Written by Nawawi Mohamad | Malaysia Chronicle
Many of us may have asked; when and why did the racial divisions in Malaysia start and who is to blame? Obviously, the racial divide did not exist in old Malaya, where the different races could live together in harmony in the kampongs (villages) and small towns. Now, it seems that we are forever at the brink of racial tension or even racial war. In fact, jihad (holy war) has been declared several times by the Umno-linked Perkasa against the Christians as well as the Chinese.
We should also ask why a-still-young-nation with all the potential to be prosperous could so quickly face impending bankruptcy. Also, what has happened to patriotism; did it burn out or was it never really instilled into our hearts? To find out, we have to go back in history.
The starting point
When UMNO was formed, the late Onn Jaafar who was one of the main founders and who was the then president, had to leave the party because a group of new faces disagreed and fought with him over the political direction to be taken. They insisted their ideas were better than his and this inevitably led to the changes in policies, rules and objectives.
Whereas Onn was more for uniting the Malays from all walks of life, with the Chinese, Indians and other migrants under one organsation, and then jointly struggle for independence, the group of UMNO leaders led by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman was more interested in meeting the qualifying terms set by the British for achieving independence - no matter how onerous.
The idea of a non-communal political party
Onn Jaafar - the grandfather of current Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein - had indeed been farsighted and visionary; he felt the need for racial harmony and a non-communal political party was the best way to secure a prosperous future for Malaya. No doubt the British did create the Malayan Union comprising all races with equal rights, and even diluted the powers of the Malay rulers, but the British were not really sincere at all.
The British did not really want Malayans to be united as one, like in Onn's vision. Neither did the British really want the Malayan Union to succeed. So the Malays were led into rejecting the Malayan Union, paving the way for its dissolution.
Had the British been sincere, they would have backed Onn’s idea. Instead the British supported Tunku when he was elected the new UMNO president after Onn resigned. Onn had to quit after failing to garner the majority support from the delegates on his multiracial vision after his speech in the UMNO General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur in August 1951 backfired. The Malays have never been united since then.
The idea of non-communal political party still lives on
But did Onn Jaafar really have so little support? The answer is no, he had the support of the Malays all over the country and at the grass root level. In fact when Tunku tried to manage UMNO, he found out that most of the people were not aware that Onn had left the party. The staff manning the UMNO offices were also reluctant to work with Tunku as they still supported Onn. In the end, Tunku had to abandon the old UMNO office bearers and create a new set-up, appointing his own people to manage the party and its activities.
Further proof of the British ill-intent was when they told the Malayan entourage negotiating for independence consisting of UMNO, MCA and MIC that Malaya could not be given independence since the three major races were not united! Onn's multiracial proposal was the best and it still is and the British also knew that. Yet, they managed to convince the Malayan delegates to agree on an Alliance with UMNO, MCA and MIC the pioneer members.
To their discredit, all three of them fell for it. Presumably this had been outlined by the British for Tunku to implement.
UMNO failed us from the start
Here UMNO has thus failed twice; Firstly, to unite the Malays and consolidate their political power and losing the opportunity to unite the various races under one non-communal party. Secondly to really lead a more meaningful struggle. Unlike the other true independent struggles seen all over the world, Umno just “negotiated” for a 'walkover' from the British.
UMNO may argue that it was the ingenuity of their leaders that helped Malayans gain independence without bloodshed. This is not true! There was indeed a lot of bloodshed but not amongst the UMNO people. What about the struggle led by other groups and individuals? Let us also not forget that during this period there were many other groups and individuals struggling and fighting for independence and with the inevitable bloodshed. We were not informed about their struggle as if the Alliance was the only one who struggled. PAS deputy president Mat Sabu had exposed this one-sided history for us. Besides the Communists, there were many others from all the races.
Nations that experienced, endured and managed to overcome all obstacles leading to the true sense of independence are usually of a different breed. The struggle instills real patriotism and their citizens really value what they have achieved unlike Malaysians too, who need to be lured to fly the Jalur Gemilang almost every time we try to celebrate the National Day.
