All the Umno president’s men - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, April 23, 2018
Malaysiakini : “For the so-called winners of the much-disputed general election,
Umno, and rest assured Umno is the only winner; the next big struggle
is the internal conflict that would see a clash between the various
power groups to determine who controls the gravy train.” – ‘Fear and loathing in Putrajaya’
COMMENT | Just after the 2013 general elections, in ‘Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya’, I wrote of how Umno was slowly imploding after the “bad win”. It was a time when the current Pakatan Harapan PM-designate had not
chosen to change the narrative and was going on about how the Chinese
community had rejected the hand of Malay friendship, that the DAP
strategy was making the Chinese community hate the Malay community, and
Umno potentates were complaining about how they were backstabbed. This
was the time when Umno was briefly floating around the idea of “reconciliation” with PAS, and the MCA was considering rejecting cabinet
posts in the new Umno regime.
For Umno, the enemy has always been within. The race baiting and the
religious provocation, while systemic, has always been subservient to
the realpolitik that Umno survives because its political operatives have
managed to control the gravy train through a system of patronage and
whatever cultural traits that a strongman like former premier Dr
Mahathir Mohamad have attributed to the community.
The recent Singapore’s Straits Times article claiming that
an early BN candidate list was scrapped because of fears of internal
sabotage in Umno is further evidence of the slow implosion of Umno which
began in the last election, could change the political landscape of
this country. From the article – “Najib had apparently decided to ditch
the plan, after BN sensed unrest among its core group of Malay
As I claimed in an earlier piece, from what I can gather from Umno
political insiders, propagandists and those familiar with Umno politics,
the grand Umno poobah does not really fear a Malay tsunami but revolt
from his base. Revolt takes on many forms which, of course, includes the
moves by Mahathir sleepers within Umno to destabilise the current Umno
president. This was the fear of many Umno insiders who spoke to me and
which I have written in many articles about the slowly disintegrating
Umno warlords and Malay establishment structures realise that Umno is
weak because the man who leads Umno is mired in financial scandals,
which although complicated, plays well with urban voters who live in the
cash cows that Umno wishes to milk. While Umno warlords seek to
maintain their status, Malay establishment figures are considering their
option of throwing in with a newly-minted Malay power structure to
ensure the idea of ‘ketuananism’ sustains in these fast-changing times. Umno handles dissent rather differently than the opposition. While
DAP political operatives who find themselves out in the cold have no
support from either opposition supporters or cabals within the DAP, when
an Umno political operative finds himself/herself in a similar
situation, there are consequences for the hegemon.
The ousted political operative can rely on sources that depending on
how they have managed to finesse the warlords and take care of their
home turfs, ensure that Umno receives a black eye when it comes to its
internal elections and general elections. Special elections are a
favourite time to settles grudges, by the way. As for the rest of the
"Malay" based opposition parties, dissent and betrayal are the norm.
They expect these things to happen.
“Internal sabotage” is what Umno fears the most, which is why Umno
leaders have always embraced former comrades with open arms and always
managed to spin political infighting as a “family thing” as opposed to
the reality that the Umno grand poobah’s role has always been to keep
the gravy train on track with minimal disruption to distribution.
Different this time
The moves by the 16 Umno members to “dissolve” Umno and the public
drama of Umno political operatives weighing in, is merely a twisted joke
by the old maverick to remind Umno that payback is a bitch. This, of
course, was the great fear of Umno operatives who, in past articles,
related (to me) their concerns of sleepers who would disrupt the plans
of the Umno mothership before the general elections.
The old maverick was subjected to this and he created a new, more
virulent kind of Umno. The Najib regime, of course, has no stomach for
these kinds of rejoinders. They understand that they are in no position
to recreate Umno (like Mahathir did) because the leadership is weak and
the wolves are baying at the door. I do not think anything will come of
this legal action by the Umno 16, and it would merely be another stain
on Umno legitimacy if Umno wins this general election.
This time though Umno's racial politics is a little different. I
mentioned this in passing in earlier articles that there is a growing
clamour in Umno that it should dispense with all this kowtowing to the
fig leaf of multiracial participation and take this election with the
Malay vote. After all, nobody in Umno takes PAS seriously - which to my
mind is a mistake – and their participation in this election, either by
design or chance, as spoilers would benefit Umno.
Coupled with the deep Islamic state, these voices claim that Umno has
led this country all these years and they believe that Umno can act as
its own voice of moderation on racial and religious issues. In other
words, they do not really see the MCA or MIC as anything more that
ornaments which with each passing day, it is obvious that they have lost
the non-Malay vote.
– “Either way, with all the gerrymandering, abuse of electoral
institutions and cash politics, what passes for democracy in this
country will continue with the Umno hegemon secure in the knowledge that
they have bested one of its best and brightest – okay, the only best
and brightest (Mahathir) – and secure in the knowledge that their
hegemony will never again, or at least most probably will never, be
threatened by the split in the Malay community with the collusion of
non-Malay voting blocks.”
The existential question posed by these voices is that, does Umno
need non-Malay votes to survive? Once and for all, this election – to
their mind – will determine if the Malays stand with them or not. They point to the old maverick going on international news programmes
claiming that Najib is a “monster”. They point to how the DAP wants to
destroy the MCA and Gerakan. They point to the way how opposition
leadership, clergy and messages on social media make statements
challenging the superiority of Islam and ‘ketuanan Melayu’.
They see a split in the Malay community in the Peninsula which they
have not witnessed before. They fear for their vote banks in Sabah and
Sarawak. But most of all, they fear that the old maverick will hand the
keys of their destruction to political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim.
These people ask, why should it be incumbent on Umno to save these
political parties when what is needed is final showdown which determines
– they believe – that only Umno is needed to run this country. After
all, they argue this is already so in substance, if not in form. There
is nothing the establishment can say - even if true - about the state of
this country that would appease the demographic that wants them out.
As one Umno political insider lamented, if Umno loses this election,
it would not be because of anything the opposition did but because of
what Najib did not do.
The problem is that the current Umno grand poobah is in a zugzwang.