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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Champions of Fugly

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UMNO, it seems, wants to be the People’s Champion. And according to them, regardless of whom those Malaysian “people” might be. Not a surprising PR move, really – and some good PR is certainly what the party needs. Thinking about this over the weekend, Walski couldn’t help but recall another Champion from some years back.

The fugly champion, image taken from Cars++, hosting by PhotobucketThe fugly Champion - click on image to view source

The Juara really has to be the fugliest thing ever to come out of Proton. Which is probably why the vehicle, launched in 2001, was terminated only 2 years later. Nobody wanted to buy it, despite the advertising and promotion for the minivan.

The hazard of claiming oneself as a champion – of anything –  is that good Public Relations isn’t enough. You gotta live up to your claim. In a way, the Juara did live up to its name – it was hands down the champion of fugly.

But words and PR aside, what has UMNO proven itself to be a champion of?
(unearthing the true fugly cause of the People’s Champion, in the full post)

Okay, so they’re a champion of their own Malay demographic. But depending on who you talk to, even that’s kind of debatable, especially in the last decade or so. In fact, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, surprisingly still a member of the party, in his speech at the ISEAS Regional Outlook Forum 2010 last week, laments what has become of UMNO.

Umno started in 1946 as a grassroots-based party that commanded the idealism of my generation. After 1987 it was transformed into a top-down patronage machine. Party membership became a ticket to personal gain. The party attracted opportunists and ne’er do wells while good people stayed away in droves. For any organisation this is a death spiral.

For Walski, to be Champion of the People means to champion causes that benefit all the people, and not just some select people. Take, for example, UMNO’s stand in the emotionally charged and blown-out-of-proportion non-issue of the use of the word “Allah”.

Umno’s position in the present controversy over the use of the term “Allah” by non-Muslims is an example. In a milestone moment, PAS, the Islamic party, is holding onto the more plural and moderate position while Umno is digging itself into an intolerant hardline position that has no parallel that I know of in the Muslim world. Umno is fanning communal sentiment, and the government it leads is taking up policy lines based on “sensitivities” rather than principle. The issue appears to be more about racial sentiment than religious, let alone constitutional principles.

In other words, exactly what Walski has been saying all along, particularly in his previous post – that the issue is not one of theology, per se, but of communal sentiments. It’s nice to have one’s views vindicated from time to time, Walski tells ya.

Over the weekend, too, Walski was alerted to a blog posting by one Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah bin Sanusi, who is an UMNO member, and who happens to be the son of Sanusi Junid, a well-known UMNO politician, and one-time Chief Minister of Kedah (among other posts he’s held).

While what he wrote may not be the “official” UMNO stance, it does reflect the mindset of the party, or at the very least, the mindset of its membership. In refuting Marina M. (for not understanding and not representing the majority of the Malays), Akramsyah claims that the “Allah” issue is another chapter in the continuing denigration of the Malays, and says the decision by the High Court has “robbed” the Malays of the exclusive use of the word.

And for the Catholic Church to then venture down the silly path of robbing Malays of the exclusive use of the word Allah... Malays may be lobbing molotov cocktails at all churches indiscriminately, but this is only fair.
(source: Tangents: Restless Musings Of A Malay Mind)

What gives the Malays the right of exclusivity is never explained, of course. Even the Arab Muslims have never demanded such.

Give the article a read, if you haven’t already. To Akramsyah, and, by his claim of understanding the Malay psyche, the majority of Malays, the only resolution to this issue is to appease the Malays. Otherwise:

  • Malays will figure out that it is not just the fault of the churches, or the Christian heirarchy for robbing us of Allah, but the fault of all Christian congregations for letting their religious leaders continue to insult us.
  • Malays will figure out that now that they're in for a penny, might as well go for the pound by attacking Hindu temples for their original insults towards Malay communities by claiming the 'historical right' to build anywhere.
  • Malays will believe since many non-Malays were sitting idle by the side allowing Malays to be insulted, maybe they should be reminded to that they are condoning these insults.
  • Malays in organised mobs will turn on our leaders for being so limp in their defence of our rights.
  • By then it would be too late, as even intelligent Malays will figure out that as we're being accused of being racists anyway by the ungrateful children of 'Pendatang' in this country, might as be racists... the worst kind of racists...

It could very well be that this is just the opinion of one delusional UMNO member. And going by the comments the posting has received, that could very well be the case. But it does make one pause.

And in that pause, one may just ask this question: exactly who are the “people” that UMNO really wants to champion?

The latest development, and one that Walski finds disturbing, surrounding the “Allah” non-issue is what HRH Sultan of Selangor has decreed that the state government prevent the usage of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, in order that the faith of the Muslims is safeguarded (via The Malaysian Insider, article in Bahasa Malaysia).

Disturbing, because the institution of royalty has been dragged into the picture, and in a way, the decree subverts the decision of the courts. And in the process, the feudal psyche of the Malay mindset comes to fore. Think about it though – apart from bragging rights, what exactly does not allowing the word “Allah” to be used by anyone who chooses to, achieve?

It’s no big secret that it has been UMNO, and UMNO-linked NGOs, that have been on the forefront of protesting against the High Court decision. It’s also glaringly obvious that the Government has been very partisan in this matter – not surprising, since the head honchos in government come from the same political party.

If anything, what UMNO has successfully demonstrated to be championing is the cause of perpetuating the Malay feudalistic, and sometimes fatalistic, psyche and mindset. No amount of positive PR can change that. Not even claiming themselves to be the People’s Champion.

Because, quite simply, they are not. Action, as they say, speaks louder than PR.

And when the action of late has been nothing short of fugly, that’s exactly the kind of “Champion” UMNO can ever claim to be.

Juara, indeed. 

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