In the end, the UMNO-BN celebration of the 31st August National Day has become something of a mediocre, wasteful, and meaningless effort, without zeal and substance, without the real feeling of patriotism at all. The annual procession is just for show as the number of people flying the Jalur Gemilang keeps dwindling year after year till the number of road vehicles flying the national flag can even be counted on our fingers. The national day celebrations are only being looked forward to by the Mat Rempits and the like, including their bohsias.
UMNO and Malaysia under Tunku Abdul Rahman: Going Nowhere
Malaysia under Tunku was not really independent, it had to depend on the British and they were more than willing to maintain their support, mainly due to economic reasons. The British had invested so much in Malaya in plantation, mining, banking, media and education. Furthermore, Malaya was one of the growing markets for everything English.
After gaining independence, the Tunku was not able to really achieve anything more substantial. He was not even able to defeat the ragtag Communists, and Malaysia was still backward in every sense of the word. The young democracy and new nation was just at its infancy and without any coherent policy, objectives, vision and actions although there were some sort of localized economic activities in the towns, and racial harmony in the kampongs.
With the Communists still active not only in the jungles but also in the urban areas and their ideology spreading in the University of Malaya, real peace and unity as a nation were not attained during his reign. Even Singapore was separated from Malaysia. The economy was not doing well since Malaysia was more on a commodity-based economy, and at the mercy of the British who controlled prices and the trade itself.
At this stage of the nation building, Malaysians had nothing to celebrate or cheer about. There was nothing to hold on to, nor was there a sense of belonging. Not only were the business, finance and money still under the British, the Supreme Court was also in Britain. Nothing substantial belonged to Malaysia. The Malays in particular had nothing except for the small plots of land in the kampongs and the Malay rulers to be proud of. Tunku did not have any real plans for the Malays despite UMNO being so-called the United Malays National Organization..
Racism during Tunku’s period
The Tunku fell into the trap set by the British when the racial based Alliance was formed. He had not done enough to set any solid foundation for the country and he realized too late how fragile the racial harmony was when after the 1969 general election. The Gerakan and DAP had celebrated their wins with a victory parade in KL on 12th May 1969. Then UMNO led a counter march the next day, and this is when the racial riot known as the infamous May 13 racial riots erupted. May 13 also led to Abdul Razak Hussein taking over the nation's leadership.
But was it really a racial riot? Were both the Gerakan and DAP really so insensitive to the political situation that they organized the march and failed to control their members? The Alliance managed to win 77 out of 140 seats in Parliament; UMNO still held power. Furthermore it was very interesting to note that Malay opposition parties saw a sharp increase in votes in the peninsula, rising drastically from about 15% in 1964 to 25% in 1969. UMNO did not have the full support of the Malays and apparently the Malays did not agree fully with UMNO even then!
UMNO under Razak: His inaction led to the next stage of failure
Razak, the father of current Prime Minister Najib Razak, was quite thoughtful and managed to bring about some changes. He started the process of nation building by introducing the word “pembangunan” which is development. For this, he was eventually bestowed the title of “Bapa Pembangunan”. After the infamous May 13 racial riot, he introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP) which had good and noble intentions although it was miserably abused to the core in later years.
The NEP was meant to re-engineer the wealth of the society, encompassing education, business opportunities, employment and preferences to eradicate poverty amongst the entire population and across all racial boundaries. But UMNO leaders took advantage of this policy to fatten their coffers leaving both the Malays and other poor Malaysians to continue being deprived of all that were intended for them. We can clearly see and understand the situation now.
Razak also empowered FELDA (which was formed by the British in 1956 for their own reasons) to aggressively embark on opening new land schemes and making Malays do something to upgrade and improve themselves. The FELDA story is still unfolding now.
As the Malays were earning some extra income, Tabung Haji ( the brainchild of Professor Ungku Aziz) was formed to inculcate the habit of savings for the rainy days and to help save enough money to perform the haj. Sad to say, as has been reported, Tabung Haji was not safe from the dirty hands either.
