Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Umno, PAS and the shape of things to come

S Thayaparan     Published     Updated

“But he that sows lies in the end shall not lack of a harvest, and soon he may rest from toil indeed, while others reap and sow in his stead.”
- JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Mark my words, the next general election, the election that the grand Umno Poohbah likes to keep us guessing on, will be the last Great War for Malaysia.

Moreover, if anyone thinks I am being controversial or provocative in my use of the term “war” than you can take your sensitivities and migrate because this is exactly what Umno thinks of elections in this country. This is not a functional democracy and Umno considers anyone who does not vote BN as enemies of the Umno state.

I say “for Malaysia” because this is exactly what is at stake. What kind of country do you want to live in? A country ruled by kleptocrats and religious zealots or a flawed democracy with incremental, maybe even infinitesimal, progress?

Does that sound overdramatic? Hyperbolic? The consequences of losing this election will not be felt immediately. It will slowly creep up on an apathetic citizenry. As Malaysian history demonstrates, the Malay and non-Malay community that were fairly integrated before will soon find themselves separated, not by the banality of culture but rather the heavy boot of religious and racial superiority, which post-1969 has been the agenda of choice for Umno potentates, the most cunning of which leads the opposition today.

However, it could be worse. Depending on how “badly” Umno wins, the Umno high command may decide that they cannot afford to play election poker any more, even more so when they have stacked the deck in their favour. While it is possible that Umno may turn on itself, the current grip that the grand poohbah has on Umno, with the cash is king ethos, the new National Security Council (NSC) laws and the servile security apparatus, all point to darker designs.

This Umno hate fest was historic for a couple of reasons. First Umno embraced PAS in its bosom, via Hadi Awang’s Hudud Bill, but more importantly, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who for so long demonised the DAP, entered the lion’s den and apparently came out with the impression that he was surrounded by multi-racial Malaysian lambs.
If PKR still thinks that it is simpatico with PAS and if Bersatu still thinks that PAS is an oppositional voice, the words of PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan (photo) should dispel this delusion. If the sight of the grand Umno poohbah and Hadi Awang joining hands at the Rohingya shindig, not to mention the exclusion of the Muslims from PKR, DAP, Amanah and Bersatu, does not shake these Muslim oppositional power brokers out of their stupor, nothing will.

Here is a hint. The PAS information chief said a few things that Muslim opposition MPs should take note of.

(1) He said PAS "cooperates with any party for the sake of Islam and Muslims".
Except by not inviting Muslim representatives for the Umno Rohingya shindig, PAS is overtly implying that it would not work with certain Muslim political parties. It also further demonstrates the fact that PAS thinks that Umno’s definition of Islam trumps all others, but more importantly, PAS is the gatekeeper when it comes to Umno and Islam in this country.

(2) "PAS and Umno need to combine so that Malaysia's politics remains healthy with checks and balances."
This means that PAS will rubber stamp anything Umno says or does because on matters like institutional corruption, like the 1MDB scandal, PAS supremo Hadi Awang has claimed that the case is closed and the Umno president is “only human”.

(3) "However it does not mean PAS, Umno and others must continue to fight on all matters to the detriment of the Muslim community."
 Of course Hadi does not specify who those “others” are because Umno has declared that the DAP is detrimental to the Malay community, hence they should be destroyed as with any who support them. This of course means every Muslim politician aligned with the DAP.

A deeper game going on?

Of course, some could make the argument that there is a deeper game going on here. PKR insiders tell me that PAS MPs in Selangor are “different” from their counterparts in the rural heartlands and that there may be a shift in allegiance when the time is right. Which is fair enough, but history has shown that the opposition is incapable of carrying out any of their cunning plans, while Umno has demonstrated over the decades that it can play PAS like a Stradivarius violin.

I can say that only time will tell, but unfortunately we are running out of time.

I for one was happy to see Mahathir as a de facto opposition leader at the 50th DAP national convention because the opposition desperately needs a war general because they have proven inept at engineering the fall of Umno by themselves.

Reading what Mahathir said about his new experience at the DAP powwow, I am even more convinced of what I wrote when I interviewed him: “Anyone speaking to the former prime minister realises that here is a man who finds currency in realpolitik and seeks consensus merely as a means to an end.

One gets the impression that he paints in broad strokes not because he doesn’t get the details but rather because the former allows him more control of the narrative and he understands that people more often agree on the bigger picture, but get bogged down in the details. It is a useful political and rhetorical tactic that appeals to the pragmatic nature of the polity that has sustained him all through his political career.”

While Mahathir is left with handling the public relations of this new alliance, his major domo Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president Muhyiddin Yassin was doing the firefighting that erupted during the Umno hate fest demonising the DAP.

Of course, this means assuring the Malay community that everything is all right. That the Chinese are not going to take over Tanah Melayu and there will always be a Malay prime minster anointed by Malay powerbrokers, the real Umno instead of Najib’s party where Malay politicians have to bend the knee to the Cash is King.

Muhyiddin said that Umno was terrified of how strong the Malays have become in the opposition and this may be true but this in itself is wrong. The sad funny reality is that the only people who have shown their commitment to dethroning Najib are the Malay architects of this mess and the DAP, which enjoys the support of the majority of their community.

In other words, Malays politicians may have become strong in the opposition, but it is meaningless without the support of the Malay community. Demonstrating that there are no strings attached is only part of the equation: you have to demonstrate that you can stand on your own two feet.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

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