Friday, August 29, 2008

Auntie Maalini’s diagnosis of BN/Umno

A close relative of mine – we’ll just call her Auntie Maalini - recently gave me her take on why Barisan Nasional lost in Permatang Pauh and, equally important, why the Umno controlled alliance seems to have lost the confidence and support of millions across the country. I thought her points seemed very straightforward and right on the mark. To be sure, what she highlighted to me has, in various and numerous ways, been said by others as well. More importantly, I think you’ll find that the points she made to me – which I present below - have much merit.

She said, ‘if you were to look carefully, here's what’s being said [by Umnoputera types about why we lost]: we lost because our campaign was wrong, we lost because it wasn't our hometown, we lost because [our] strategy was wrong and so on and so forth. But the missing piece is this that the masses want policy changes.’

Specifically, she went on to check off three points: First, the public, she suggests, wants nothing anymore to do with race based politics. Second, and closely related to the previous point, they have had it with group-based discriminatory policies which have been exploited and championed under the current regime. Third, the public wants a competent and transparent government that tackles the people’s real, everyday problems such as the lack of affordable housing, biting inflation, access to healthcare and education, and economic growth that will produce decent paying jobs.

I’m sure if you’ve been following much of the public commentary on Malaysiakini, the now blocked website Malaysia Today, and other forums, you will surely have read much about the public’s frustration and even anger with Umno’s total contempt and disregard for the public’s desire to do away with BN’s racist and discriminatory policies.

What is equally striking is that Najib’s leadership and strategy in Permatang Pauh, for example, basically confirmed this reality. He and the rest of the BN’s cast of characters seemed obsessed with promoting their racially laced agenda and politics (while of course also engaging in what I call the ‘gutter politics’ of character assassination). Yet, they never seriously addressed real issues and the pressing concerns of the public, which Auntie Maalini mentioned to me above.

It’s clear that the BN and Umno refuse to acknowledge what Auntie Maalini and others who represent the new Malaysia – an enlightened Malaysia – are calling for. For the enlightened Malaysians, Umno/BN leadership continues to live in the past using smoke and mirrors – and has no constructive and capable leadership on how to move the country beyond its basic racially based politics.

Caught in such a dead-end, how could the BN and Umno ever rise to meeting the real challenges and needs of the citizens, which my auntie and millions of other Malaysians want addressed?

[I do think Auntie Maalini missed her true calling.]

G. Krishnan