Fan Yew Teng takes issue with Muhyiddin’s recent outburst; what a stark contrast to Umno founder Onn Jaafar, who was more inclusive and open, he observes.
Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysian deputy chairman, has lately been playing the racist card to the hilt.
In his speech at the opening of the Seri Gading Umno division meeting in early August, Muhyiddin, according to The Star (11 August 2009) made some comments about Anwar Ibrahim.
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The Star reported that “Anwar’s lawyer later had submitted a notice demanding Muhyiddin and Utusan Malaysia, which printed the report, to issue an apology or face a RM100mil libel suit from the former deputy prime minister.”
The Star also reported on the same day that Muhyiddin had the day before warned that there are certain individuals among the Malays who would sacrifice their own race for political expediency.
The leading headline on page N8 of the English language daily was: ‘DPM slams Malay traitors’.
The paper reported that “Muhyiddin, who is also Umno deputy president, said these people would stoop to any level in trying to achieve their political ambitions”.
“He said, in the 52 years Umno had been leading the nation, the party had never forsaken the interest of the Malays but in fact had always and would continue to champion them,” the report added.
“It has become my responsibility,” Muhyiddin was reported to have said, “to oppose these individuals who are only after their own political interests at all costs.
“I cannot imagine how our country will be if we (Barisan Nasional and Umno) are no longer in power after the general election,” he said when opening the 11th annual general meeting in Kuala Lumpur of Perdasama, an association for Malay businessmen.
The Star report continued: “Muhyiddin added that what was also more worrying now was that there are some non-Malay quarters who were openly questioning Malay rights and privileges.
“And what was even more disappointing,” he said, “was that there was a small number of Malays who were acting as a thorn in the flesh”.
According to The Star report, “He urged the Malays to be firmly united against these traitors as they were obstacles to the progress of the Malays..”
Well, well, what is one to make of Muhyiddin’s outburst against ‘Malay traitors’? And, equally important, why the outburst now?
Is his frankly racist outburst an indication that Umno is desperately trying to regain Malay support, whatever the means, perhaps encouraged by Umno’s good result at the recent Manek Urai by-election, although it didn’t win?
Or does it tell us something more about Umno in general and Muhyiddin in particular perhaps – that behind the facade of current Umno unity and purposefulness, there are undercurrents of discord fuelled by certain unhappiness and rival ambitions?
Or that perhaps Muhyiddin and his people within Umno are positioning themselves for the post-Najib era? Maybe like what Najib and his people have done successfully to curtail and shorten Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s term of power, there are already plans afoot by some people within Umno to do likewise against the Najib regime?
Perhaps all the above speculation doesn’t really hold much water? But then how does one explain Muhyiddin’s immature and even irresponsible racist attack?
Has he become merely Najib’s hatchet man then, content to do Umno’s dirty political street-fighting, some senior figure sad and tragic who reminds us of the late Ghafar Baba, who was ever ready and willing to do Dr Mahathir’s bidding so long as he was fed a constant diet of political flattery?
Has Najib Razak, as prime minister, Umno president and Barisan Nasional head, approved of Muhyiddin’s outburst? After all he has been rather busy of late in telling the police to go after some Opposition figures for alleged sedition.
Or is it the same old, tired, sad tale of double standards?
Onn Jaafar’s vision
Talking about ‘Malay traitors’, do shallow and narrow Umno politicians like Muhyiddin know enough of Umno history to touch on this subject? Is he that ignorant of Umno’s early history not to know that the late Dato Onn Jaafar, the founder-president of Umno, did a very far-sighted and courageous thing that at the time caused him to be branded by some in Umno as a “traitor to the Malays”?
Just about three years after the establishment of Umno in 1946, Dato Onn and some other Umno leaders started to question the narrow Malay nationalism and racial exclusiveness of the party. Dato Onn was desirous of a Malayan nationalism derived from the various races of the country.
He didn’t stop with wanting non-Malays to become associate members of Umno. At the 12th General Assembly of Umno in Butterworth on 27 August 1949, in his presidential speech he said that the Malays must accept as nationals peoples of other races who were prepared to give their all to Malaya.
