Monday, October 12, 2009

Umno Won Bagan Pinang. Who Lost?

Umno President and Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, slumped on the leeward side of Isa Samad’s landslide victory in the Bagan Pinang by-election on Oct. 11, suffers a popularity downslide he may find difficult to overcome as he plans to dissolve parliament next year for a quick grab of his own mandate to rule.

Najib had taken over a corrupt Umno. Unless purged, the party no longer made sense as a nationalist organization and would stand to lose more and more members to the Pas and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Anwar Ibrahim had mounted to overtake Umno.

Isa Samad, Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Negeri Sembilan for 22 years, found guilty of buying votes to win as party vice-president in 2004, has now successfully made a tainted second coming, the taint a costly color that Najib had taken to win in the ninth by-election since the general elections on 8 March 2008.
Umno and the BN had lost the remaining eight.

Even if Isa was clearly in control of the constituency and could scuttle Umno in the by-election, a lot of people agreed with former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, when he openly attempted to persuade Najib not to choose the tainted Isa as candidate.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who contested Mahathir for Umno president in 1987 and narrowly lost, wrote on the eve of the by-election it’s better for Umno to lose rather than “affirm corruption” should Isa win.

Now that Isa has won by a record 5,435 votes, it is Najib who stands as a casualty.

He caused the party to reel under a weight it may not be able to carry through the next general elections. Umno cannot even be classified anymore as a nationalist party the Malays can trust to take care of their interests.

Many party divisions have been bought and are controlled by money-laden contractors and businessmen since vote-buying, or “money politics”, became rampant in Umno from sometime in the mid-1980s.

After suggestions to purge the party of the corrupt have fallen on deaf ear, the resurrection of Isa Samad on Oct. 11 seemed to have spaced out all alternatives to regime change, making it pertinent for my former teacher, Gamany of Daim and Gamany (now retired) to meet me to discuss some matters of ideological vehemence in the Opposition, the Pakatan Rakyat.

Gamany was a member of the PSRM and he agreed Kassim Ahmad's helmanship of the party for 18 years was senseless.

We areed even if there is still a chance for Umno and the BN to survive by an internal putsch, the possibility did not interest Gamany and the first thing Gamany asked when we met at Restoran Jamek in Kuala Lumpur was whether or not I could accept PKR’s Marhaenism as a suitable ideological base.

I had earlier suggested we use the broader Qur'anic class of Mustaz’afin (Oppressed/ Dispossessed/ Exploited) and the class of Mustakbirin (Oppressor/Exploiter/Corrupt) in socio-historical conflict to bridge the ideological divide between the Pas, PKR and DAP in the Opposition. (see here)

Since our purpose for an ideology would be to provide for coherence and cohesion while defining objectives, priorities and methods, whatever we decide should be something that can last a long time and not become merely a convenient adoption and adaptation that bears no relevance to our historical mission and society.

Marhaenism, whatever Sukarno had conceived and introduced it for, should be conveyed within the scope of historical materialism.

What we get is the petty traders and peasants who owned some scraps of capital but who would be badly mauled by a change in any of the factors of production, or merely by an increase of taxes or rent.

In our society we have 48 percent of landless farmers (in KADA and KEMUBU for example) and the social dynamics issued from the numbers do not favor Marhaenism.

Our landscape differ from the little patches of terraced rice-fields in Java Sukarno had seen fit to use as a means to enhance his NASAKOM (Nationalisme-Islam-Komunisme) of his Guided Democracy which lasted until his overthrow in 1965.

We need something that can provide for coherence and cohesion while striding distinctly above the communal and sectarian drawbacks of our own plural makeup, the likes of which would have been shunned by heaven and hell had these places been pre-informed in any detail about Malaysia.

Gamany did not worry about returning to a purely proletarian workout seeing that could inspire more Bangladeshi, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Myanmar workers in Malaysia than the sum total of the Malaysian blue-collar labor force.

So I suggested we can do with the scriptural generalizations and hone those into social stratifications and identities to display a broad ideological understanding as Ali Shariati had done in Iran during the Islamic Revolution that ended with the fall of the Pahlavi in 1979.

Gamany asked me what I thought of the DAP reviving the Chin Peng-Abdullah CD model of relationship between the Chinese-dominated MCP and the small 10th. Malay Regiment and I answered we can do better by aspiring to override the communalism.

Malays in Malaysia generally remain averse to socialism because of the anti-Malay policy of the MPAJA (Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army) during the Japanese Occupation.

Abdullah CD hailed from Lambor Kiri, a village several miles upriver from Pasir Salak where J.W.W. Birch was killed in the early years of the British Residential System. He and many of his Malay compatriots were anti-colonial first and last, or so his family members assumed of him.

There we stopped. Gamany and I shall meet again.

Since neither of us wish for a total command economy and both are favorably inclined towards choosing western models for change, modernization, development and integration, many finer points will need to be discussed before we can draw the Pas and other Muslims into serious discussions over the Islamic Welfare State and other matters of common interest.

Umno is obviously lost in the overwhelming materialism of the awesome transitional society and even if Isa Samad had won handsomely in Bagan Pinang on Oct 11, given its ruling attitude about corruption, Umno is bound to become even uglier still in the near future. -----a.ghani ismail, 12 Oct. 2009