Posted by: raishussin | September 18, 2008

Re-Inventing UMNO

Some products have it easy and as toothpastes and deodorants, can re-brand and move on to the next phase of inconsequential life cycles. UMNO doesn’t have the luxury of being inconsequential. Its 2008 avatar decides who runs Malaysia and how.

Every augury indicates this is not the year for a tepid response. We have a few months left to overwhelm our constituents with a proposition that has cross-racial buy-in. To build propositions for a difficult constituency one builds from harsh realities. Palatable and real solutions can be gleaned once facts are laid out.

Facts as perceived by the voting populace don’t look good at first glance or even after a second scrutiny for that matter, encouraging denial and superficialities like re-branding that mock voter intelligence.

UMNO doesn’t own its agenda any longer. On 8 March 2008 Anwar Ibrahim demonstrated he usurped it. He now decides how the public perceives us and we help him do it.

Some of Malaysia’s greatest development occurred under UMNO’s watch, but the public focus is on everything but.

Palatable or not, a potential for changes looms over this election year as significantly as it did in 1969. Up to UMNO to see, grasp and set the big picture.

Palatable or not, and irrespective of subsequent versions (The NDP, The NEP), a perception remains that the original NEP’s inter-ethnic economic policies and wealth re-structuring targets continue to dominate public policy. Like it or not, the NEP is high on the agenda set by Anwar. Palatable or not, his trial is also on top of the agenda and placed there by us. These then consolidate an impression of UMNO in public minds and most of the rest is collateral or us being fatally disingenuous to ourselves.

That irrespective of perceptions the definitive ethnic group’s benign nature was abused in the past is irrefutable. If Anwar Ibrahim usurped UMNO’s agenda this year, the Malay agenda was usurped by the British in an unfortunate past and immigration policies imposed that weren’t similarly fostered on colonies in Australia and New Zealand in a contemporaneous period. Definitive ethnic groups in other immigrant-centric nations like the USA and Canada found it inconceivable to even consider immigration polices that Malays were asked to smile and bear. Unlike Malaya in each of these countries the definitive ethnic group set the rules to get entrants past the gate. And the rules are unsurprisingly similar. Learn the language, become part of the culture, get co-opted. This never happened here until Independence and the special status of Malays accorded by the British as balm to an unnecessary injury was not enough. What ever one may say about 1969, the NEP was needed to augment an insufficient remedy.

No Malay therefore need be apologetic for the NEP and the Bumiputra policy to enable Malaysia’s definitive ethnic group regain a manifest locus standee other definitive peoples took for granted. To regain a stolen 2008 agenda however and to enable UMNO offer its cross-racial constituency an overwhelming argument against the Opposition we need to re-invent ourselves and our NEP. A change to the NEP is Step One towards killing an erroneous perception, re-inventing ourselves and securing the nation’s future.

In a broad sweep to win hearts and minds across our three pit-stops the NEP could do with modifications to allow cross-racial economic needs as criteria for eligibility. This is what the opposition implies as planned in its charter and we need it taken away from them because it is ours and because the time anyway has come for this change. Else such a significant Malay vote would not nest in Anwar Ibrahim’s pocket. Let’s take our people back. Our own economically disadvantaged along with their Chinese and Indian brethren. The uneasy feeling in Perak’s Chinese population under current rule for example, suggests they would come back to MCA/UMNO given half a chance. They await a simple but effective gesture of good faith as do the Indians. The Malays, the vast majority, do want an effective redress of economic imbalances but suspect it has more to it than simply addressing a Chinese economic hegemony. They too await a sign of good faith before casting votes. So let’s give it and re-capture our agenda from the usurper.

This is how UMNO re-invents itself for a 21st Century command performance. Any solution without some sort of change to the NEP is a placebo to placate minds until the election results hit us in the collective solar plexus.



  1. Do you really speak for UMNO? Can they really be this forward thinking? I know Chinese can be pushy at times but your argument for the definitive ethnic group makes a good point.

    Having said that, times up for belabouring the point. We as a nation have to move past the past and yes, change the NEP to allow advantage to the economically disfranchised of ALL ethnic groups.

    That one change will take the wind out of Anwar’s sails and bring UMNO back again. However, you have to manage the Kris-wielding nutjobs in your Party. Best of luck with that.

  2. Call me a pessimist (like thousands of others in Malaysia) but I believe selfish values are so entrenched in UMNO that a meaningful change in the culture of the party will take at least one generation. It’s well and good for the leaders to say the right things but is the core of UMNO ready for the change? I think not.

    UMNO’s worst enemy is not Pakatan Rakyat but itself. If only UMNO could become a slightly better party, people will be ready to give it (and Barisan) another chance.

    Malaysia and Barisan are not yet ready for a single multi racial party (despite the existence of a few and Pak Lah’s recent suggestion) and UMNO needs to continue its struggles, not for itself but for the Malays, for a change.

  3. Can you tell us more about this? I’d love to find out some additional information.

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