THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Who prevails in Umno?
(The Malaysian Insider) – Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah can talk about a better Malaysia, and we don’t doubt his sincerity. He has been principled on many issues, and speaks of the knowledge of authority, not the authority of knowledge.
That is the gist of his speech this past week in Melbourne.
“It’s not about numbers, it’s about qualitative change. There are many paths to a better Malaysia,” he told a mixed audience of about 130 at the annual Seminar Pembangunan Insan (Seminar on Human Development) at Melbourne Umno Club (KUAM) on Thursday.
Saifuddin identified four features for the participatory democracy needed to respond to today’s new social consciousness, especially among the young — integrity, governance, innovations in democracy, and progressive political thought.
Do the others in Umno or Barisan Nasional (BN) speak of the same things?
Does he speak for Umno or BN for that matter?
The thing is, Saifuddin is of a very small minority in Umno. In fact he stands alone, and is not popular in the party that feels its dominance is an entitlement, a birthright.
And the names he mentioned in his talk in Melbourne — Khairy Jamaluddin and Gan Ping Siew — are not in his class when speaking about change, be it in Putrajaya or within their parties.
The question is this: who has more sway in Putrajaya: Saifuddin or the likes of Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz or Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein or even Datuk Ahmad Maslan?
And who prevails in Umno? At this point in time, it sure doesn’t look like its Saifuddin or those like him.
That was The Malaysian Insider Editorial today, and a very valid observation and pertinent questions, may I add. Nevertheless, we all know the answer to those questions. Saifuddin Abdullah speaks for the minority, not the majority. And the majority definitely holds the opposite view to Saifuddin’s. Should Saifuddin, therefore, even bother to speak up since his is the minority view and his minority view is not going to change anything?
But then is this not always the case? The minority would normally never dare speak up. Take Saifuddin’s case as an example. Those in Umno brand him as a Trojan horse. They call him a mole. They allege that he is a Pakatan Rakyat supporter who is trying to sabotage Umno from the inside. They consider him a traitor who is waiting to leave Umno to join the opposition. And because of that he would most likely not be chosen to contest the next election.
The opposition would also whack him. They will say he is not sincere. If he is sincere why is he still in Umno? He should leave Umno now and join the opposition.
Then, when he does leave Umno to join the opposition, he would still get whacked.
Umno will say he is a frustrated person (gulungan keciwa) who left Umno to join the opposition because he is not going to be chosen to contest the next election. The opposition supporters will say the same thing and will speculate that he is an Umno mole who will probably jump back to Umno in the event of a hung Parliament.
The bottom line is, whatever you say and do can never be right. They will still have something to say about you. And being in the minority means you will get whacked by both sides. It is better you remain in the majority, either pro-government or pro-opposition.
If you are in the opposition and you criticise the opposition you will get whacked. If you are in the government and you criticise the government you will get whacked. Hence you either take the side of the government or you take the side of the opposition and then suck up to one side or the other. Then you become a hero.
That, I suppose, is the Malaysian way. That is the Malaysian mindset. You follow the herd. Either you are a cow or you are a goat. And you just moo or bleat when others do, in sync and in tempo with the others. You do not meow in a group that moos or bleats. They will whack you to kingdom come.
And that proves Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s theory that most people, Malaysians included, are like herd. They buy and sell property and shares like herd as well. When people buy they buy. When people sell they sell. Fundamentals play no part in your investment and divestment decisions. You just follow what others do.
And hence would Malaysian politics be any different? If you think that Barisan Nasional is going to win you will vote Barisan Nasional. If you think that Pakatan Rakyat is going to win you will vote Pakatan Rakyat.
This happened in 1999. It happened in 2004. And it happened again in 2008.
Most people would like to believe that Pakatan Rakyat performed the way it did in 2008 because the people already had enough of Barisan Nasional and just wanted a change after half a century of the same government. I hope you do not believe this because if you do then you are going to be in for a rude shock.
No, that was not the reason why 2008 turned out the way it did. People already felt the way they did in 2008 since way back in 1998, ten years before that. The only thing is that most people did not dare act on what they felt because they thought they were in the minority. And people do not like being in the minority. They want to be in the majority.
