Has UMNO Lost The Plot? Will money and the fear factor translate into votes for UMNO?
by Matthias Chang on 26 Mar 2012 0 Comment

Any observer of the on-going election campaigns by UMNO and Pakatan Rakyat will notice the stark difference between the two principal contenders and this may determine the victory or defeat in the 13th General Election for the respective parties. The Barisan Nasional is a coalition of 14 political parties. The Pakatan Rakyat is a coalition of essentially three component parties.

It is heartening to observe that the three component parties of the Pakatan Rakyat are working closely together, harnessing the respective strengths of each other and working hard to minimise the peculiar internal problems of each party. And although Anwar Ibrahim is the head of the coalition (first among equals), the leaders of PAS and DAP have not been overshadowed and at every ceramah, the leaders of the three parties are on the stage together pulling for each other. They are also very focused on issues. This is a remarkable achievement, as at one time the DAP and PAS could not see eye to eye on any issues.

There are no major blunders by the four state governments under Pakatan Rakyat's control. For novices in governing, they have done rather well when compared to Barisan Nasional state governments who have had uninterrupted rule for over 50 years. Additionally, having inherited a "Barisan Nasional State Civil Service" the Pakatan Rakyat state governments are functioning governments. They have performed better than I had expected and I must eat humble pie and admit that I was wrong in my earlier assessments.

This is an objective observation and I know that my friends and former colleagues in Barisan Nasional may not take too kindly of my assessment. They don’t have to accept my conclusions. At the end of the day, the result of the 13th General Election will prove whether I am right or wrong.

However, if the newspapers controlled by UMNO and MCA are genuinely reflective of the situation
on the ground, then it is abundantly clear that UMNO has given up all hope on MCA, Gerakan and MIC and would rely solely on Malay voters for its tenuous hold on power. The Prime Minister, his wife and the Deputy Prime Minister are the principal and constant faces in the front pages of the newspapers as the “Face of UMNO” (not even Barisan Nasional) even though the tag line of the Barisan Nasional is “1Malaysia”. The emphasis is on UMNO, UMNO and UMNO.

This has been confirmed by a recent conversation I had with an UMNO political strategist, the right-hand man of a leader. I was both shocked and disappointed by the views expressed by this former colleague, but after due contemplation I was not surprised that this mindset has descended so rapidly to his level. This mindset is now, in my view irreversible.

I have come to this conclusion, even if after the publication of this article has gone viral in the internet, and Barisan Nasional has taken remedial measures and issued denials, the perception and the reality cannot be changed. The cult of Najib, Rosmah and Muhyideen and to a lesser extent the maverick Ibrahim Ali is just too entrenched. No other personalities from UMNO and other component parties have captured the minds of the voters. They have all become irrelevant! This is pathetic. The 13th General Election is all about Najib, Rosmah and UMNO’s hold on power!
It does not bode well for the Barisan Nasional in general and UMNO in particular. The spirit of the Alliance and the Barisan Nasional has been abandoned for UMNO's singular struggle for survival and to retain “Malay” political power (as defined by UMNO).

This is an enormous political gamble, a gambit that has not even been tried by Tun Mahathir Mohamad when he was facing the worst political crisis in his 22 years of premiership. But, times have changed and I believe that Tun has reluctantly agreed that this last card be played as there are no more cards to play in this political poker game. I am much saddened by this turn of events. I don't think that had I continued giving suggestions and ideas on strategies and tactics as an independent volunteer to Tun, after the completion of my last duty some months ago, it would have made any difference. The fog created by intelligence operatives was just too thick for him to see through the deception that has been weaved. But, I stand to be corrected.

What drove UMNO to adopt this strategy? Why this desperation? UMNO has been brainwashed to adopt this mindset.

The following conversation between the UMNO political strategist and I illustrates this peculiar mindset.

UMNO Political Strategist (UPS): Tell me why the Chinese community does not support Barisan Nasional?

Matthias Chang (MC): Tell me why in 1999, the Chinese supported Barisan Nasional when there was a swing of Malay votes against Barisan Nasional?

