Salvaging UMNO and the Civil Service and other Malay Institutions

Tun razak was an institution builder. TDM was a destroyer of institutions.

Institutionalising an entity means developing an organization beyond personalities, with its own systems, values, traditions, missions, heritage. An institution is always referred to organizations that brings good to its members and society at large.

In this write up I am addressing the members of a strategic Malay institution, an august forum, the MCOBs, putting across an argument that two Malay institutiions that the Malays need to immediately help save and help revitalise are UMNO and the civil service.

You may be a PAS or PKR man with a killer instinct but hang on. Look at the big picture. Assuming that you are the government, a strong opposition will make you stronger. And a clean civil service is key to the well being of society and our well being

The Malay College is a Malay institution, and we already share the passion and in some cases obsession to strengthen it.

The Malays as a race is not that bad an institution builder. The fact that it puts traditions and customs in high regards are traits that make them good institution builders. With Malaya becoming independent what more as a federation, and the migration from feudalism to democracy, institution building moved beyond royal institutions to those encompassing politics, religion, education and military.

Post Merdeka, the time of Tun Razak was the time associated with great institution buildings. The same could not be said about TDM era. I would even categorise him as one,  the destroyer of institutions. This has a lot to do with the many failed privatisations of national institutions and the things he did to the judiciary. How would you explain a world class institution such as Malaysian airlines being made a personal private property ,a third rate as an example.

If I have to choose 5 strategic segments  for the Malays to focus on , I would put the military, the malay political institutions ,the malay civil service, the malay economic institutions and educational institutions in my list. I categorize the malay sultanates under politics. I have not included the religious institutions because it has always been central to Malay society and religion amongst Malays touches every aspect of their daily life.

If I have to go one level down and choose 5 institutions that need immediate attentions UMNO is top of the list, followed by the civil service, the the military, the Malay monarchy, the judiciary, and the Malay elite schools.

No matter how bad the current mood against UMNO is, we need to recognize that it is a a vital and strategic Malay Institution. No matter how outdated you think umno is now, it has a role to play for the betterment of the Malays and the country. A rotten UMNO would weaken the malays political grip no matter how strong PAS or Keadilan are.

As a non member of UMNO you may ask how would you help revitalise UMNO. Put on the pressure to its members to change, subject them to good governance,. During elections, vote the good guys, ignore the bad, the rude, the arrogant. To those within UMNO you are the change agents.

Second in my list is the civil; service. Politicians have been getting alot of the flak for failures to govern for failures to be good and clean leaders but the one sitting pretty eating into the coffers and further undermining the malays are the civil ervants which include the police. Corruption is the cancer that i think is already in the- critical stage.

With these two institutions in check the other institutions will be in good health


7 Responses to Salvaging UMNO and the Civil Service and other Malay Institutions

  1. mbahLanang says:

    Assalamu’alaikum wrbkth..
    Jaman saiki wes ora ono ‘wong melayu’… – kabeh iso ditukoni… rong atus wes kebungahen banget…yo kabeh wes melayu ngedol po kulon..??..
    Nek ngelakokney..yo..seng alon-alon angger klakon..!!.. Nek mondar mandir, omongan waey, iso disugokney pastiney opo seng direnchono yo gayepan..
    Salam karo embok-embak ey..

  2. inspigoblog says:

    shame on me, a JI that I am, a Lord of Kendal for that matter, the language is alien to me. Can you be so kind to translate it. i know it is a gem of a statement

  3. Ramumenon says:

    I came across your blog, liked the latest one, then checked the archives and said Hmm, interesting guy.

    Anyway, I would like to challenge your view of UMNO as a vital and strategic Malay Institution. Historically yes, but in the last 15 years plus, no. You note Bakrimusa on your blog roll and therefore you know how he feels about UMNO.

    For me UMNO has outlived its usefulness. Today’s UMNO has some fine people, some liberal and progressive, others conservative and still others reactionary. There are UMNO members that are capitalistic and others who are socialist, members who very Islamic and others who are secular inclined, some members who are corrupted because of money politics and others who are disgusted with all this. That’s a lot of contradictions and no organization, political, religious or social can survive internal contradictions for long.

