Tuesday, January 20, 2009


If we fail to deal with these challenges effectively, punishment awaits us in the 13th general election," said the deputy prime minister. He further added, “The Malaysian people are matured enough to gauge their leaders. They are no longer impressed with the rhetoric of changes which are nothing but plain rhetoric. They want results. They want to see actual changes taking place.”

Frankly, I truly wonder if UMNO and BN know the meaning of change, let alone having the ability to undertake some fundamental rethinking on how to move forward. Seems to me the slew of UMNO and BN characters were all over the various media after March 8, 2008. For weeks on end, we heard rhetoric about the need to listen to the message the people had sent, it was a wake-up call, reform was necessary, and on and on…. But I don’t recall BN or UMNO making any discernible breaks from the past methods of operating and so-called governing.

Then came Permatang Pauh and the voters there sent a resounding message when they rejected UMNO, the BN message, and its tactics. Again, we heard echoes of the above comments from Najib. Before long, we were back to business as usual. The rhetoric continued in some quarters – for example, the ‘high profile’ public relations campaign by the MIC to ‘re-brand’ the party. Even a party such as the MIC that is in utter shreds and tatters cannot seem to see the glaring problems crying out for attention how in the world could we have realistically expected UMNO or BN as a whole to seriously and without pretence undertake fundamental change? Does it have the acumen to understand and acknowledge the kind of change the people are demanding?

Hence, when the Kuala Terengganu episode rolled around, much like a genetically programmed specie, we saw the BN and UMNO reveal its usual self. Not much, actually, not even a little had changed in the way BN conducted itself prior to March 2008 and afterwards. Oh yes, there was, of course, much banter about listening to the people, and that in a democracy what the people say matters, and on and on….

Let me give you one simple and most recent example of what I call the BN disconnect. The regime has apparently decided to abandon the need for the Race Relations Act, which among other things would have banned racism. Now even when the BN seems to be headed in the right direction, it finds a way to get off track and badly stumble. This is not unlike a team that is on the winning path but somehow finds a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It almost can’t help itself to do the sensible and prudent thing. Imagine how much tangible gain BN could have made in demonstrating a strong conviction against racism. But how could it? When you think about it, the voters have said time and again that they abhor racist policies and racism. But UMNO and BN cannot change course.

And what's the explanation we get for abondoning this significant step forward? "Race relations is something that comes naturally and cannot be forced through legislation." That's akin to saying being nice to one another and treating people fairly "comes naturally." But then why have laws, for example, against defamation of character or against assault? As with respecting other races and not discriminating, people should just learn to be nice to one another.


Ultimately, UMNO and BN are prisoners of its own flawed and now increasingly defunct ideology. As we see in this U-turn with the Race Relations Act, it will even try to employ bizzare rationalisations to cling on to this ideology. It leaves us wondering if Najib's words about change are again just part of a script where the rhetoric is ample but actual change is left to be desired.

BN and UMNO remind me of Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

G. Krishnan