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MGG Malay Rights Or UMNO Rites?
By Kapal Berita

16/10/2000 10:34 pm Mon

TJ Ringkas sambil komen:

Khalil Yaakob tidak bersetuju debat PAS-Umno di siarkan secara langsung. Ini adalah kekalahan pertama umno. Sebelumnya Hishamudin lari dari debat di sebuah universiti.

Umno sebenarnya ketagih imejnya yang sudah pudar itu. Ia mencuba dengan pelbagai cara tetapi lain pula jadinya. Umno sebenarnya lupa - orang melayu sukar melupakan peristiwa yang menimpa Anwar. Cukuplah dengan semua aksi pura-pura. Umno sebenarnya pandai bermain kata, tetapi menghilang bila dipanggil membuktikannya. Selagi minda yang cetek itu tidak terbuka, selagi itulah ia akan merana. Setiap ceruk dan rantau dunia sudah bergema. Jika Milosevic pun boleh tersungkur, apakah dikator tua akan dapat bertahan lama?

[MGG] Malay Rights Or UMNO Rites?

The Prime Minister approves. UMNO Youth is ecstatic. The PAS youth chief, Mr Mahfuz Omar, will debate with the UMNO youth chief, Dato' Hishamuddin Hussein, on Malay rights. What UMNO could not, UMNO Youth could. UMNO, the undisputed upholder of Malay culture and rights between 1946 and September 1998, when the Prime Minister's mishandling of a disciplinary matter made it no more, believed it did not need debates with opposition parties like PAS and Parti Rakyat Malaysia to prove its leadership of the Malay community. Now with that figleaf and confidence removed, it wants a victory over the opposition it could in the ballot box. The November 1999 general elections gave UMNO a three-quarters victory and control of all but two of 13 Malaysian state administration. But that victory also deprived it of its cultural hegemony. Every by election since confirmed only that it lost the support of the Malay community and remains in power with non-Malay support. PAS, with its Islamic agenda, with its Islamic agenda, does not automatically accede to this cultural hegemon.

The confusion and fright in UMNO is real. Last year, when Dato' Hishamuddin was invited to speak at a university forum, he sent his satrap instead. This fellow was given a run for his money when he reacted with typical UMNO youth arrogance. This time he cannot send a proxy. He faces a seasoned political public speaker and a member of parliament to boot.

UMNO did not expect PAS Youth would agree. Now that it has, UMNO should arrange for it to be held speedily, perhaps in a few months, after the Hari Raya holidays early next year, if not sooner. As usual, UMNO and UMNO Youth did not think this through. The Gore-Bush debates in the United States could have provided a spark. But to rise in UMNO one must prove one's incapability to speak in public: every single leader appears in public with the assurance he would not be contradicted. The best UMNO speakers are not in the administration; they either sit in the backbenches or do not hold high office.

The PAS leaders remain skeptical of this debate. So, it appears, UMNO. The UMNO secretary-general, Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob, who is also information minister, says the debate would not be broadcast live. It involves only two political parties, and should be confined only to them. His sudden interest in the appropriateness of political bradcoasting is commendable indeed. But for the fact that any UMNO parish pump meeting to which its president or senior leaders appear is, for the purposes of radio and television coverage, not a political meeting but an extension of an important government policy caucus. (PAS is not the opposition in Trengganu and Kelantan; the National Front and UMNO are.) It underlines UMNO's nervousness at the tables being turned. But in not televising the debate, UMNO can lose further ground. PAS would ensure the debate is pressed on video tapes and CDs before the week if out, and distributed through its extensive network within days.

If Tan Sri Khalil does not review his decision, UMNO could well win the debate and lose the ground. For more than Malay Rights, it is PAS's rare chance to prove its worth to the Malay cultural heartland. Its Islamic worldview, complete with an Islamic government, makes it unacceptable to many rural Malays, who given a choice between UMNO and PAS these days would lean towards the latter but would not, yet, give his cultural loyalty. Parti Keadilan Negara (Keadilan) had a chance to be that, but it did not take off as its supporters expected. PAS is about to consider a volcanic political change -- to move from its goal of an Islamic government to one in which Islamic principles dominate -- which could put pressure upon UMNO more than ever. The debate proves nothing. UMNO stands to lose more than PAS. PAS, therefore, would not reject any opportunity to state its views.

UMNO needs reassurance that it still is the only upholder of Malay rights. But these rights come with responsibilities. The Malay Leader, at the top of the feudal totem, can expect absolute obedience and loyalty; in return, he must not humiliate those below him. It is this which caused the Malay cultural ground to move away. The Prime Minister has become, willy nilly, the prisoner of the Prisoner. The government puts on a brave front that justice must prevail and the Prisoner got the sentence he deserved, but even his closest friends and supporters cannot accept this refrain with alacrity. The debate is not about Malay rights, though that hovers in the background in this confrontation between secular and theocratic Islam. UMNO believes Islam should be confined in a straitjacket, playing no further role in governance than to ensure Malay primacy and when it decides it should not; PAS believes Islam should dominate not only Malay culture but the Malay government as well. It is this clash over the past five decades -- since the UMNO religious wing left to form PAS in 1951 -- that defined Malay politics in Malaysia. But the Malay, for the first time since 1946, is caught in the middle. He deserts one but does not swing to the other. Which is why UMNO is nervous about its outcome. Malay Rights could well become UMNO rites.

M.G.G. Pillai