UPS: They supported Mahathir. The situation then is different from now! Tell me why now, the Chinese are against Barisan Nasional? [the question was asked in most emphatic tone]

MC: Why ask me? You are in the thick of things, ask UMNO, ask MCA, ask Gerakan, ask MIC.

UPS: No, you tell me why the Chinese are against Barisan Nasional.

MC: Why me, why should I? After you have asked MCA, Gerakan, MIC etc. then come back to me and I will tell you why.

UPS: I will tell you whether you like it or not. The Chinese have accumulated so much money, now they want political power. They want to take our political power!

MC: F@%& you! Are you crazy, what kind of bullshit is this? Only Chinese making money? There are more Bumiputera millionaires than any other community. Is this why Najib alluded to the Chinese billionaires in his speech at the stupid conference just before the irrelevant debate between MCA and DAP? I am shocked and surprised that you would say this.

UPS: That’s the truth, they just want political power. The Chinese want to topple UMNO to take political power!

MC: How can the Chinese take political power when they are in the minority? Assuming Pakatan Rakyat comes to power, DAP is a minority because PAS and PKR will lead. Right now, Penang is nominally under DAP (Lim Guan Eng as CM), Kelantan and Kedah under PAS and Selangor under PKR, so how can the Chinese topple UMNO and take power?

UPS: UMNO has been too nice to the Chinese and yet they complain that they have been bullied and treated unfairly, that they are “Adiks” and we are the “Abangs”! All the MCA candidates are in Malay majority constituencies and without the Malay support, they would not be elected. Do you think that if they stood in Chinese majority constituencies, they will be elected?

MC: But, it was the Barisan Nasional government that decided to delineate the boundaries as such to ensure that most of the Parliamentary and State constituencies would have Malay majorities. That was the BN strategy to ensure UMNO dominance in the coalition and to ensure a two-third majority in Parliament. And this was because, until recently, PAS and DAP could never see eye to eye. And in any tight contest, UMNO could count on the minority Chinese and Indians to provide the swing votes. So what choice have they got? In the past, MCA did win in some Chinese majority constituencies. How about Sabah and Sarawak, did not the locals there contribute to BN victory as the Malays are a minority there?

UPS: Look here, it is not easy to get winnable candidates. The election is not about issues, it is about the candidate's party. In a Malay majority "safe" seat, a Malay voter would be voting for UMNO and UMNO candidate will win, so what is the point of giving to a Chinese / Indian candidate. This will ensure UMNO will have more winning candidates (regardless of the quality of the candidate) because it is UMNO that is contesting. Therefore, the Chinese / MCA should contest in Chinese majority seats, then, they don't have to complain about being an "Adik" and can become an “Abang” in their own right! UMNO has been very tolerant and accommodating by allowing MCA, Gerakan and MIC to contest in Malay majority seats! UMNO is making a huge sacrifice. We will tell the Chinese that they can no longer contest in Malay majority seats. UIMNO must have more Malay candidates winning!

MC: Are you serious? Are you saying that you don't need the Chinese and Indian votes?

: We got back the Indians but not the Chinese and so if we can get 51% of the Malay votes, we can win with the Indians behind us.

: How sure are you of the support of the Indians? MIC has also become irrelevant under the UMNO centric strategy. The election will be decided on issues, not money or the fear factor.

UPS: The election will not be decided on issues. I once asked Idris Jala how his Transformation Programme is going to translate into votes. He could not answer. It is so simple. We need only to give money and this will translate into votes. In my state, we have a program of giving money to the needy and this has translated into votes in past elections. The folks are simple-minded and understand money. The RM500 being given out will be translated into votes, not issues like Lynas in Kuantan. Only the Chinese are concerned about Lynas and the protesters are being funded by the Chinese. All the Malays want the project and have not protested. Issues won’t translate into votes. Money will translate into votes.

