IN my lifetime, I never remembered a time when my late beloved father, my respected uncles or anyone that I should listen to, ever sat me down to talk to me about race or politics. About the Bugis, yes, because we were descended from that stock. About politics and race never! The school I remembered going to was Ngee Heng Primary school in Johor Baru, SIC Kota Baru, and then MCKK. In those formative years, I grew up a Malaysian in every way possible. When we needed to talk to each other it was in English or Malay with a smattering of swear words and useful phrases in Cina or Tamil. The “we” I refer to here were other Malaysians. Other Malaysians who are now referred to in that most derogatory of fashion as nons, nonbelievers or even, infidels. Race and politics came into my consciousness only after I started work in the early 70’s…but that is another story.
After Merdeka in 1957 and after Tunku in 1970, Umno grew from strength to strength. We now know that Umno ruled uninterrupted holding on to political power effortlessly for six decades until 2018. So where or when did it start to go wrong for Umno?
For me, it all started to go wrong with the coming of Tun Razak. That was the time when race and politics toxically forged an unholy alliance to serve only the vested interests of politicians and catered to their greed and avarice. Umno’s political demise was ironically and perhaps in a macabre way, fittingly sealed, with the coming of Tun’s Razak son, Najib as Prime Minister.
History will tell us much about these times but do bear with me while I tell you about why Umno is a good party with bad people. We all love Tunku. What is there not to love about Tunku? A good heart, which the Tunku always had, took us, took our people and our nation invariably towards a May 13 because Tunku could not see the evil in others. Tunku could not see what others could do with a political entity like Umno. For Tun Razak and those that came after him, making Umno for the Malays gave it strength. What they could not see is that isolating the Malays from the others invariably led to the decline of the Malays to the state they now are in today. In the end, almost half a century later, Umno is no longer relevant in the times that we live in. Its political demise sealed. And the Malays have failed miserably to live up to its “Tuan” potential. When the Malays fail, Umno fails with the Malays.
Between Tunku and now, one man fought courageously to keep Umno relevant for all Malaysians. This was Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahaman. A man far ahead of his times. We must not forget what Tun Dr. Ismail said then. “Why did we fight for Merdeka? So that the different races can be divided? That can’t be the way, right? That can’t be why all these great Malay and Umno leaders fought for this … Something is wrong…I hope the new discussions will start. Why are we building Malaysia? What Malaysia are we building? What kind of symbol is Malaysia supposed to be”
And do not forget that Tun Dr. Ismail was as much a champion of the Malays as anyone else. He stated thus of the Malays:
“We want to be dominant, but we don’t want to dominate.”
Do not blame Umno the party for the state of our nation today. Do not blame all the Malays or all of Islam for what the Malays and Islam had become today too. The blame lies with the people who are in Umno and the people who chose to use the Malays and Islam for their vested interests. The fact that these people are Malays vexes me constantly for I a Malay, have been tarred and feathered by the deeds and actions of these Malays in Umno and in Islam. We have a need for another Tun Dr. Ismail if we are to find a way back from the brink that race, religion, and political armageddon are relentlessly pushing the Malays towards. Like Tun Dr. Ismail, I and many other Malays want the Malays to be dominant in many things Malaysians. But I do not want the Malays to dominate!
That I hope, will be the Malaysia that we Malays can work towards. Anything else will take us back to the time when Tun Razak, in all his wisdom (NOT!) saw the future of our nation as one where all the excesses of race, religion, and politics were used and abused to make a good party, Umno, into a political party where bad people can do their deeds.