The siphoning of money that we see now, the unscrupulous civil servants and their abuse of power and unchecked corruption also started during Razak’s premiership. He was not able to closely monitor all the things that he had implemented.
One glaring example is the construction of the wooden houses for the FELDA settlers. But instead of houses, the settlers got what were basically just pieces of sawn wood nailed together with some sort of roofing to protect the inhabitants from the elements of nature. Yes, the 'house' was just a shed. These houses can still be seen in the FELDA settlements as a testimony to the plundering of the allocations by unscrupulous groups of people.
This was the beginning of the money-making schemes, and those in UMNO saw the doors opening to all the golden opportunities that had never existed for them before. The government officials too found the opportunity and took what they could and as much as they could.
When RISDA was formed to help the rubber small holders, they were provided with free fertilizers, weed poison and other incentives like the money to keep the rubber plantation clear of all other plants, shrubs and small trees. This was to ensure improved rubber production, easy maintenance, safety and prevent the rubber plantation to be any form of hideouts for vermin, wild animals and the communists.
While they were supposed to be given the items free of charge, the officials still demanded money from the small holders and a substantial amount of the fertilizers and poisons went into the wrong hands and were eventually sold to the hardware shops to be re-sold to others. The money-making schemes were carried out openly to the extent the RISDA emblem on the sacks could be clearly seen. Yet, the authorities did nothing to stop the corruption.
Almost all the projects awarded to the UMNO-putras during this period was executed as Ali Baba schemes leaving the UMNOputras with just 5 percent of the profit which was too little. Since they were not real businessmen, they spent extravagantly within a few months finished all their gains. Thus more projects had to be given out to fulfill their lust. The Ali Baba business trend began here.
It was the same with other government projects and procurements. The instant noodles supplied as army ration were paid by the Ministry of Defense at RM0.65 per packet while the market price was just RM0.25 each.
The police and the army were also in a world of their own with free cigarettes, cheap alcohol, partying in their messes. They were oblivious to their surroundings. The police were so callous in their duties that the IGP was shot dead point blank by two assailants on a motorbike when his car halted at a congested road on his way to the office.
The inefficient civil servants were preoccupied with so many tasks in their offices. Hospitals and medical staff were few in numbers, and the school teachers were the most respectable group of people in society then. But unfortunately not anymore now.
The Biro Siasatan Negara (National Bureau of Investigation) was operational but they did nothing. At this stage, the UMNO government ignored all the warning signs of blatant corruption, misuse of funds and pilferage. As such, the next stage of failure was inevitable and more so under Hussein Onn, who was Razak's brother in law.
First huge scandal under Tun Hussein Onn
Hussein Onn was like Abdullah Badawi. He was not able to fit into Razak’s shoes. Hussein Onn left the country on auto-pilot. Thus, more corruption and wrongdoing spread all over the country including to Sabah and Sarawak which had huge amounts of natural resources especially timber.
Sandakan in Sabah once held the world record of the highest numbers of millionaires (from the greedy rampage and corruption of the timber industry) per square mile. Sabah is now without a virgin forest except at the national reserve. This too will not be spared for long and Sabahans still remain poor today.
The first huge scandal for UMNO which was the RM2.5 billion losses by Bank Bumiputera Malaysia Bhd, which began in 1976 with its wholly owned Bumiputera Malaysia Finance (BMF) lending money to property developer Carrian Group in Hong Kong. The mess unfolded in1983 kicked off the Umno plundering tradition on a huge scale.
You see, no one was punished for the crime. UMNO leaders condoned such debacle creating a precedent that when one is a strong UMNO man and with proper connection, one can get away scot-free. The bailout tradition too began from this point on.
Since Malaysia was on auto-pilot, the ordinary citizens had to survive on their own.
Mahathir: All forms of failure and a sad lack of vision
This was a very interesting period for UMNO. There were failures galore - all and every form of failure that could happen did happen. There was systematic failure at all levels of government to understand the magnitude of the situation, from stripping the Malay rulers of their powers, using the full force of the ISA on the opposition, breaking up UMNO, looting the nation’s funds, antagonizing the West, full-scale bailouts of cronies, destroying the integrity of the police and judiciary to being a dictator. Obviously, this resulted in resentment throughout the entire society leading to the formation of Pakatan Rakyat.