MC: OMG, this is crazy, we screwed up big time on Lynas..... only after sustained protest, and at the moment, I don't give a f#%& who started it, that the issue of the storage of waste material was addressed. Now, four ministers say it should be sent back to Australia, but PM says to locate it in some other place away from the plant and villages. And the stupid DG of the Atomic Licensing Board says that it can be dumped into some disused mines! And you say this issue will have no impact on the coming elections? Your state will be screwed up!

UPS: I know my state and I can assure you that it will have no impact at all. It will not translate into votes. Our campaign in giving money will translate into votes. Even if PM stops the campaign of giving the one-off RM500, we will raise money in the state to continue the campaign. There is another factor. Our Sultan just has to give a nod and it will be translated into votes for UMNO.

MC: I think that the Royals should stay out of the political process and remain neutral. It may be counter-productive as the Rulers are perceived as Rulers for all the rakyat and not for a particular party's followers.

UPS: My state is different.

MC: You guys better not hold the election in 2012. I have always maintained it should be in 2013. Your problem, rather UMNO’s problem is that you have so many old faces in the Cabinet, in the leadership ranks. Take your boss, how many years as MB of the State? Are you saying that all these Jurassic leaders are indispensable? If so, it reveals a sad state of affairs, no rejuvenation. It is getting boring, especially when and as you say, the focus is not on issues, but money, money and more money. Everyone is losing their marbles. You guys are all bankrupt of ideas. Spending millions to project an image on BBC and now it backfired for the whole world to see and laugh.

UPS: ....Err,

MC: If you are Rais Yatim, would not this be an insult???? His ministry is the propaganda ministry and the PM or rather his asshole advisers outsourced a propaganda campaign to some British outfit who has no idea about the Malaysian mindset and or the electorate. It’s sure about money, big stash of money for the project. Someone must be making money along the way. If you are the Minister, I am sure you would not tolerate this kind of stupidity and insult to your ministry.

UPS: ..... silence

MC: Another thing, the vested interests are so powerful and so much is at stake that the old folks in UMNO would never relinquish their hold on power. And that is why, when there is any attempt to do so – when A bites at B, B bites back; and if A and B bites C, C retaliates and on and on. If one’s rice bowl is threatened, then it’s a no-holds-barred fight for survival! So, why am I not surprised by the series of scandals being exposed on a daily basis? Each UMNO political warlord has a mole or sympathiser in his adversary camp. If an adversary acts tough, whistleblower surfaces - take the allegations concerning PM’s daughter’s engagement party as well as his birthday party. It is the deep mole in PM’s office that is spilling the beans. Let’s not be naive. And as long as this is not resolved within UMNO, and any attempt to ditch old folks for new blood, someone will expose the scandals. It’s a bloody catch 22. Don’t have new blood and maintain the Jurassics, voters will throw them out. Bring in new faces, scandals will dominate the headlines.

UPS: What is the answer then? Tell me, what is your advice?

MC: I am an insignificant former political secretary. Why ask me? Sure, I have the answers and solutions but I am keeping it close to my chest. You guys try to screw me and you want my advice?

Waiter, can I have the bill please. You have a meeting at three. You better go. I have another appointment as well. Good to see you again.


As I reflect on this exchange, I can only conclude that MCA as a political party in Malaysian politics is already irrelevant. And there is no way, that MCA or Gerakan and MIC can erase this perception of being subservient to UMNO. And now that the genie has come out of the bottle, how can MCA, Gerakan and MIC put the genie back again. They are all politically stark naked.

Had Barisan Nasional attempted at the minimum a wayang kulit - some sort of display of mutual respect, maybe just enough people may be fooled into believing that the status quo remains. With this UMNO stance, and two idiotic political mavericks running amok in the person of Ibrahim Ali and Hassan Ali, the perceived unofficial agent provocateur for UMNO, this has been a massive blunder by Najib’s strategists.

Finally, and a parting shot if I may be allowed to do so - when big tycoons are using Khazanah’s billions to enable them to exit the Malaysian business scene, it is the proverbial Ides of March.

But, who will be the Brutus?

And we are in the month of March!

Courtesy Matthias Chang; www.futurefastforward.com

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