Nationalism isn’t about Islamic Malay-centric


A video of the Setia song rendition shared on social media had a notable former Malaysian Bar president texting – “Let’s live and die for Malaysia” in our private chat group.

More than the engaging performance, I think it was the preamble showcasing remarks by urbane and multi-ethnic Malaysians, which moved my friend so magnificently.

I did a simple survey among a dozen contacts, asking them about the celebratory mood of this 64th anniversary of our nation’s independence.

All concurred that there seemed to be a more joyous spirit this time. No one thought that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s exit as prime minister, or Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ascension, had any direct bearing.

My view is that this is the collective result of the post-GE14 phenomenon – the country is not perceived as synonymous with Umno/Barisan Nasional (BN) anymore.

Remember GE11 in 2004 when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi led the BN to the polls after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down just five months earlier? That “feel good” factor achieved the stupendous 198 seats, up from the previous 148 held!

This time, the well-honed lyrics of Setia took on a whole new purpose as it transformed into each and every one of our individual’s expressions.

A confident electorate

The BN was formed in 1973 as the all-encompassing political entity to be the ideal government for our wounded nation after the May 13, 1969, catastrophe. It expanded to 14-party participation at its peak.

However, Umno evolved from its determined leadership role into one of overtly domineering ownership. In fact, in later years, the media had to identify the relationship for what it was, as “Umno and BN”.

The BN was like a tag-along. Then Umno president cum prime minister Dr Mahathir had, on many occasions, openly reminded that Umno could go it alone but chose to stick to the BN concept because Umno preferred “power sharing”.

The purpose of our tripartite system, comprising the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, had blurred to the point where independent thinking was seen as running afoul of the Executive.

For instance, the fourth estate was constantly being bashed for questioning policies and their implementation because “they were not elected, and therefore, didn’t have the authority”.

The judiciary wasn’t spared either when decisions were made against the executive – “Who are they to interpret our intents?” were uttered.

The electorate’s habitual handout of the overwhelming mandate, i.e., two-thirds majority, should have earned a corresponding appreciation, and therefore, the motivation to excel. Instead, we received the obnoxious “we know best”. Certainly, absolute power corrupts absolutely!

The completely top-down leadership in Umno was most clearly manifested when the party accepted that the chosen deputy president was not to be challenged. The rationale being that the incumbent must be someone the president can work with, never mind the sentiments of members.

Well, delegates did toe the line as expected. Candidate selections shifted to picking out the “president’s favourites” because substantial posts awaited these favourites after General Assembly delegates endorsed them.

And the “quid pro quo” culture commenced. Meritocracy sunk even lower.

What I thought took the cake was the 2012 Merdeka celebrations theme – Janji Ditepati or Promises Fulfilled. Gosh! It had the temerity to propose that the rakyat was to rejoice with what Umno had delivered! That was how intertwined the political party had packaged our nationhood.

We started seeing less and less of voluntary displaying of our Jalur Gemilang during Merdeka. The flag-hoisting had been directly equated with exhibiting support for Umno. Was the party so drowned in their self-adulation that they had no blinking idea they were “hijacking what belonged to the rakyat?”

The rakyat weren’t stupid. They were just giving.

Nationalism is about being Malaysian

Umno was integral in securing our independence and the subsequent formation of a government. Her role has been etched in our nation’s history forever. The Malaysian Chinese Association and Malaysian Indian Congress were good and loyal supporting players.

The Umno leadership, displaying its munificence and pragmatism, wanted to create a nation with a Malayan brotherhood, comprising Malays, Chinese, Indians, and all others who didn’t fall in the three larger groupings. And with our Bornean compatriots, we completed the Federation of Malaysia loop.

How did the nationalism-infused party, which led and secured independence most harmoniously, and went on to win repeated electoral support together with like-minded Alliance and BN to form administrations, turn into just a Malay political party?

In fact, Pas was split from Umno in 1951 because the latter couldn’t accept Pas’ Islamic-state mission. Umno was most determined to have a Malaya for all!

GE14 should confirm that at least one-third of the Malay electorate is more concerned with where the nation is heading rather than be stuck with the rhetorical “in defence of the Malay race”.

We shall witness in abundance idealism and self-confidence with the impending admittance of the Undi 18 voters. Maybe this time, half or more of the Malay voters will want to see real issues facing the nation being addressed.

If Umno is to maintain her premier political position, a dead serious re-constitution of mindset and party objectives is mandatory.

Recent statements by Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed and the suspension of this Papagomo character provided some glimmer of hope that the party’s displacement did cause significant reflections.

Tun Musa Hitam (deputy prime minister 1981-86) wasn’t at ease with the party direction way back. He tried to cause a leadership change in 1987 and very nearly succeeded but alas, he resigned as deputy prime minister at the age of 52. He stepped back completely a year later after the unsuccessful bid.

Unfortunately, the values of good principles and integrity exited together with Musa.

All affirmative action initiatives dedicated to assist and uplift the Malay community has been in place for a long time already. Administrations only needed to ensure that the implementation isn’t misdirected.

After 61 years of being solidly at the helm, Umno is most definitely the most culpable in creating the state of acute polarisation!

And finally, do start thinking Malaysian first. To think and act Malaysian is Nationalism!


Hopefully, the 22 months away from Putrajaya resulted in some serious empathy-insights for the true blue Umnoputras. A few must have wondered how the “lifelong oppositionists” slogged and endured with the whole system horrendously stacked against them for so many years!

Now that they have a slight inkling on the opposition playfield, they must work on the PH-commissioned Institutional Reforms. After all, Umno may not be as resilient as the PKR and DAP in the opposition.

We want a revived Umno as a Malaysian-centric party in any coalition setup so as to pose a good challenge in all general elections. The idea is whoever wins or loses, we have an efficient administration and a robust opposition.

Our beloved Malaysia cannot lose.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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