Mahathir was the one who broke the national piggy bank, blazing the trail to unmitigated government borrowings. He failed to provide enough funds for rainy days. Many of his supporters boasted that he was famous for his vision, but time has proven that Mahathir in fact lacked it. He lacked vision simply because he was not able to see beyond himself.
Mahathir failed to understand the inherent economic cycle and be prepared for eventual downturns. He knew Lee Kuan Yew had special funds to be used under the power of the President. But Mahathir siphoned out the only real funds we had in Petronas, thus even the once rich Petronas has to borrow money now.
The police under Mahathir was for most of the time working for him and not much for the rakyat. The police was used to defeat the opposition, harass individuals, put people in jail using the ISA and determining the most suitable time for a general election. Crime was high since the PDRM was preoccupied with UMNO and Mahathir. Lawyers were know to be unscrupulous but it was during his time that the judiciary system was turned into shambles and judges could be openly bought, thus ending the integrity of the entire law and order of the country.
Mahathir also failed to uphold the monarchy by stripping the Malay rulers of their powers. The Malays have lost their last bastion of pride and for the rest of the Malaysians the last bastion of justice, as can be seen in the awkward position of the Sultan of Perak being manipulated by UMNO in the Perak power grab of 2009. The Perak Sultan sanctioned UMNO's coup d'etat, while the Agong only had enough power to acknowledge BERSIH as legitimate, while the Sultan of Selangor had to play safe in the JAIS -DUMC case with UMNO breathing down his neck.
Mahathir in his endeavour to make Malaysia a developed nation by 2020, failed to safeguard the nation from being plundered by refusing to prevent and take action against corrupt people. This could be because he was himself a cohort in some, if not most of the fiascos. The Tajuddin Ramli-MAS scandal is an example and a living testimony to the failures of the Mahathir-era, while the RM12.5bil PKFZ scandal is still unfolding.
Mahathir also failed to see the inept capability of Badawi and the hopeless Najib who both have no real ability of their own. Nonetheless, one cannot turn back time or erase the systematic failures Mahathir caused. In any case, he was ready to pass the baton to Abdullah Badawi by 2003.
Badawi sleeping away
Badawi was not able to fit in the shoes of Dr. Mahathir. He tried to undo several of questionable projects started by Mahathir. But even this, he fumbled and bungled.
Badawi tried to create some economic corridors, have some fancy slogans like working together with him and Islam Hadhari, which he himself found difficult to explain. Till now, the questions ring: what are the corridors, the slogans and Islam Hadhari really all labout?
The economy became stagnant and to spur development Malaysia had to borrow more money. He was able to create some sense of economic activities but just for the elections.
Fortunately for him but unfortunately for the rakyat, he had the fourth floor goons headed by his beloved son-in-law, Khairy Jamaludin who made things worse.
Our nation was in jeopardy because it was being managed by a twenty-something de-facto prime minister. Although Khairy was an Oxford graduate, he was not savvy enough to run a country much to the disgust of Mahathir. Both the nation and UMNO are now in disarray. A classic example of a Khairy deal gone awry is the failure of the Shahrizat-linked Gemas NFC debacle.
Badawi did form the MACC but for what? They are just the same people from the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) in different uniform.
Free for all, grab what you can now under Najib
Najib is long on ideas but short on action, thus has no results to show. Basically, this is due to his ideas being copycats of other systems, such as the Pakatan's Buku Jingga or economic blueprint.
But first of all since he was not elected to his post and his image was tarnished by the useless and unsinkable Scorpene submarines that also led to the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaaribuu. Possibly influenced by his mischievous wife, Najib decided first and foremost to restore his image.
He engaged APCO and FBC Media for a full scale image makeover, spending at least RM55 million of tax-payers’ money for expensive propaganda to glorify himself, his government and his policies and having it screened on international channels like CNN, CNBC and BBC. This is utter stupidity of the highest level and Najib has failed miserably.
