all elections.”

This sets the tone for GE13, and already, Umno leaders acknowledge that the opposition could be a formidable opponent this time around. But shouldn’t that be what an election is all about? The Constitutionally guaranteed right for the people to choose one party over another, and their choice of their representative to form a government? It should be, since the last I checked, we are still a democracy, of sorts, I think.

Secondly, the world has changed, and so have the people that occupy it. In the last 18 months alone, we’ve seen how other countries have demanded change in their own nations, holding their respective governments accountable for their actions, or the lack thereof, in what is today known as the Arab Spring.

Gone are the days where repressive regimes rule over the people as if they were puppets as citizens begin to decry and dismantle the tyranny of democracy.

Thirdly, the social landscape and global connectivity have changed. In the days before Twitter, Facebook and many other social media channels, repressive regimes could control the flow of information and limit the damage any opposition can mount. Today, that is no longer true ( . Thankfully, we have alternative sources of media to which we can turn to judge for ourselves who is telling the truth.

Interestingly, before 2008, I asked opposition politicians ( if they thought new media would play a part in the GE12. They responded saying that it can play a part but conceded back then that it had its limitations.

But in 2012, these limitations are fewer and further in between. More people will read news updates via alternative channels; smartphones, tablets and laptops will be the preferred choice to access these updates; higher broadband penetration will ensure that news will be delivered faster and more visually impactful via videos.

And for those who aren’t connected, there is the spectre of the influence that urban folks will hopefully bring back to their respective senior communities, convincing them that the current ruling coalition isn’t up to the mark anymore.

So what could be the diff?

Of course, all this does not necessarily mean that the opposition will take Putrajaya in GE13. But perhaps what is important is that the rakyat is at the cusp of experiencing a new level of participation in their right to choose the government by the people, for the people.

This is especially true for the thousands of first-time voters who hopefully will flood the voting stations on polling day and choose wisely. Whatever the outcome, Malaysians, in my humble opinion, have awakened to a new level of political sensitivity, thanks to the aforementioned changes in the socio-political-economic landscape.

I, for one, look forward to change, where hopefully the rakyat will choose a better class of representatives that will govern the country equitably, justly and according to the rule of law — regardless of race, creed, gender or religion.

That these representatives will deal with bread and butter issues of economic reform, reduction in corruption, stemming the brain drain and to instil excellence and meritocracy and everything they do thereby ensuring that the future of all Malaysians will be protected, instead of wading in rhetorical, race- and hate-based politics.

That, I hope, would not turn out to be an oxymoronic wish.

  1. #1 by Loh on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 7:57 pm

    ///And finally the PM’s quote in his closing speech, “When I started 1 Malaysia, I did not say — let’s neglect the Malay agenda.”///–Edwin Yapp

    Actually Najib wanted to say that he did not start 1Malaysia when he meant it to be 1Malays. Since he was misquoted in the past for having uttered 1Malaysia, he considered it necessary to clarify at the UMNO assembly that it was 1Malays or alternately 1Malaysia under Malay agenda.

    Imagine that in modern world, the leader of the government can still declare that the government has a special agenda for some people in the country based on race, and yet he dared to tell others to practice moderation. Can a racist equate himself to a moderate?

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 8:41 pm

    A oxymoron is more a word that contains within itself a contradiction in terms eg a “wise fool” or “working vacation”. However in PM’s case it’s a contradiction of whole message/policy eg championing moderate and bet the 3Rs or inclusive1 Malaysia, and then “Malay agenda.” How to describe this? Is this Political Schizophrenia/split personality? The conventional word is Political ‘Double Speak’ or ‘Double Talk’. Lest one thinks our PM is inventor, that’s not true. Indeed it is quite common amongst politicians, one of the exceptional is Yasser Arafat! It’s just that the double talk of others may be quite subtle; in our case it is so plain stark and obvious that even a secondary school student can readily spot it! Now this double talk is really an art in realm of politics, some say its indispensable for political success, we here think its duplicitous and strikes at the heart of credibility. A more bombastic word for it is linguistic dissonance – a conscious telling of one fact to an audience (national audience) and then a conscious switching to another opposite and contradictory fact or position when addressing the Party’s audience.

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 8:42 pm

    What is most oxymoronic is that Najib & Co is EVEN trying the plan they have now – Lying as the mainstay of their plan. So many, Hitler, Communists, Gaddhafis, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak etc, – all much smarter, with much more asset at their disposal, have tried and failed and yet they are still going ahead with it and thousands at the GA just went a long with it.

    Its Insanity – the loss of complete reason..

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 8:54 pm

    The reason why the need of double talk is because the national audience is far in advance of his party (UMNO’s audience). Against the backdrop of “the social landscape and global connectivity” the national audience esp the young who will be voters have gone ahead, desiring of change from race & patronage politics, repressive governance and corruption etc whereas his party (UMNO) audience has not (caught up in time warp, still flogging dead horses of racial chauvinism!). Now the PM need to speak the language of his party delegates/warlords or else he gets shown the door, so he speaks their language. However mindful that he needs to speak the language of the national audience to get their votes or else his party/coalition as well as he himself will get kicked out, so he speaks another language. So therefore the need for Political Double Talk from these restricted senses. The beauty in so doing is neither the national audience nor his party’s audience will ever know where e really stands since talking to tailor made to nature of audience does not show what his the speaker’s inner true beliefs. Or perhaps there’s no true beliefs, its situational or opportunistic, whichever is Ok depending on whether it is expedient or helpful for what needs to be done at the particular moment!

