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7:12pm 18/03/2022
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I am not amused
By:Mohsin Abdullah

I don’t know if there’s anything sadder than saying something intended to be serious but ended sounding funny.

I wonder because some things brought forth by Umno folks at its annual general assemblies can be ticklish, although meant to be dead serious. Year in year out.

At this year’s assembly, Puteri Umno chief Zahida Zarik Khan, making her policy speech at the opening of the wing’s convention, highlighted the male reproductive glands to put her message across.

Zahida wanted to tell all and sundry in particular the Umno leadership not to be afraid in calling for GE15 soonest possible “to redeem lost pride” and allow her wing to take on the opposition as Puteri Umno “is ready”.

Now we know Umno people have always used the rostrum to display bravado, a show of boldness aimed to impress.

And for the Puteri Umno chief, well she chose to say this: “Don’t say we are young women or weak Puteri, we can be more manly than some of the men here. Our balls can be bigger than yours.” Greeted by cheers of the Puteri delegates.

I don’t know if her so-called “strong” message is being taken seriously by party leaders and the Umno fraternity or just dismissed as a “sick and obscene” joke.

To at least one observer, such an “analogy” is unbecoming of a young tudung-clad Muslim lady from a party claiming to be defenders of Islam and the Malay race, going on to ask “is this what it has come to?”

I only have this to say. I do not find her remarks funny nor serious. I am not amused.

Moving on to the speech by Umno Youth head Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, he said Pemuda Umno want the people’s mandate to be returned.

Fine and good. Great even. And he continued his speech saying any “kerajaan pintu belakang” or back door government must be rejected.

I’m sure all of us agree with the youth chief. The only thing is, wasn’t his beloved Umno involved heavily in the political coup called Sheraton Move back in February 2020? Wasn’t Umno part of the Muhyiddin Yassin administration labelled by many a “back door government”?

And what about the current government helmed by Ismail Sabri Yaakob? For sure it was not elected via election and made up many from the Muhyiddin administration.

So what can we make of such remarks by the Ketua Pemuda? I am not amused if you ask me.

Opening the Pemuda, Wanita and Puteri assemblies was, in accordance to Umno tradition, the deputy president.

The present deputy president is the popular Mohamad Hasan, commonly known as Tok Mat.

It was a lengthy speech (worthy of a deputy president), a good one actually, touching several issues which not only the Pemuda, Wanita and Puteri wings must address, but the entire party!

I can’t help but wonder if all this talk of Umno needing to be moderate and fair to all races has got anything to do with GE15.

One aspect which I find rather “interesting” was when Mohamad spoke of Umno’s survival which he said “hinges on its ability to win the support of non-Malays.”

Mohamad said Malay votes alone are not enough to form a government, let alone a stable one. But isn’t this stating the obvious? I mean one doesn’t have to be a political genius to know that. Right?

Anyway, Tok Mat also said the “reality is that Umno cannot rely on its allies alone to secure the support of non-Malays”.

This was reported by the media. I did not make it up.

So, can I say Mohamad is saying or insinuating Umno allies (that would be MCA and MIC) are not good enough, not doing enough or simply cannot help Umno rope in non-Malay votes?

Hence, according to him, Umno must have its own strategy that the party is moderate, not extreme, celebrates diversity and can ensure stability.

“This is what Umno offered to non-Malays under the leadership of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail Rahman, Tun Hussein Onn until Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad era. A nationalist party with a diverse and fair image,” Mohamad was quoted saying by news portal FMT.

Interestingly he mentioned Dr Ismail. The late Ismail was deputy Umno president, never president.

Equally interestingly, Mohamad did not mention Datuk Seri Najib Razak who until 2018 was party president. Nor did he mention Ismail Sabri for that matter, although the current administration is not a total Umno set-up and Ismail is only an Umno vice president.

As to what Umno has been offering all this while to non-Malays, the question is, has the party delivered on the “offers”?

I’ll leave it to the non-Malays to answer that. But to be fair, as I see it, Umno did provide stability to the country. As for being “moderate, not extreme and celebrates diversity”, I can only say the party is all that only sparingly – as and when, off and on.

But according to Tok Mat, the challenge for the party now is managing what he sees as “prejudice” against Umno.

That would mean the rakyat, non-Malays and even Malays who perceive Umno as not moderate and extreme, are in the eyes of Mohamad being “prejudiced” against the party.

But here’s the thing. And I say this as a Malay. Umno has always claimed to be the champion of the Malay race. They have been telling the Malays that only they can fight for the Malay cause. Without them, they say, the Malays would be “finished, eaten up by the non-Malays, in particular the Chinese, in their motherland”.

Therefore, to live up to all that (for want of a better word) “rhetoric”, Umno must and has carried itself as a strong Malay party fighting for the well-being of the Malays.

And they keep on talking about Ketuanan Melayu when it should be “Ketuanan Umno”. And the Ketuanan Melayu strategy worked not total but to a great extent. And it’s no denying that Umno did provide to Malay needs. Alright, some Malays.

And what did they do when they lost power in 2018? They formed Muafakat Nasional with long-time rival PAS in the name of “Malay Muslim unity”, a move welcomed by many Malays but frightened non-Malays.

Umno and PAS are at odds now and Muafakat Nasional is as good as dead.

But in politics, we can never know what’s in store. We’re talking political survival here.

I need to point out that I am not accusing Umno of neglecting the non-Malays entirely, or discriminating the non-Malays per se… But there is always a line to separate Malays and non-Malays. After all, it is a Malay party!

The leaning is of course towards the Malays, and the Malays expect preferential treatment.

No fault of theirs because it is Umno which has been drumming or whipping up sentiment.

To show it celebrates diversity, there’s the non-Malay partners or parties if you like. But the partners more often than not toe the line and know who the boss is.

Of course, they are issues along the way. The non-Malay partners will have to show their mettle in taking care of their communities’ interests. And Umno will at times give in but most of the time show they are in control and cannot be cowed.

Right or wrong, this is politics and its strategies. This is reality!

Even if Umno would want to discard all that and heed the call by Mohamad, can the party do it?

I would say many in Umno will not abandon their long-tested strategies. Chances are the Malays who have been “conditioned” by the party would themselves turn against them.

And I can’t help but wonder if all this talk of Umno needing to be moderate and fair to all races has got anything to do with GE15. Many believe it will be held sooner and not later.

Still, I wish Tok Mat all the best in making his, should I say, dream come true.

If only Umno had allowed Datuk Onn Jaffar to open its doors to all Malayans long, long time ago. Perhaps they had their reasons back then. But I can only say if only…

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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