If you’re from UMNO, I’ll understand if you feel deeply depressed after reading Sakmongkol AK47’s article in A potential rude awakening, published in The Malaysian Insider.
Apart from Sakmongkol's complaint of the dearth of talent in UMNO, the frustration of its grassroot troops by the parachuting in of people like its current candidate for Tenang, and the likelihood of such frustrated locals sabotaging the support for the parachutist-candidate(s), Sakmongkol also wrote on what we have long been aware of:
I am apprehensive of the trends regarding Umno. And here are my reasons for being nervous. How does the public feel about Umno and BN? To be more specific how does the Malay public feel about Umno.
Some days ago Umno Setiawangsa convened a meeting. It is preparing a list of election speakers to campaign for the next parliamentary candidate. They are speculating that Zulhasnan will be replaced by the anak mami from Penang but now residing mostly in KL.
Shahrizat’s name is being mentioned as a possible replacement for Zulhasnan because she stands no chance at all in Lembah Pantai.
How was the response to that meeting? It was lacklustre said my source. I think I know the reasons, I said. Was there any mention of money? Allocations? None, said my source.
There you are! Umno people in general respond as though in a Maslow experiment. They respond favourably when there are financial incentives. Of course that kind of response isn’t a crime or inherently wrong. But it shows one thing - Umno can lose because it depends mainly on mercenary-like behaviour. Rome fell because it entrusted its defences to paid mercenaries. Mercenaries fight with dedication as long as they get paid.
There exists the notorious money politics in UMNO for the precise reason UMNO politics enable its leaders to put their snouts into the trough. It’s not just ministers or parliamentary secretaries; division, branch and whatout party leaders have been (and no doubt will be) given untendered/uncontested contracts, a virtual guarantee to profits in the millions of ringgit. And don’t worry about business ability, let alone acumen, because the party will ensure failures will be bailed out.
That’s the disease in UMNO, so what Sakmongkol tells us about UMNO now relying mainly on mercenaries is not in the least revealing. What is revealing has been an UMNO man like him brave enough to tell it as it is!
As I've said before, UMNO should have been the preferred Malay party and having the Malay leaders for non-Malays because of its now-lost moderate politics. But somewhere in the last couple of decades, the Tunku-like moderate Malay nationalists (no denying the old UMNO consisted of Malay nationalists but at least they were moderates) like Khir Johari, Gaafar Baba, Hussein Onn, etc gave way to avaricious successors who only wanted to make money.
Mind you, not just money but humongous piles and piles of millions. As the years of such unfettered god-sent privileges were enjoyed, their avarice realized no bounds, upgrading their expectations from mere millions into the billions. And they want all these very quickly too. Everyone wants to have his/her own palace, Porsche, and overseas holiday homes, etc. And why not, since that bloke down the street is already enjoying them, in obscene ostentatious style too!
UMNO politics enable that, provided one is a leader. The way to rough-shoulder one's way up the ranks is to be seen as a super-ultra (the tautology is apt here) Malay nationalist, meaning an ethnic hero, in the vanguard of the ketuanan brigade. The more extreme one is, the better the prospects of moving up.
Soon ethocentric ultraisms (pretend or otherwise) became prerequisite qualifications to be an UMNO leader, and from such a political culture, invariably the unhappy fallout on the ‘nons’, leading to immense dissatisfaction, would usually be UMNO leaders' hurtful, arrogantly insensitive and bigoted statements, policies and behaviour, and/or their refusal to take correct action on their supporters who demonstrated similar racist conduct.
These have not only alarmed but deeply offended the non-Malays to an extent that they are now prepared to offer their political support to PAS, an unthinkable possibility prior to 2008.
Once the reserves of tolerance have been depleted, it's no longer a case of 'better the devil you know', but rather 'let's kick those arrogant, racist, corrupt bastards out'.
Money politics also abet the deterioration of UMNO political culture, which we see or hear in the way top UMNO politicians have been ‘investing’ big bundles buying up party support, in the expectation of course that these investments will be recovered plus plus when they are in a position to put their snouts into the trough.
So the UMNO body politics suffer from a vicious circle, propelled principally by the personal greed of its leaders - political mercenaries, as Sakmongkol has succinctly pointed out.
Can Najib tame the beast? Can he be the Iskandar to cut the UMNO Gordian knot?
But alas, there doesn't seem to be any sign he has succeeded, or even tried!
However, Pakatan needs to watch out they do not succumb to the same disease. No party, regardless of how many saints they currently have, can be immune from the UMNO type of personal greed!