Wednesday, September 1, 2010

UMNO: the long and winding road

The recent Merdeka centre survey showed that UMNO has still a long way to go. Only 12% of the Chinese respondents said they are satisfied with the Government/UMNO. Malays are split 50:50. The Indians- they are not so critical as they are easily swayable.

The survey also said that if PM calls for early elections, he has to project more of himself to win. The gravity of this finding needs to be appreciated. If UMNO's future depends on the weakened shoulders of one person, this means the party is bereft of leadership material. It is reduced to a party forced to manage its image instead of offering convincing direction and policies.

I am sorry to say this- at the moment what Najib has, is the made for TV image and persona of leadership. He is still struggling to impose his leadership substance. And he isn't helped on by his colleagues who are either disinterested or disconnected with his ideas. Or worse, his party members do not understand his leadership direction.
The party UMNO is so discredited. There were 3 main reasons- the leadership is only interested in themselves( read feathering their nests), playing politics and corruption is seen as growing bigger, aided and abetted by the government leadership.
If the party is discredited because of racist chauvinism as asserted by a senior minister, it would have lost its relevance a long time ago. UMNO has always been identified as a Malay chauvinist party. So, why could it stay relevant with the Malays for a long time? That could only suggest that its posturing on Malayness is an accepted trait. UMNO will always be as UMNO is, but what turned Malays and Malaysians against UMNO are the 3 things exposed by the survey; stupid UMNO politicians are interested in feathering their own nests, the level of corruption has reached its tipping point and there is too much politicking brought about by vacuous leadership material.
I have said it before and will repeat it here- the unfortunate truth is that UMNO leaders reached their eminent stature not because of producing great thinking but because they are adept at playing the political game. Hence instead of the cream rising to the top, you have the scum prevailing over others. UMNO is sliding because there are no more good men in leadership capacity.
In short, if elections were to be called early as in next year, UMNO will lose. The revolution that will occur will come about not because NEPish policies are abandoned, but more because UMNO cannot accept losing power.
Can you imagine, life as many UMNO bigwig politicians know for so long is no more? No more pillaging, no more abuses of power, no more avenue for rapacious greed, no more hiding behind your prowess of outshouting your opponents. No more concealing your mediocrity. That will be the end of the world for men and women accustomed to prevailing over others with bullying tactics and out-maneuvering others in political intrigues. These people will incite rebellion because they will find themselves cut off from their power bases and decapitated from wealth creating resources.
If the survey is taken in Pekan, I think the observations will be more correct. It is impossible for Najib to lose there and indeed there Najib enjoys an unassailable stature like Anwar Ibrahim to some of his followers. He can do no wrong.
But a victory alone in Pekan if cancelled out by massive losses elsewhere is of no use. UMNO still loses and that will be the end of Najib's career as PM. The problem is with UMNO and its leadership in general. It is a discredited brand name soiled by self interested leadership, mired in political intrigues and UMNO is seen as a party that promotes corruption.
How can UMNO redeem itself?
Bring in good men in government which means sack the mediocre material. Even a bad system can still be saved by having good people in leadership capacities. Perhaps it was this factor that made UMNO successful in the early days as they were more good leadership material. Honest and sincere leaders believing they could make a difference to the lives of the public. Good leaders were even forgiven for personal weaknesses. Tunku Abdul Rahman and even Tun Razak were partial to intoxicating drinks, by they were nevertheless tolerated because they could lead and because they don't trample over religion and their race.
Restore the people's faith in a party committed to offering the best and talented to the people. Remove all vestiges of ensconced privileges and political rules that impede and frustrate the emergence of new talent. The insistence of no campaigning for party positions is a mockery to the commitment to let diversity of leaders emerge.
Restore the public's faith in the resolve of the government to stem out corruption by going after the big guns. Start by opening the boxes infamously mentioned by one Ezam Mat Noor and go after the 18 high profile cases mentioned by Rais Yatim. Compel him to turn state evidence otherwise charge him for obstructing justice.

Restore the public's faith in our judiciary by first promoting judges of the highest integrity and sound technical knowledge of the law.
Restore the public's faith in the freedom of ideas by giving real press freedom. Allow opposition parties to publish their papers so that the public is accustomed to a contest of ideas and thinking.
And in this 21st century, there is hardly any justification to have a draconian piece of legislation such as the ISA. It is an archaic piece of legislation more relevant in an age of unreason. It is suitable in an age where we stamp our authority by using coercive instruments. In the age of reason, we secure public's faith and belief in us by the force of reason and civil argument.

At the end of the day, good leadership must not only be heard, but must also be seen to operate.

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