Wednesday, April 7, 2010

(Screw the) People First!

Slogans are great, aren’t they? Our current regime, like all its predecessors, specialises in manufacturing slogans. In many ways the current government is taking this art form to unprecedented levels. The idea of ‘putting people first’ seems to have been a theme the regime has tried to play up ever since the last general elections.

Unfortunately, looking at the state of affairs from exposes dealing with government tenders, wastage, potential fraud, abuse of public funds, lack of oversight, and other such related debacles becoming public since this government came to power, one might be forgiven to conclude that the more appropriate slogan reflective of this regime would be: Screw the People First!

Now, you really don’t need me to run down the list of instances where we’ve seen repeated mismanagement of the public’s resources but the recent revelations on apparent outrageous amounts dolled out for screw-drives simply is a perfect illustration of the magnitude of mismanagement pervasive in this regime. Come to think of it, is it any wonder that Umno has to repeatedly rely on its Ketuanan Melayu propaganda to continue to trump everything else that may cast a serious shadow over its credibility?

Why fret about missing jet engines or the sheer incompetence in managing oversight in the PKFZ scandal; Umno is here to protect and preserve Malay supremacy! Why be bogged down by Apco or police brutality? Why pay attention to those moaning about a spineless and politicised judiciary? You should be afraid of the pendatang. Indeed, you need to worry about the agents of the Chinese, such as Anwar! Don’t sweat all the problems in our declining economic competitiveness, but do be careful of traitors to the Malay race!

Well, I’m sure you get the point and can certainly come up with several other similar instances to corroborate my point.

There is one tool and one tool only that has been the source of Umno’s longevity. It is not, as many believe, Umno’s control of the purse-strings – and therefore, its ability to be the patron of its base and of MIC and MCA. While that is true – and I don’t for a moment deny that getting the crumbs from Umno does matter and does contribute to why MCA and MIC continue to do Umno’s bidding. But Umno's ability to ultimately garner the support of its own base – and that of the complicit MCA and MIC is due to the fact that these enablers of Umno ultimately believe that racial politics is the only approach possible.

For Umno’s supporters, this amounts to therefore embracing their perceived supremacy. For Umno’s enablers (MCA, MIC, Gerakan), this amounts to taking their crumbs and being the deferential and obedient servant. Hence, for different reasons, Umno prospers politically because of its greatest weapon: keeping racial politics relevant.

Screw the people – and it ultimately won’t matter all that much. Umno always has the racial card to ensure that no matter how badly the average person is screwed, its base and its servants will oblige because Umno makes sure racial politics remains relevant.

G. Krishnan