IN the upcoming state polls and in the next 16th General Election (GE16), Malaysians must decide on the fate of UMNO.
Very few would disagree that UMNO is at its weakest in the aftermath of GE15. But as fate would have it, a weak UMNO suddenly decided to support Malaysians in the formation of the unity government.
Many think that that was political expediency because UMNO would have drowned itself if Perikatan Nasional (PN) formed the government.
Now, more than half a year later, UMNO has managed to weed out most of its enemies from within but still harbours many who are quick to act selfishly for their own political careers by sacrificing the ideals of multi-cultural Malaysia to a single mono-cultural dominance of Malaysia.
In life, many of us have felt the hands of fate reminding us to reflect and change, and I truly feel that UMNO is poised on the precipice of change, whether it wants to or not.
Dominant Malay party
In this article, Malaysians need to reflect with wisdom and political strategy on how they would treat UMNO. At this moment in time, there are four Malay political parties: Amanah, PAS, UMNO and Bersatu.
Which of the four will Malaysians support? Firstly, Malaysians are comfortable with Amanah but it has proven to be too weak to be able to inspire the Malays. Amanah sadly has no dynamic personality to show up and show off its capabilities. Its survival depends entirely on DAP and PKR.
For me, Amanah should dissolve and either join DAP or UMNO or make up in both parties.
Malaysians will never think of supporting Bersatu because it has no history of contribution but may soon have a history of enriching itself if the allegations of corruption go through their course.
Bersatu has shown that it does not care for the dignity of the people by having declared a false and fake emergency and by refusing to dissolve parliament when it lost its numbers.
It is an untrustworthy party bent on doing anything to secure power. It lacks a moral base or historical credibility other than always being a fill-in-the-gap party.
However, the recent GE15 saw that it can now rival UMNO with a strong support base of Malays who are ignorant of their own religion and self-worth in Malaysia. Playing race and religious games suits Bersatu’s modus operandi as a ruthless party with no background in service to the country.
PAS was once the choice of Malaysians as a Malay party when the values and morals of its leaders were for a just and equitable Malaysia using Islam as a social, spiritual and political framework. But now, PAS is no more than an opportunistic power-hungry demon bent on using Islam as its tool of chaos and terror-mongering to pit Malays against other races.
Wind of change
UMNO is different from all other political parties that have a solid Malay base. Firstly, UMNO has a history of great leaders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail and many others who helped build the foundation of a modern and multi-cultural Malaysia.
Secondly, UMNO has a track record of dealing with non-Malay parties and producing policies that have governed the nation peacefully and in prosperity generally. Thirdly, UMNO still has a strong membership base of loyal Malays unlike the opportunistic Bersatu or the PAS splinter group Amanah.
Now, the new leadership of UMNO is talking a different Malay ethos of embracing multi-cultural Malaysia and doing away with race and religious rhetoric.
On the contrary, PAS and Brsatu are now using the old UMNO Baru’s race and religious ghosts to fan hatred, mistrust and enmity between the Malays and the rest of Malaysia.
I feel that UMNO is at a critical juncture of change whether it likes it or not. UMNO can no longer opt for political expediency because its weapons are now wielded by others and it has to rebrand itself back to the pre-Islamic Reform period where progressive thinking and modern science equal wealth and social harmony.
PAS is turning this country into a conservative theocracy while Bersatu wants the country split into Malays and non-Malays and never to be in harmony. It is easier to gain power and rule in social disharmony than in social harmony.
What UMNO needs is some confidence in its direction of change. Malaysians are the only ones that can help the party move away from the mistakes of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s UMNO Baru.
Dr Mahathir’s UMNO ruled with money and the Sedition Act. UMNO now must make the badly needed transformation to be a globally conscious player to join the awakened civilisation of humanity within the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
UMNO must form a global Malay construct of ethos and visions of progressive thinking on a global scale for humanity. UMNO must also show itself to be a bit different from the Anwar Madani construct.
I fear that the Madani construct—although an excellent and most humanistic idea—still relies on Islam and religion as its core ethos. The problem with this approach is that those who are just learning as beginners in the Madani construct will always be trapped in a religious framework that is narrow and isolated.
The problem of the Islamic Reform movement was that it had no significant agenda for art, heritage, culture or critical thinking, except that it was always framed in a difficult-to-understand Islamic philosophy.
For the Malays, when Islam is mentioned, it is always easy to fall back to a conservative and safe ustaz-framed Islam rather than a wide and all-encompassing Madani Islam. Thus, for the sake of this country, Malaysians must show support for the only other political party that still holds the Za’ba, Tunku (Abdul Rahman) and Datuk Onn Jaafar’s ethos for Malays as opposed to the Anwar-ABIM-IKRAM Madani Malays.
Malaysia needs both political ideologies so that one does not engulf the other. Having been in the Islamic Reformist movement for 30 years, I can sense the dangers of the movement by those who are just learning about the Islamic faith in their young or old ages.
The new UMNO ethos of a progressive and global Malay is free of such dangers to the nation. With those thoughts in mind, Malaysians must understand that the Madani Islam of Anwar has the ability to moderate the Islamic extremism engulfing the country but its development will take time.
However, in supporting a new UMNO of progressive and global Malay thought construct, this would balance any conservative element that will always develop when religion is placed at the center of politics. The ball to the new UMNO lies at the feet of Malaysians once more. What will Malaysians choose to do? – May 31, 2023
Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is a professor of architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely. This opinion piece first appeared in Sin Chew Daily (English vetsion) under the same title.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.