To repair the damage to his image, Najib should have rectified the mistakes and not try to whitewash them and incurring further blunders in the process. There is really no point in putting on thick make up during the day when everyone can see the thick layer of 'paint and powder'.
Transformation programs that go nowhere
Then Najib went on to try to transform several major things but he failed to see what the causes were that led to past failures. All the sounds and bombast of his Economic Transformation Program may have seem rather impressive to the layman, but what are the results so far? Unfortunately we have not been able to feel good about anything that Najib and his ETP people have announced.
His main showpieces are the six National Key Results Areas (NKRA), twelve National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) - all part of his Economic Transformation Program. On 23rd November, Bernama reported that Najib underlined six high impact programs to boost the growth of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to 8.7 by 2020 but, what about now or next year?
The economic policies that the UMNO-BN government under Najib have been undertaken but show no improvement in the economy. Thus, until now, it has been 'nothing for nothing Najibnomics'.
As for Najib’s Political Transformation Program, it has proven to be a farce - heavy on proclamations and full of doublespeak as in the recent Peaceful Assembly Bill, which actually restricts our freedom and not grant greater democratic space as he had promised.
Old habits die hard
Even at this very critical juncture, in the last lap to the “Mother of all Elections”, UMNO still continues to award contracts without following the proper procedures. At present there are several projects under the various ministries that have been allocated to their cronies and when the time comes, by hook or by crook, these projects will come to light whether UMNO-BN wins the GE-13 or not. So too will all the money-making schemes planned with guarded secrecy, the PKFZ scandal, the Scorpene scandal and the Gemas NFC debacle.
The Najib government has also told the rakyat that it will not be involved in financing the mega-projects he has announced; they are mostly under the Private Financing Initiatives (PFI), he assures. But we were not told that the Umno cronies will have to borrow from the banks and none of the clear minded private banks would ever lend them any money.
The private banks know that these projects are just money-making schemes without any guarantee of success and will eventually need bailouts. Thus all the burden of financing has been given to Bank Pembangunan, the government bank, with money from the government. Still the money will be taken from our already depleting EPF and Tabung Haji or borrowed somewhere and bringing Malaysia closer to becoming another Greece.
Chaos at the ministries
The Ministry of Defense has set the plan moving for the purchase of new fighter planes from Russia as reported in a defense magazine but Ahmad Zahid Hamidi denied this recently. The ministry will also continue with the building of the exorbitantly expensive naval ships and boats.
The Ministry of Education has embarked on building several campuses in Perlis and Pahang and even the HUKM pediatric hospital in KL and being awarded to their cronies.
The Ministry of Transport has already approved the KVMRT project, the Integrated Transport Terminal in Subang Jaya with another going to be in Gombak and in Melaka and as we all know Malaysia Airports Holding Bhd has a free hand to impose any charges on passengers and complete the KLIA2 tour at whatever cost.
The Ministry of Agriculture will eventually bail out the failed Gemas NFC project and the wasteful rice bowl “National Rice Bowl” project in Sarawak will get more money - some to be reinvested and the rest pocketed.
The Ministry of Finance will continue paying the PKFZ thieves and continue dumping more money into MAS despite the purported win-win share swap with AirAsia as MAS has already announced RM400 in losses recently. Petronas has been set to bail out TNB by absorbing the gas cost.
The Ministry of Tourism too have their money-making schemes through various advertisement projects, while the Ministry of Information uses FINAS through the loans and grants issued for movie productions and the misuse of FINAS assets for some influential individuals.
The other ministries too have their problems and these could be revealed later.
Enough is enough
Najib has turned Malaysia backwards by not trying to reject the wrong doings of UMNO-BN. Where his father was too busy, Najib's problem may be because he has his own scandals; thus a change of government is the only true means of saving this country. The recent UMNO AGM showed the country the party's true colors; its racists/fascist bent and the fact that it had no real agenda for the country.
So after tracking through the 6 prime ministers, all of whom came from UMNO, it is clear the party is the cause, the main ingredient, the catalyst and the main element of all the failures that have befallen the nation.
We have had enough and enough is enough!