The getting of richness by UMNO’s current and past unprincipled leaders was not part of a grand design by the founding father of Malay Nationalism or for that matter Malay Politics. In the beginning UMNO leaders were resolute in their focus to champion the Malay cause.
But give Mahathir credit for his response to the changing circumstances that he chanced upon with the inception of Barisan Nasional. In the beginning Barisan Nasional was a coalition of three communal parties and the multi ethnic Gerakan. The three - UMNO for Malays, MCA for the Chinese and MIC for the Indians essentially operate in isolation of each other and their strength and weaknesses are mirrored in their abilities to meet the demand of the race that they represent. And here lies the opportunity that Mahathir was quick to recognize and to exploit for himself and for UMNO.
Mahathir stumbled into a situation where power lies essentially in his ability to divide and rule the various races with UMNO, and always UMNO, being the dominant party within Barisan Nasional.
But the ‘impressive’ achievements of Malaysia’s economic development and the rise and rise of Barisan Nasional could not be sustained simply because these impressive ‘achievements ‘ were without solid foundations. They ‘take’ more than what they gave back to the nation and actually created the conditions for the eventual loss of Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Penang to the opposition in the GE of 2008. I believe that Mahathir saw what was coming and left the sinking ship before it started taking in water.
But while the sun was setting on UMNO and Barisan Nasional its political elites continued with their orgy of excesses and remain under the illusion that all power resides within their clutches.
I am sure that 20 years from now if historians were to browsed through pages of the government owned media or watched any archives of the government control TV stations-they would come across numerous references to ‘1 Malaysia’, ‘UMNO for ALL’, ‘UMNO to Reform’ – all pronouncements by UMNO leaders oblivious to the obvious and continuing to behave as though Malaysia was still their domain to rule and plunder.
It was the humiliating abandonment by the Rakyat of Barisan Nasional in the 2008 General Election that proved to be the turning point in UMNO’s perception of itself. Some self-doubt did start to creep in. It started to retreat into its abyss of failures in its promises to the Malays. The people of Malaysia and the Malays in particular told UMNO that it should never again claim that its leadership over the Malays should never be questioned –not without first getting the permission of the Malays themselves to do so again!
Of course the time lag between the effective end of UMNO and the recognition by its members that UMNO’s demise was indeed a reality might prove to be a bit lengthy. Possibly the results of the next GE might start it on its long journey into the sunset of its usefulness to the Malays and to Malaysia. This concept of “recognition lag” by UMNO of its fortunes is understandable because to accept defeat now would mean that they could no longer continue to cling their status quo, which has in the past protected their vested interest and their “right” to untold wealth at the expense of the country.
This change in the balance of power - as manifested in the loss of over 50% of the peoples vote in the last GE-is translated into reality by UMNO’s inability to dictate matters with the major components parties within Barisan – as in MCA and the MIC. Things are spiralling out of control - and it is a vicious circle. The more UMNO shouts to all and sundries about its destiny to represent all of Malaysia – the more the unravelling of MCA and MIC continues to happen. Why can’t UMNO do something to resolve the impasse within these components parties? Because it cannot!
The claim by UMNO to represent everybody in Malaysia makes MCA and MIC irrelevant. What need is there for them if UMNO lays claim to what they are suppose to do. Remember that in the beginning it was Mahathir grand design to divide and rule those within Barisan Nasional? MCA for the Chinese and MIC for the Indians? Now this is no longer relevant with the claim by UMNO that it represent all of Malaysia – no longer just the Malays! To the Malays if UMNO takes it upon itself to be everything to all races – then UMNO no longer champion the Malays.
Thus UMNO now finds itself at the crossroads in it is attempt to reinvent make itself relevant – it does instead makes MCA and MIV irrelevant to the races they represent - and to the Malays it becomes also irrelevant. Where then does UMNO go from here?
Najib finds himself hard press from all sides. MCA and MIC has been abandoned by the very people that they say they represent and they both lack leaders with the ability to put party before self. Within his Cabinet Najib is ineffective. Ministers mostly consist of his peers who in essence have Najib by his balls because they are well aware that Najib strength does not come from within himself but resided within others – and these Ministers have the ability to make or break Najib. Mahathir waits without much patience for Najib to continue to do his biddings - with Mahyuddin as his Machai and this same Mahyuddin considers himself as the “Man who could be king”.
Pakatan Rakyat has more then half of the Rakyat with them and continues to go from strength to strength each day. And the Rakyat…yes the Rakyat are increasingly restless and getting more vocal and pro active in the things they do…damm the internet!
In the middle of all this is Najib – now if only he has the cunning of Mahathir, the resolve of his father Tun Razak, the honesty of Tun Hussein and the humility of Abdullah …maybe, just maybe, he might be able to take UMNO to the next General Election..but then that would be too much to ask of anyone from UMNO –what more of Najib!
So now we wait for UNMO to implode – disintegrate or simply to lie down and surrender. It is all done bar the shouting and the desperate struggle of a once great party to stay afloat and relevant in the times it now finds itself in. The only constant within UMNO is its inability to keep its leaders on side. UMNO needs leaders that could grow old with UMNO and bestows upon their successors their wisdom. However the haste and the clamour of those below them to climb onto the next level for the rich pickings that it promises means that old leaders are discarded before their time. And when discarded these wise leaders leave in disgust and leave UMNO to the vultures that replace them.
And the pity of it all? It is that in the last twenty years, since Mahathir’s ascendency of this throne of materialism and greed, there was no voice of reason or no bearer of the truth from within UMNO that could tell UMNO of the ultimate price that it will ultimately have to pay for these excesses. And so the continuing saga of UMNO will only play itself out when its demise becomes a reality in the not too distant future.