Saturday, May 4, 2013

[MGG] The National Front assumes its mantle on its way to destruction

This article was written by my father on 27th December 2005 in Sangkancil. I thought it was relevant to the political scene now.

THE NATIONAL FRONT IS NOT absolutely in power as it thinks it is. It is true it has two thirds or more in parliament and 12 of the 13 state assemblies. but it keeps looking over its shoulders before it does any legislation. First it was the reformasi crowd, which was formed in the wake of Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim's dismissal as deputy prime minister and UMNO's deputy president and expulsion from UMNO.

The National Front, in reality UMNO, the Malay party which controls the non‐Malay parties in the front, at first did what it wanted. The other leaders of the National Front would do whatever it asked, whether right or wrong and did not care if the move affected the parties and communities they allegedly led, so long as it remained in the Cabinet. The National Front bypassed Parliament, and the state assemblies in the states they controlled, did not believe in getting them involved unless it, usually UMNO, wanted their support. It did not believe in consultation or approval. They had absolute majority in most cases. They introduced the New Economic Policy, to give the Malays a leg up in business while they held the political power to which the non‐Malay party leaders, in the cabinet, agreed. The laws were passed in parliament and the state assembies, with the non‐ Malays and non‐Muslims voting even if the law affected their members.

In Kelantan, it has had a tough ride. PAS won the first general election in 1959 and lost it in 1978, when UMNO forced it down in demonstrations. PAS won it again in 1990 and has held it since. The National Front issues threats it would not honour if it is in PAS's position, in the states or in parliament, and it promises what it will not honour once the election or byelection is over. It made promises galore in the recent byelection in Pengkalen Pasir, which it won, but it has ignored the promises made in the other constitutuencies in Kelantan it won in the general election last year. But it believes it can do this because people have short memories, it demonises the other political parties, which it publicises in the newspapers it control, in reality all the mainstream newspapers, and therefore the whole country. People are sheep at the best of times, and lap it up, often blamining the opposition for not rebutting the National Front's political moves.

But the opposition is not allowed to own its own newspapers. Many have tried, but the government view is that what is not in the National Front's interests is not allowed. The opposition parties are allowed their organs which they can sell only to their members. And so most Malaysians have not seen or heard of them.

Over the years, the opposition parties often take the law into their hands. Harakah, the PAS party organ, is published twice monthly, and is sold to the general public, though it cannot, and gets its views heard throughout the land. It sells more than 200,000 copies every issue, and more during elections or byelections. It has a multiracial leadership because eight of its pages are in English. It is read avidly because it contains the alternative point of view, a refreshing change from the Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil newspapers which carry only the National Front point of view. It carries the views of opposition leaders only when they support the National Front views, or if they are in trouble. The opposition leaders, instead of fighting the existing position of the National Front, take the line of least resistance, and survive in the National Front shadow. But there are exceptions. PAS is committed to an Islamic state as it proclaimed when the religious wing broke off from UMNO in 1951. The Parti Rakyat Malaysia remained a thinking man's party, and the rump after its split with the Parti Socialis Malaysia has joined Parti Keadilan Rakyat, formed to get Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim from jail. The other political parties do not matter because it is personality splits with parties in the National Front that formed them, and they would usually like to replace their alter egos in the National Front. National Front leaders will not admit it but the views although publicly decried is quietly taken as its.

Politics has changed in more than 60 years. The present leaders of the National Front ignores the reason why they are around, and rewrite history to make themselves relevant. They believe in the primacy of the party, not its members. The National Front leadership is so made as to ensure its leaders, their children and hangers on benefit at the expense of the members. But the Malay, Chinese and Indian are beginning to question this. They are on they sidelines because they do have leaders. But pockets of them exist all over the country, either racially or multiracially grouped. The National Front thinks they can overcome them but its becoming difficult.

The young men and women coming out of universities will provide that leadership. It already begins to show. PAS and PKR get Malay recruits more than UMNO for political activities. In fact, it is said the young Malay who wants to become rich joins UNO, those who want to be in politics look  elsewhere.

The National Front is caught between a cleft stick. To all intents and purposes it is UMNO, for its policies take precedence even if it affects the non-Malays. It changed its policy to islamic rather than Malay, to challenge PAS, and insists its version of islam is right.

But all changes to Islamic law in the federal and state governments, which affects the minorities- Malays, Chinese, Indian, Hindus, Christians, women - are unanimously passed, which means the non-Malays and non-Muslims agree. But the women are not minorities. They represent more than half the electorate. The recent amendments to the Islamic family law in the Federal Territories was not plain sailing as women came in the last minute to protest. But the law was passed, because at a price: it would bring amendments later to satisfy the women. The law must now go to the Agung for his signature before it becomes law. The women's affairs minister, a woman, has initiated talks with the Religious Affairs department, but not with women's groups, to amend the law.

In Mexico, the ruling party which ruled from 1929 partly because it got the whole country involved in party elections was overthrown after 70 years. While that was autocratic, it allowed democracy within it that any body elected, especially the president, was co-opted as members. But it was not enough. It was defeated in 1999. The National Front has remained in power since 1955 with the president deciding who the individual parties would select as their leaders, who are excused often from the five year rule that ordinary members are subject to. It is a top down party and what the president says goes. There is no democracy in the party contrary to what it says. It does not expect opposition from anyone; so when it comes from the women senators, it promises changes, but look over its shoulders when it makes them, and the list is widening: Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, PKR, PAS, UMNO women and it goes on. UMNO is a Malay and Islamic party because it has the support of non-Moslems and non-Malays. It clings to non-Malay support, as Malay support deserts it.

Now the non-Malay and other support threatens to desert it. The National Front thinks it is on specific policies, but it comes from the National Front believing it can do what it likes, how it likes and without consulting others. But now it has opposition from within, who fights a political battle against its leaders. Recently, the NF president used his power in government to order the Yang Dipertuan Agung not to attend a function held by his opponents UMNO. Soon it can be both only if it is supported by the non-Malays. 

M.G.G. Pillai


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