It is obvious by now that Umno will never change. Judging from the waves of public protests involving multiracial crowds over the last two years, the determination on the part of a significant segment of Malaysian society to exorcise the ghost of May 13 is unambiguous as well as undisputed.
Still, Umno’s ruling elite, lacking policy imagination and integrity, will do everything to ensure that the country remains haunted by the racial backlash that happened more than four decades ago.
The choice has become much clearer after Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s scare tactic at the Umno general assembly two days ago: vote Barisan Nasional and see one dignity trampled in perpetuity, or opt for the alternative with a view to overhauling and reshaping Malaysia’s political structure.
None of the speeches by Umno leaders at the assembly has been inspiring. Shahrizat’s shameless reference to the 1969 national tragedy should be condemned by all in no uncertain terms, yet her party colleagues have failed miserably to assure the general public there would be a peaceful transition of power in the event of regime change.
Muhyiddin Yassin’s warning of chaos should Pakatan Rakyat come to power is indicative of the fact that the highest echelons within Umno may not rule out the possibility of resorting to extra-constitutional measures, while rule by decree is not a fantasy. It happened in May 1969 under Najib Abdul Razak’s father, and it can happen again.
And what is so special about Najib’s ‘apology’ over BN’s past mistakes that it has captured the attention of all the propagandists masquerading as ‘senior journalists’, including Tay Tian Yan of Sin Chew Daily?
Let’s put Najib’s sincerity under the closest scrutiny, The following is exactly what the apprentice prime minister who has been dodging his political opponents and the rakyat in public debate actually said:
“Bumi mana tak ditimpa hujan, laut mana tidak bergelora, bahagian dunia manakah yang wujudnya orang, atau pimpinan, atau persyarikatan atau parti yang tidak pernah tersandung atau tersalah. Di atas segalanya, sebagai kepimpinan parti dan kerajaan, kami menyusun jari nan sepuluh memohon maaf atas kekhilafan.”
The keyword here is ‘kekhilafan’, which means ‘kesilapan’ in colloquial Malay, or ‘omission’ in plain English. One Indonesian dictionary defines it as ‘kesilapan yang tidak disengaja’, or ‘unintentional omission’.
Has Najib shown penance?
Now, can one search one’s own heart and say Najib has indeed shown penance for all the transgressions committed by the BN government over the past few decades?
Or does one honestly think the wanton use of all the draconian laws – ranging from the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act to the Emergency Ordinance – has been unintentional? Or the series of misuse of public funds and the inability to weed out corruption are merely an ‘omission’?
Or the shocking murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu was simply a negligence on the part of the two ‘accused’, a case in which no motive was found for the killing? Or time and again firing teargas into peaceful crowds was just a ‘mistake’?
Furthermore, when Najib asked ‘in which corner of the world is there a leader or a party which has never made a mistake’, he was practically behaving like Jackie Chan. When Chan’s mistress went public with his extra-marital affair more than ten years ago, the movie star ‘apologised’ by arguing that he had just ‘misbehaved’ as any other man in the world would.
Can one take it as a heartfelt apology?
As Umno’s arrogance and obstinacy are laid bare, the emperor is proven naked again. Portraying Najib as a reformist, as many ‘senior journalists’ have been doing, is a futile attempt, for a real leader must be bold enough to do the impossible, including confronting the conservative forces within the party. Najib has been given more than three years to prove his calibre, but has failed to rise to the challenge at every opportunity.
One may ask: would the alternative be any better given that PAS is bent on implementing its idea of an Islamic state?
The fact is, Malaysia’s public institutions – be it Parliament, the judiciary, the police force or the public service – have been turned into serving only Umno’s interests. The Malay party could not have maintained its rule for so many years without having first subjugated all these institutions.
The next general election represents a golden opportunity for Malaysians to put the country back on the right track; it is also a chance for us to restore the original spirits of the Malaysian federation by introducing an electoral reform that could ensure no one political party is dominant and also giving powers back to the various federal states, epecially Sabah and Sarawak that have been reduced to nothing more than colonies.
To achieve all these noble goals, one must first and foremost stop whining but be courageous enough to get rid of Umno. Anything short of that would only turn out to be a self-fulfiling prophecy: A centenary of Umno’s rule.
JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.