    And to me, what bothers me most about UMNO is how so many members kept quiet about the way Anwar Ibrahim was punished politically and personally by TDM – despite these members having problems with the “evidence” that was produced by TDM, and the lack of judicial independence when his trial occured.

    So, I feel that it’s ok for UMNO to split apart – let members go their separate ways, and some of these fine ex-UMNO people, whether they are Islamic, capitalist, socialist or whatever, will use their talents and skills and rise up the ranks of other political groupings or create new ones.

    And by the way, I do not think the fate of the Malays is linked to UMNO anymore. Malays today are not the same as Malays of 50 years ago. No, you have a thriving Malay middle class – entrepreneurs, artistes, professionals, writers, thinkers etc. They are self-confident, have a diversity of opinions, are increasingly concerned about issues such as corruption, transparency of government, and judicial independence. They are also the strong majority of the population in Malaysia – so no whatever happens in Malaysia in the next decades, whether UMNO is around or not, Malays will be playing the leadership role.

  4. inspigoblog says:

    I am a firm believer of strong, effective institutions. A key institution is the judiciary, being the regulator and the custodian of the constitution. Parliament as a component of democracy, acting as the Board of directors and the executives being led by the party winning the biggest majority in the general meetings ( General election), need to be rock solid.

    Take the case of INDIA, the biggest democracy in the world. They have a passion for institution building. Obsessive is more apt to the extent, they overdo it that it disrupt progress. We do not want to go the Indian way but we have to recognize that it is the numerous Federal institutions that bind the Federation of diverse India together.

    Back to Malaysia, Go one level down, you need strong political parties to fulfill the executive role. UMNO, MCA, MIC, gerakan, PKR, DAP need to be corrupt free, unchauvinistics, non racist. progressive, whether they are in government or otherwise. Even if PKR or PAS or DAP is the coalition of the future we need a strong parliament a healthy democracy which we can achieved if the opposition is strong and clean and effective. Otherwise we are back to where we started. or to say crudely we will be in the same shit.

    I am not saying that UMNO and barisan should forever be in Government. The Malays have already sent that message to UMNO in 1997/98. Umno was already dumped by the majority of Malays , if not for the non Malays PAS and Keadilan would have formed the government then. They failed to reform, and after 10 years a stronger message has been delivered by the rakyat.

    Like the Congress party of India, UMNO is already an institution. It is extremely difficult to exterminate. The Baath party even after the invasion and occupation, the Baath party is still alive in IRAQ. The better strategy is to allow them to clean. Sun tzu said that do not force your enemy to a corner. Give him a route to escape and redeem.

    The General Malay mindset is not ready to be without UMNO. As Raja Nazrin said yesterday, we need UMNO to change their mindset and then the mindset of the significant number of Malays they represent. Understanding the Malay psyche is essential to maintaining stability of malaysia. No rush, act wise.

    UMNO is like the mothership of an aging flotilla. They look so good from the outside and with misiles and guns ready for war but the officers are rotten and the engine room need a lot of oiling. Generally there are still many fine soldiers and sailors. Based on an old naval principle” there are no bad sailors but bad officers” the crew need to stage a mutiny or do a thorough cleanup of the officers mess. Otherwise it will be a rickety old flagship which does not contribute to nation building. So give them space to do a clean up. They will be a good opposition at the very least. Let us be a good sport, allow trhe members to act. We are mere spectators and stakeholders with one vote each..

    If the Barisan is the Eastern fleet then PR is our Western Fleet ready to protect the motherland. We should be moving to a 2 party system, possibly with the 3rd column or fleet being made up of the fringe parties like the British model.

    If UMNO is bad, MCA is bad and MIC is rotten, it is no good for Malaysia, even if PR is extremely strong and effective. A weak umno is no good to the MCA and MIC or any other member of the component party. It will not be good to Malaysia.

    Let us see the big picture.

  5. Ramumenon says:

    I like debating ideas and I hope we continue this discussion as I see this as part of my education.

