Friday, December 29, 2006

UMNO outmanoeuvres 'city slickers'?

Reader Juslo commented in my earlier posting Let's blame women! about the Grand Canyon-ish ‘divide’ in perception between city slickers (including bloggers) and kampong (village/rural) folks.

I enjoyed our thrust and parry on matters pertaining to Malaysian (particularly Malay) politicians/officials making outrageous and demeaning comments about women and getting away with it.

Though I was from the kampong too, he (or she) reckons I am a wee too westernised/modernised/English-educated and think like modern urbanites … which explains why I have been missing the point about those misogynists ar$*h^le$ making idiotic deprecating comments about women.

Juslo said those ugly male macho comments would actually strike a sympathetic chord with kampong folks because the culture is such that they feel women should be put in their bloody (inferior) place.

I have to admit he/she makes a lot of sense, though I don’t accept we should surrender to those attitudes. Education and exposure to careful and fair information can bring about enlightenment, though the process may be a wee challenging like Moses wandering in the wilderness for 40 years (at times, probably lost too, and too proud to ask a Jewish lady for directions - kampong male macho-ness!).

But hey, look at the Chinese Malaysian community today - think their men dare mess around with the dignity and equal status of their womenfolk?

He/she reckoned that those interested in toppling the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional, or at least diminishing its more than 2/3 majority, should focus on the Malay heartland, where the mass of kampong folks have to be wooed on their own terms, bearing in mind their ‘traditional’ and conservative attitudes.

Unless the opposition (I'm assuming he didn’t include PAS) does this, it might as well forget about ever making any inroad into that heartland.

That’s very true, but parties like the DAP has a snowflake’s chance in hell of ever winning the trust of the Malay heartland. UMNO has already successfully convinced most Malays that it's a chauvinistic Chinese party. Even many PAS members believe that as well.

So it’s left to Malay majority parties like PAS and PKR to erode the UMNO dominance in the heartland.

… which has been why UMNO has been striving to outdo PAS in the Islamic department, and how Malaysia became an (UMNO) 'Islamic nation' when the constitution says it's a secular one - part of UMNO's move to outflank PAS.

PKR OTOH is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea – still relying on and hoping for Malay votes in general but realising it can’t depend purely on that because it won’t be able to outmanoeuvre UMNO (or PAS).

Thus PKR has one leg on a Malay sampan while its other lower appendage is on the Chinese tongkang (junk). When provocative ethnic issues are deliberately raised by UMNO, as in its last general assembly, PKR would invariably get its backside split asunder when the two ethnic-oriented boats move in different directions - an UMNO’s tactic to outfox PKR, resulting in a lose-lose situation for PKR.

Juslo also discussed the gerrymandering by the UMNO-led government, which by virtue of its incumbency has successfully imposed on our so-called democracy. In Malaysia the universal franchise of ‘one person, one vote’ translates differently into 5 Chinese Malaysian votes being equal to only one Malay vote in terms of representation in Parliament.

Gerrymandering on that scale is of course not new, and part of UMNO’s repertoire of tricks and tactics to remain in majority power. Compare Putrajaya parliamentary seat representing around 5,000 pro-government voters against some Chinese electorates (usually pro-DAP except in 1999 or in Penang State seats) where a parliamentary seat would usually represent over 100,000 voters. That’s more than 20 to one in favour of UMNO, rather than just 5 to one.

Juslo advised any political party which wants to win enough parliamentary seats in our general or even state election to focus on the rural constituencies. Easier said than done, though of course he/she is correct. The pivotal significance of the rural seats has been in part a consequence of the gerrymandering.

He/she lamented that parties like the DAP (yes) and PKR (hmmm?) gave too much emphasis on the urban areas and 'urban issues' like human rights, corruption, instead of considering more about rural seats and their concerns.

Of course the rural voters or kampong folks are more interested in their ‘pot of rice’ like the one AAB said his world famous SIL needs as well. The kampong voters would be far more interested in government subsidies (or ‘handouts’), adat, kemaruahan sejarah Melayu, bangsa, agama, siapa jaguh atau anak jantan, rather than arty farty namby pamby issues like stats on economic growth, stock market indices or percentile of equity ownership, economy, global competitiveness, FDI, etc.

Again he/she’s right.

Juslo said the latter issues have no direct relevance to those kampong people’s daily lives at all. Well, on this score I disagree on economic technicality because these issues will actually affect them.

But I understand exactly what Juslo had meant, that those kampong people can’t see the direct relationship between those high economic issues and their daily lives and practical needs, and that’s unfortunately true.

Continuing from that, because the rural folks depend a lot on government subsidies (handouts), they invariably feel obligated to support the government – though I note the Kelantanese don’t fit into this general pattern of ‘loyalty’.

Are we ‘city slickers’ with our arty farty human rights, transparency, accountability, public governance and other namby pamby bull then utterly f**ked?


  1. "Are we ‘city slickers’ with our arty farty human rights, transparency, accountability, public governance and other namby pamby bull then utterly f**ked?"

    Yes, we are. Happy New Year!!!

  2. Replace our stupid unfair voting system with the 'proportional representation' voting system whereby the number of seats in parliament is allocated according to the proportion of votes each political party receives. Eg, Party A may receive only 5% of the popular vote, but it can have 5% of the seats in parliament. This system is practised in Germany and other countries.

  3. KT,

    cant believe my comments 'merited' a full post from u, i'm so flattered...

    since u 'agreed' with most of what i said, i guess i shouldn't b saying much here, except to clarify that:

    1, to juslo, he does not believe that the 'urban parties' should not 'focus too much' on the elitist, idealistic western values. i'm just saying that they have to either put more emphasis on the 'rural issues' (like what PAS is doing) but at the same time, ideally, they should not fall into the trap of 'becoming like PAS', ie to outislamicize UMNO + PAS but instead try to CHANGE the mindset of the rural folks. easier said than done, u r right, but i think that's where the crucial battles lie.

    2, looking at the malaysian electoral war from a urban-rural divide is, i humbly think, something we have seldom done. it's always about race n religion, it seems.

    3, PAS doesn't fit into this 'pattern of loyalty' (to government handouts)?? i really dont understand what's going on in the mind of kelantanese (n i doubt many urban folks do), some would say that's bcos umno had neglected them long enough until they have reached a level where they would rather starve than submit. others would suggest that some middle-eastern oil money (to assist the propagation of wahhabist/ultra-conservative islam) have been channeled in, though in 'not-easily-noticed' fashion, to help alleviate the fed government's financial starvation, buying votes for PAS along the way.

    but i would still say that i don't know how to explain kelantan with my urban-rural theory. which is fine, bcos i think it would b stupid for anybody to claim that s/he has found the 'theory of everything'.

    happy new year, malaysia.

  4. sorry, typing mistakes:

    either put more emphasis on the 'rural issues' (like what PAS is doing - but at the same time, ideally, they should not fall into the trap of 'becoming like PAS', ie to outislamicize UMNO + PAS)


    instead try to CHANGE the mindset of the rural folks to make them interested in/worry about 'urban, western values' as much as we do. but, easier said than done.

    so, either u sell them what THEY want to buy, or persuade them to buy what YOU have to sell. either way, can't ignore the fact that rural folks think DIFFERENTLY. that's my point, n thanks KT.