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A party confused

  • Umno appears to be a party in a state of confusion right now. Their recently concluded General Assembly illustrates this very clearly.

By Azmi Sharom

Umno appears to be a party in a state of confusion right now. Their recently concluded General Assembly illustrates this very clearly.

Their president and his supporters started off with stating that they are willing to form a unity government with any political party, including those in power. And then within a few short days he says that the matter is closed. This is a very rapid turnaround which suggests to me that they don't really have any strong ideas as to how to move forward.

The suggestion of a unity party sounds pretty desperate because the only reason to have a unity party is if there is a hung parliament or if the country is facing some sort of imminent crisis which requires all parties to work together. Neither of this is the case.

It would seem that Umno, so used to power after all these years, can't seem to get their heads round the fact that the people have voted against them and that the only real way to get back power is to win round the majority of voters once more. Begging for scraps at the government's table is not the way.

Maybe they realized this, hence the 180-degree change.

In order to win power once more, ideally they should be focusing on how they can prove themselves to be better than the current government. I don't think this is possible in the near future. Look at their shadow cabinet. It is a good idea to have one but it is also full of politicians who represent the old guard.

Not only are some of these people tainted by being representative of Umno's most excessive and boorish behavior, the fact that these are the only people they can call upon suggest that there has been no change in their mind-set and they have no new ideas to contribute.

This being the case, they will most definitely fall back on what they do best. Harp on and on and on about race and religion. Shouting as loudly as possible that they are the ones who are the saviors of Malays and Islam. Will this be successful? To a certain extent yes it will.

There are many who really do think that Malays are entitled to everything in the country and everyone else are second class citizens. And religion is a wonderful tool to be used by the unscrupulous because it is such an emotive subject that people tend not to think when it is raised.

Hardcore Umno supporters and hard-core bigots will definitely continue to support such a call. There is nothing that can be done with these folks. After all they are the ones still convinced that their former president has done no wrong.

It is normal in any democracy to have people who are unmovable. Their political views are set in stone and there can be no changing that. However, not everyone is like this and it is these people who need convincing.

Some in the ruling party, like Anwar Ibrahim has chosen to make sounds that are eerily familiar to that of Umno, going on as he does about the dangers of liberal people and how Malays need to be protected. I personally think this is a wrong approach completely as you are merely pandering to the lowest common denominator.

It would be nice to think that the PH can offer a philosophically different vision for the people of this country. But that is a pipe dream. Apart from the PSM and perhaps PAS, political parties in this country are extremely pragmatic and not philosophical.

This being the case, the PH government need to prove that their form of pragmatism is the one that will ensure peace and prosperity and justice for all the people in this country. Then it wouldn't matter what kind of racial and religious tricks Umno will get up to, the majority of the Malaysian people, I am sure will rather know that they and their children have a good future.

(Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.)



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