    The current climate in UMNO is full of recriminations. AAB and Najib talk of orderly transition, Ku Li asks if transition from one to the other is constitutional, everyone but AAB and his advisors think nominating “quotas” are just bad, several others have suggested that AAB sail off into the sunset, and of course, there is TDM who launches missiles in all directions.

    To me, politically, this situation represents a crisis of legitimacy within UMNO, which is linked to fact that there has been no real internal democracy within the party nor internal checks and balances. UMNO has always had a fundamentally feudal culture and is intolerant of dissent – which I think was what happened to the Congress in India, the other “institution” you mention. For institutions to fulfill their role, they have to have internal legitimacy, which I would argue is sorely lacking in UMNO right now. The situation in UMNO is, I think, the legacy of TDM – building great infrastructure and weakening the institutional framework.

    Let me address a couple of points you raised.

    1. The Congress party in India shares many similar characteristics to UMNO but also two key differences. It is: 1) based on a dynasty – the Nehru family and its descendants; and 2) Since the 1990s, the Congress has also lost political power at all levels – federal and state. It was returned to power at the federal level in 2003 or 2004, but as a major coalition partner holding less than 50% of the seats in the Indian parliament. It holds power only in a handful of states now. Perhaps the second point would be the future for UMNO?

    2. I too read reports of Raja Nazrin’s speech. I’ve admired much of what he has said over the last couple of years. But I think he was making a key point which I hope you noticed – he said that there is a role for the royalty in protecting the Malay mindset. Notice how many times he mentioned the words “Malay Rulers” in his speech but does not appear to make reference to the Malay political leaders (full disclosure – I could not consult the full text of his speech, which is not available yet). He asserts that the Malay rulers have paid attention to the Malays’ interests and Islam. He certainly was not meaning UMNO or Malay political leaders.

    UMNO and Malay political leaders have to be concerned about this. As you well know, UMNO and the Malay royalty have had difficult relations, during UMNO’s early years, under TDM, and now more recently under AAB, and the royalty has been exerting itself as in the case of the selection of the top judges, and of course in Perlis and Trengganu after March 08. This is another major challenge UMNO has to face.

    I also want to point out the use of the term “mindset.” Do Malays have a mindset? Can any community have a mindset? Do Japanese? Americans? Indians? Chinese? I think the Malays in W. Malaysia have a shared political history (except those in non-Federated states), language, and religion, but to argue that they have one (common) mindset is to do injustice to this long-established and proud community. That’s a topic worthy of a future discussion.

    The bottom line – If UMNO as an institution has to be saved for the 21st century, given some of the factors I’ve outlined, it’s going to be one hard slog. It’s time for the crew to mutiny and do a thorough clean up of the officers’ mess, and more. Or they should jump ship!

  6. inspigoblog says:

    Groupthink or herd mentality seem to have crept into UMNO, that is a recipe for disaster.

    Janis has documented eight symptoms of groupthink:
    a.Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
    b. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
    c.Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
    d.Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
    e.Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
    f.Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
    g.Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
    h. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view,

    the good news and the positive outcome of the GE for UMNO is the dissenting voices challenging GROUPTHINK.

    They need to make democracy robust in UMNO. They must be prepared to challenge each other and yet are cultured enough to manage conflicts and disagreements.

    If psychologist recognize that there is such thing as Groupthink, then MINDSET of a particular community thus exist. But to say that a community is monolithic is not quite right. You may say that a majority of a particular community believes in something or have some common fears. Polls are supposed to read or gauge the mindset at a particular time.

    Malaysians, politicians and the general public as well as the politicians tend to forget that the royalty was one of the negotiating parties when the constitution was drafted. They were a major and distict stakeholders and still is. Now they are asserting themselves for their own relevency and survival. Politically they know that their future lies with the protection of Malay rights and raja nazrin has made that move following the move by the crown prince of Kelantan. its assertiveness is not done by coincidence but i believe it is by design.

    Umno is salvageable, but it is a mammoth task indeed. they have the benefit of being the incumbent.

  7. Ramumenon says:

    Groupthink is appropriate. It fits!

    The late professor Syed Hussein Alatas coined the term “bebalisma” and I think that fits too.

    I need to think more about “mindset”.

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