Not all Malays are equal, some more so than others

"For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them." - Thomas More (Utopia)

My pro-establishment friends get extremely upset whenever I throw around the term ‘Umnoputra'. "A complete, mischaracterisation of the Malay struggle," they write in emails in response to articles I have written.

Understand now that as someone who has drawn politically incorrect lines in the racial sands of Malaysian politics, I am not sympathetic to the idea that racial preoccupations should be dismissed outright. I do believe that there is a ‘Malay struggle' going on in the greater Malay polity but the struggle is a reaction against the dereliction of duty that a sizeable faction of the Malay community accuses Umno of.

NONEI know a few former and current influential Umno members and the difference between the two is that the latter are completely out of touch with the conflicting sentiments of the average Malaysian but more importantly of the average Malay. You could chalk this up to the divergent Umno cultural differences or maybe as I have argued before that sycophancy is rewarded in the so-called Umno Baru.

Nowhere is the ‘class' difference more apparent than in the recent expose of land deals by the Pakatan Rakyat administration in Selangor, where nobody is shocked to discover that Umno groupies are given a 12 percent discount when they purchase property "cultivated" by Umno.

I wonder what the other component parties in BN think of this. Surely, the MCA would have something to say about it, notwithstanding the ‘bumiputera' discount. The MIC on the other hand is not even worth mentioning. Moreover, I wonder does this Umno discount apply to the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (Kimma), which has achieved ‘non-voting/observer' status in Umno?

Does ‘big brother' give their little sibling discounts since it would seem (especially in Penang) the most vociferous defenders of Malay rights are from the Indian Muslim community? To say nothing of the fact that by giving Umno members a discount and not including the other non-Umno aligned Malays a taste from the gravy train, points to a very real split within the Malay community engendered by Umno.

Left out of Umno's patronage

So this Umno sham of protecting Malay rights is revealed and the Malays who do not benefit from Umno patronage are lumped with the other non-desirable ‘pendatangs'. However, this is nothing new.

Malays who for whatever reason are unwelcome on the Umno gravy train for years have been complaining that they have been marginalised under the Umno watch, much like their fellow non-Malay citizens but the sad reality is that the discourse is constructed in such a way that racialists have a field day extending the Umnoputra stereotype to every Malay.

Thankfully, this is changing. Despite the many criticism hurled at Pakatan Rakyat, collectively what they have managed to do is frame the conflict (on better days) as one of a class not race. In other words, Malaysia is divided along class lines with Umno being a racial oligarchy with the rest of us as some kind of serf class, only here to realise the aspirations of Umno plutocrats.

What I find interesting though is the response of the old school Umno men and women, who view the current class struggle with bewilderment. Many of these men and women were present when Felda schemes (for example) were functional enterprises staffed by non-Malays and Malays who viewed such endeavours as essential in furthering the goals of the social contract and uplifting a disenfranchised community.

These Malaysians (Malay and non-Malay) viewed paternalistic laws as a safeguard against provocations by either side of the political divide. As one self-described Umno woman, who in another life was part of an education system which favoured English as a tool to developed nation status, said:

NONE"Take this charlatan, Ibrahim Ali. If the authorities wanted to send a message that sensitivities must be protected, they would have sent balaclava-clad officers to his house in the dead of the night and bundled him up in an unmarked car. Why not? This is what they have done to other agitators. In this case, he mocks the laws. I am glad I am out of it. Such are the unsavoury characters who are the face of Umno."

I have no ideas who are the current spin-doctors or strategists of Umno or even if they are all working on the same page but like the Bush administration post-9/11, they seem to be living in an era of unreality.

The wooing of Chinese tycoons

Take Prime Minister Najib Razak's courting of Chinese tycoons. This very image conjures up a bygone era where racial preoccupation, or more specifically Chinese preoccupations, where serviced by the plutocrats who held sway in MCA.

As I have argued before, the needs of the Chinese community have changed and through their subservience to Umno, the MCA have become the fat cats who had no problem licking the cream but were negligent in carrying out their duties to the community they were supposed to represent.

NONENajib, in a Suharto-like moment, is extolling these bottom feeders that Umno was the only way to go, but ignores the fact that the alternative alliance is not only financed by popular will but also covertly by the very business interests that Najib seems to think holds sway over the community.

It only partially worked for Suharto who was a shrewder political operative than anything Umno could come up with, but successive Indonesian administrations discovered the folly of actively encouraging the perception that race and money as a political bargaining chip would create a harmonious multiracial/religious polity.

It would have been more constructive if Najib had delivered his speech from a pulpit instead of a gaudy dinner (I am assuming it would have been gaudy) if he wanted to attract a certain section of the Chinese vote.

After all, the DAP has locked down the Chinese/Christian vote and has made significant inroads in Sarawak by pursuing themes of religious oppression (engineered by Umno). In the Peninsular, DAP has successfully made the case with its coalition partners that issues such as the environment (Lynas) , religious freedom (the ‘Allah' issue) and compromised security apparatus (Teoh Beng Hock, et al) are human rights issues which should be the concern of everyone, not only those in the Chinese community.

Even though in the case of Lynas and the ‘Allah' issue for instance, it is a certain vocal section of the Chinese community which is leading the cause. So, not only is the MCA out of touch with the Chinese community, so it would seem is Umno.

Fomenting divisions is Umno's art

Umno may be confident that the vote banks in Sarawak and Sabah would ensure that they remain in power, which would probably explain why Najib is involved in a vicious power struggle with the vultures who subscribe to the go-at-it-alone policy. I do wonder though that even if the "Malay numbers" are enough to maintain hegemony, the reality on the Malay ground would ensure that Umno's dream of perpetual rule would be in jeopardy.

I wrote about how the armed forces were mired in the Umno quagmire. The recent revelations by former army deputy chief Lt-Gen (Rtd) Abdul Ghafir Abdul Hamid that military facilities and equipment were like "third world facilities" is evidence that the culture of corruption or "leakages", to use a Khairy Jamaluddin euphemism, has eroded the goodwill of a certain section of the Malay polity.

When a now retired air force general makes the Umno pitch that the armed forces personnel should be grateful to the ruling coalition for "taking care" of them and the resources available to armed forces personal are the envy of most countries conflicts with the reality that this general exposes, one has to wonder how long can Umno rely on the gratitude of a bloated civil and military service whose welfare Umno seems disinterested in?

NONESplitting communities and reinforcing prejudices is what Umno really excels at. Only now, a foreign president has denounced what we Malaysians have known all along. Of Najib's visit to Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbasdeclared, "[The visit] undermines Palestinian representation and reinforces the division and does not serve Palestinian interests."

At the end of the day, the only interests Umno serves is its own. Every institution is compromised. The judiciary seems to be slowly waking up but in this period of prolonged shadow play, everything is suspect. Eventually the gravy train will stop and those unlucky Umnoputra passengers left onboard will be at the mercy of their own splintered community with nothing left to lose.

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