In 1998, it was mainly the Malays who swung. And they swung because they felt that the Malays who were going to swing were in the majority. And that proved true the following year in the 1999 general election.
The non-Malays I spoke to back in 1998-1999 also felt the same way as the Malays felt. But they were not confident that the swing was large enough. They were worried that the swing would be too small and hence if they joined those who vote against the government they might be in the minority. And the non-Malays told me that it is very dangerous to be in the minority. It is safer to be in the majority. Hence even if they hate Barisan Nasional they would still vote for Barisan Nasional just to be safe.
In 2004, it appeared like the hate factor had disappeared. The people were not really anti-Barisan Nasional as much as they were anti-Dr Mahathir. And the issue against Dr Mahathir was what he did to Anwar Ibrahim. Hence 1999 was a reflection of the Dr Mahathir hate factor.
But Dr Mahathir had already resigned and there was talk that Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would release Anwar soon after the 11th General Election of March 2004. Hence the Malays are no longer angry with Umno.
Against that backdrop, most likely the Malays would swing back to Umno. So, if the non-Malays voted opposition while the Malays voted Barisan Nasional, the non-Malays will be in the minority. So, again, it would be safer to vote Barisan Nasional, just in case.
And that was exactly what happened in 2004. The Malays swung back to Umno and PAS lost Terengganu and held on to Kelantan with a one-seat majority in the State Assembly.
Phew, lucky the non-Malays did not vote opposition. So they were right for not voting opposition after all. If they did they would be in deep shit. But they still hated Umno and Barisan Nasional though. It is just they did not vote opposition for safety reasons.
Then, in 2007, against the backdrop of the Bersih and Hindaf rallies in November that same year, it appeared like those opposed to the government were in the majority, or at least a large minority. And it appeared like those opposed to the government were not confined to just one race but cut across the board to include all the races. Even Tun Dr Mahathir was opposed to the government. He resigned from Umno and campaigned all over Malaysia to tell the Umno members to not vote for Umno.
It looked like this time it was for real. Many Umno people even supported and joined the Bersih march in November 2007. DAP and PAS members and some leaders also met up with Umno people who supported the move that Umno must be taught a lesson in the general election. There were just so many anti-Umno Umno members and leaders.
This anti-Umno movement was no longer just an opposition thing. Umno people and leaders were against Umno as well. Tun Dr Mahathir himself was against Umno. Umno is finished. It is time everyone voted Pakatan Rakyat. We are now in the majority.
Then we went round the country to speak at ceramahs and announced that Barisan Nasional was going to lose between 80-100 Parliament seats. They were also going to lose five states and probably rule in two states with a simple majority. Barisan Nasional is finished. Even Umno people and its leaders support the opposition. We told the tens of thousands in the audience this will definitely happen. We even named the states that were going to fall to the opposition.
My friends told me I was crazy. “What are you going to do if your prediction does not come true?” they asked me. “Well, I suppose I will quietly leave the country,” I joked. “Never fear, though,” I told them. “There is such a thing called a self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough people believe it, it will happen.”
It is just like the stock market or property market. If enough people believe that in January next year the market is going to collapse it will collapse. And it will collapse because people will panic and will sell. So it is the panicking and selling that actually triggers the collapse. That is how self-fulfilling prophecies work.
The people from Sabah and Sarawak were quite sore with us from West Malaysia. We should have gone to East Malaysia and also tell the voters there that Barisan Nasional was going to get whacked, they lamented. The East Malaysian voters did not think it would happen. So they voted Barisan Nasional because they thought the swing is not going to be large enough. If they had known that the swing was actually bigger than they thought then they too would have voted opposition.
Hence the people from East Malaysia would have also followed the herd if they had known. The only thing is they did not know that there was a herd. And that was why they stuck with Barisan Nasional.
The question now is: do the people believe that the swing is still there? Do they believe that the swing is even larger now than in 2008? If they believe that the swing is larger it is going to get larger. But if they believe that the swing has gone back to Barisan Nasional then it will swing back to Barisan Nasional. People have herd mentality and they will follow the herd. They do not want to be in the minority
I will stop here for now and maybe continue later with part 2 of ‘Like a trapped animal’ and relate what is going to make the people, in particular the Malays, vote Umno.