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 9:00 pm

    Oops sorry – “….where He really stands since talking to tailor maKe to nature of audience…”

  6. #6 by Loh on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 9:49 pm

    It is only in Malaysia where politicians can take position suited for the moment and yet justify it as being practical for political needs. Thus we have the current Prime Minister who had said on record that he would soak Keris in Chinese blood when he was chief of UMNO Youth, and yet as PM he had the audacity to preach moderation at the United Nations General assembly hoping that the people did not know his past. From Wikileaks we know now that whatever said by Najib is known and he could not say that he misspoke. Obviously what he said then as Youth Chief was what was in his heart.

    When he declared 1Malaysia, one would be forgiven to think that he had repented believing that he had to act racist on the way up. He owned up recently that he is still a racist because he claimed that he did not forget Malay agenda. The litmus test on his racism was when he concluded that NEP did no harm to non-Malays. His deputy opined that non-Malays are happy with breadcrumbs when UMNO Malays have their feasts. If Najib had not been blinded with the need to prove that he cared for Malays’ votes more than a rational opinion he should have concluded that with NEP where non-Malays are prevented from availing themselves of opportunities given to Malays, the persons who faced restrictions did suffer. Yet with racist thought, sufferings of non-Malays would not touch his heart. Najib is cold blooded because he is a racist.

  7. #7 by lee wee tak_ on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 10:11 pm

    edwin is too optimistic. while I see opposition to BN’s continuing treatment of Malaysians are morons, addicts to race and religious politics and beggars for handout; as well as widening use of aternate media, there are still too many too dumbs, too lazy, too corrupt, too hopeless, too racist, too bigoted, too indifferent who will either vote for racism, corruption and extremism; or do not vote against it for a better tomorrow

    BN has carved up Malaysia electorally to guarantee it winning the parliament with less than 20% of the votes. Even if 90% of Malaysians in Urban vote for BN, the 10% in rural areas will make BN king of Malaysia

    YB Lim, Pakatan is silent about this gerrymanderring, or malapportionment in the words of Mr Ng Chak Ngoon.
    Now what does PR have to say about this?

  8. #8 by limkamput on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 - 11:56 pm

    Oxymoron, you mean like an honest thief, steal money in an honest way, or indulge in corruption so that money obtained can be used for charity or commit all the sins during the week, pray for forgiveness on Sunday or Friday?

  9. #9 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 8 December 2011 - 12:12 am

    Oxymoron? I give you an oxymoron.

    Old Shahrizat

    Old Shahrizat has a farm, E-I-E-I-O
    And on her farm she had no cows, E-I-E-I-O
    No “moo-moo” here, no “moo-moo” there
    Here no “moo”, there no “moo”
    Everywhere no “moo-moo”
    Old Shahrizat has a farm, E-I-E-I-O

    Old Shahrizat has a farm, E-I-E-I-O
    And on her farm she has a mercz, E-I-E-I-O
    With a “brroom-brroom” here and a “brrroom-brrroom” there
    Here a “brrroom” there a “brrrooom”
    Everywhere “brrooom-brrooom”
    Old Shahrizat has a farm, E-I-E-I-O

    Old Shahrizat has a farm, E-I-E-I-O
    And on her farm were two condos, E-I-E-I-O
    With a “condo” here and a “condo” there
    Here a “condo” there a “condo”
    Everywhere “condo-condo”
    Old Shahrizat has a farm, E-I-E-I-O

  10. #10 by k1980 on Thursday, 8 December 2011 - 2:18 am

    Looks like that old woman Shahreezut will soon resign her senatorship and retire from politics, and need not pay back her RM250,000,000 loan. The debt will be written off and the rakyat will have to foot that enormous bill. Satu lagi projek BN….

    The oxymoronic world of Umno’s politics?

    Oxymoronic is not the correct word. It should be ‘ moronic ‘.

  11. #11 by k1980 on Thursday, 8 December 2011 - 6:52 am

    The voter by the name of Balai Polis Kerinchi has the identity card number in the electoral roll, RF161872, corresponded to a Mohd Faizul Mohd Yusop on the Election Commission’s (EC) online database.

    Mohd Faizul Mohd Yusop should be arrested and sacked for defrauding the EC

  12. #12 by Loh on Thursday, 8 December 2011 - 8:47 am

    In China there was a gang of 4, here we have a gang of 4,000 which has just concluded its open meeting.

    Elsewhere secret societies get their money covertly, through extortion. Here the gang collects money overtly; taxes in government coffers and income from natural resources are for them to take, legally.

    Elsewhere secret societies are afraid of the government, here the gang is the government.

  13. #13 by Taikohtai on Thursday, 8 December 2011 - 1:08 pm

    I have no blood on my hands, says Assad:

    He told Barbara Walters, the American television journalist, that most of those killed in the violence had been his own soldiers and supporters. His performance, in which he came across as the same young, unruffled and genial figure as before the crisis, did not include any offer of remorse.
    Advertisement: Story continues below
    “We don’t kill our people,” he said. “No government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person.”

  14. #14 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Friday, 9 December 2011 - 5:28 pm


    I think the prefix “oxy” is definitely unnecessary when it applies to UMNO.

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