Does Umno represent all Malays? Is the Umno viewpoint synonymous with the Malay world view?
Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein and Datuk Reezal Marican of Umno Youth would like Malaysians to believe so. They want Malaysians to equate an insult against Umno Youth as an insult against all Malaysians.
But the answer to both questions is a resounding NO.
The umbilical cord between the ruling party and the community it was set up to serve has long been severed. It is difficult to pinpoint when the break happened.
Some political pundits say that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking from government in 1998, his humiliation and jailing by the Mahathir administration was the defining episode that ended the special relationship between Umno and the Malays.
Others argue that the cord did not snap as a result of one pivotal event but was cut after decades of excesses and corruption by ruling party politicians.
In the 1999 elections, the new more tenuous relationship between Umno and the Malays became obvious. Malay voters in the 59 large Malay-majority seats in Peninsular Malaysia split their votes between the Umno/Barisan Nasional (49 per cent) and the Pas/Barisan Alternatif (51 per cent).
In 2004, thanks largely to euphoria over Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s promise of reforms and more religious image, the Malay vote swung back to Umno. Umno/BN snared nearly 59.1 per cent of the votes in 60 Malay-majority seats in Peninsular Malaysia, nearly 10 per cent up from 1999.
Political analysts say that on March 8, 2008, the Umno/BN share of the Malay vote was between 52 per cent and 55 per cent.
In a comprehensive survey conducted by Merdeka Centre just after the general election, 54.7 per cent of Malay respondents felt that Malays should be united under Umno while 35 per cent of Malay respondents felt that more room should be given to other Malay political parties such as Pas.
But this support for Umno among Malays could be slipping judging by results of the last two by-elections.
In the Permatang Pauh by-election, Anwar obtained 62 per cent of the Malay vote and in the Kuala Terengganu by-election, the Pas candidate won the seat on the strength of Malay support, especially those in the younger age group.
So looking at the voting pattern since 1999, one conclusion can be reached: Umno no longer can claim to speak for the Malays. It has to share that privilege with Pas and, to a lesser extent, Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
This fact is important because there is a move by Umno to pit whoever dares criticise the party against the Malay community. Reezal Marican, the prime minister’s political secretary and aspirant for the No. 2 position in Umno Youth, attempted to do so yesterday.
He said that DAP chairman Karpal Singh had hurt the Malays’ feeling by uttering the word “celaka” (damn) in reference to Umno Youth during his debate speech in Parliament.
“If we were to curse Karpal by saying ‘celaka Singh’, it would surely anger the Sikh community as it had hurt the Malays as Umno Youth is representing the Malays,” he said.
Nice try but Umno Youth only represents their political party. Several of the men who gate crashed Parliament and confronted Karpal are contesting the party elections in March. Arguably, they were representing their own political aspirations on Thursday.
It’s the Umno election season and their actions and words are guided by one objective only: garnering enough support for the polls in March. That is why Hishammuddin spoke like a warrior yesterday when he said that he would stand by the Umno Youth members who confronted Karpal.
“If they are brought before the privileges committee, I will attend. Even if it is in court, I will be with them.
“We will defend our honour and our good name,” he said. Several hundred kilometres away in Kedah, his deputy Khairy Jamaluddin was bending the facts and painting the stormtroopers of the Youth wing as the aggrieved party in the Parliament fracas.
Yes, all of them would like Malaysians to believe that when they speak, they speak on behalf of the Malays. They don’t. The numbers do not support this claim. They are politicians auditioning for next month’s elections.
Umno politicians frantically playing to the gallery ahead of March elections (Barisan whip Najib still very very quiet)