A single nationality was essential if “we are to achieve self-government and independence in Malaya”, he said.
It was Dato Onn again who worked hard and long, motivated by his deep beliefs and principles to have Umno accept the controversial citizenship recommendations of the Communities Liaison Committee. He urged that they be adopted at an emergency session of the Umno General Assembly which was held in Kuala Lumpur during the second week of June 1950.
Many of the delegates were hostile to the proposals, and some even branded Dato Onn a “traitor to the Malays and the country”.
But Dato Onn was undeterred. To force the issue, he resigned as Umno president; he also announced the resignation of the entire executive council. He was persuaded to withdraw his resignation, however.
A month later, the Umno Assembly at its annual session in Kuala Kangsar re-elected Dato Onn as Umno president by 66 votes to 3; it also approved the citizenship proposals which it had rejected earlier.
Again this man of political courage and vision did not stop there. Driven by his deep sense of Malayan nationalism rather than narrow Malay chauvinism, Dato Onn then advocated that Umno should open its doors to non-Malays with equal membership rights and privileges. He maintained that Umno had to be turned into a national organisation and not remain merely as an organisation of the Malays.
He reported in the then The Straits Times of 21 November 1950 as saying, “Merely opening the door to associate members is not enough. This must be a national body and non-Malay members should be offered all the rights and privileges of the organisation.”
Dato Onn in fact wanted Umno to be renamed as the United Malayan National Organisation.
Alas, he was about 60 years ahead of his time. He realised that his proposals faced substantial opposition from the divisions, but he went ahead with his plans. He resigned from Umno on 1 July 1951. On 26 August, he tendered formally his resignation from Umno at the party’s general assembly. And so it was that the founding father of Umno and Umno parted ways.
Compared to Umno leaders of today, Dato Onn was a great visonary. He paid a heavy price for his political convictions and courage. As a matter of fact, he was the First Malayan, and the First Malaysian.
Fan Yew Teng takes issue with Muhyiddin’s recent outburst; what a stark contrast to Umno founder Onn Jaafar, who was more inclusive and open, he observes. Indeed, Fathol Zaman Bukhari recalls with nostalgia an era when things were so different.
Petty politicians like Muhyiddin Yassin and most of today’s Umno leaders are political midgets compared to the political giant that was Dato Onn, who dared to transcend the narrow confines of racial politics to try and forge a multiracial nation.
Dato Onn, father of Tun Hussein Onn, Malaysia’s third prime minister, and grandfather of Hishamuddin Tun Hussein, Home Minister and Umno vice president, far from betraying the Malays, dreamed of a just and equal society for all regardless of race, culture and religion.
Doesn’t Hishamuddin agree? Or is he satisfied with a subservient and opportunistic role as mere cheerleader for the hateful and shameless garbage churned out by the likes of Muhyiddin about racial ‘traitors’?
Whether Prime Minister Najib frowns on the immature hysteria of Muhyiddin or not, he must surely realise one important thing: Muhyiddin’s racist outburst is a great embarrassment for Najib’s own 1Malaysia concept. Racial baiting at its worst, Muhyiddin’s over-simplified message is surely against everything that the 1Malaysia concept is supposed to stand for.
IMalaysia is being hyped as the promotion of national unity based on the integration of all Malaysians of different races. But how can that be achieved when some people like Muhyiddin Yassin, a deputy prime minister and deputy president of Umno no less, finds it convenient and expedient to harp, almost on a daily and relentless basis, on race, ‘traitors’ to some race and, by extension, racial heroes?
Does Hishamuddin seriously think that his grandfather was a traitor to the Malays? If he doesn’t would he have the courage and backbone to tell Muhyiddin to shut up and hang his head in shame?
And what has Najib done about the shocking political immaturity of Muhyiddin? Just playing dead to the issue? After all, what his deputy uttered so irresponsibly has betrayed the 1Malaysia concept for what it is: a veritable facade and a farce.
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