Sunday, 13 September 2009

Too Meddlesome To Sink Or Swim Together? UPDATED

The Barisan Nasional or National Front seems to be growing into its is becoming just a front. The major component parties UMNO, MCA and MIC have become like "Siamese Triplets" (I know there is no such a term) over the last few decades of political dominance that their fortunes are inextricable tied to each other.

After the trashing of GE12 each was left staring in the mirror and looking east to the new power brokers of Malaysian politics; the East Malaysians! The attempted soul search resulted in top leadership change in UMNO and MCA but Samy Vellu retained his hold on MIC, vowing to institute changes and re-brand.

UMNO dumped the Sleepy One without much problem but now both MCA and MIC are gripped by factional fights for control that both the component parties and BN can ill afford. So what do we see happening now? While in the past UMNO's hold over their senior coalition partners was tacit as they played off each other, it now appears overt action is deemed necessary by UMNO to try determine the leaders of its partners.

What happened in the run-up to and Saturday's MIC elections not only shows blatant meddling by Najib and Mahathir in MIC affairs, it appears to indicate UMNO's desperation to keep its partners relevant. Wither the spirit of Barisan? This "Siamese Triplets" as with Siamese Twins, if one dies, the other two also dies.

It looks like the MIC delegates showed Mahathir and Najib the middle finger.

Samy's men won on Saturday and yet Samy must have been still seething inside as he broke into song to celebrate their almost clean sweep. The doctor who used to eat cake from Samy's hand openly called for his removal and Najib behaved like a rude guest by egging delegates to make leadership changes. This was unprecedented.

Three questions. How is Samy going to react to his intractable Barisan partner now that he has re-established firm control over MIC? Which of the two clowns will UMNO openly endorse for the MCA leadership? Are we seeing the beginning of the end of race based politics?

1.51 pm 13th September UPDATE

This one from Zaid Ibrahim in Malaysiakini. Zaid of course puts things more eloquently. Please read:

MIC delegates bury an Umno myth
Terence Netto
Sep 13, 0912:59 pm

PKR's Zaid Ibrahim, who's got the daunting task of forging more cohesive mechanisms in an apparently fractious Pakatan Rakyat, was smiling broadly the morning after the MIC elections.

Not ordinarily one to derive pleasure from his detractors' discomfiture, Zaid remains optimistic about his daunting task, more so after what he called the "breaking of another distorting myth in Malaysian politics."

He explained the myth as "Umno gets what Umno wants."

"Much as Umno wanted it, it could not get the MIC to refresh its leadership ranks," observed Zaid in the immediate aftermath of the MIC elective assembly's endorsement of all candidates allied to its president S Samy Vellu, whom Umno wants to usher quietly into retirement.

The latter course would have been sealed had leaders other than those endorsed by Samy Vellu been elected at the party's polls yesterday.

"The outcome dispels the myth that Umno gets what Umno wants," opined Zaid, in remarks to Malaysiakini.

Umno president Najib Abdul Razak disdained the customary elliptical style in speech making wherein subtle hints are dropped as to what the BN chairperson wants of a component party for a more direct - and inevitably courtesy scanting - approach when he delivered the opening address at the MIC assembly yesterday.

Observers normally parse the opening address for hints of what the BN chairperson desires to see in a component party, a power of indirect suggestion honed to an art by Malay political culture and hugely enhancing of the stature of an Umno president.

Myth buried for good

In his address yesterday, Najib clearly semaphored his desire for refreshment of MIC's leadership ranks as a necessary prelude to the party's recovery of the Malaysian Indian voters' allegiance, traditionally a safe bank for the BN but no more it seems, judging from trends evinced at the general election in March last year.

"This is a crucial juncture in Malaysian politics - less critical, no doubt, than the destruction of the myth that 'Umno itu Melayu, Melayu itu Umno' ('Umno is synonymous with the Malays'), but no less significant as a follow through to the incineration of that earlier myth," said Zaid.

The myth 'Umno is synonymous with the Malays' has become groggy from the pummelling it took at the last general election and in all but one of the eight by-elections held since.

"That myth is buried for good and now this myth 'Umno gets what Umno wants' is down for the count," asserted Zaid."

Talk of creative destruction - this is it. You need these two myths to be broken before we can build a new Malaysian political culture from its ruins," he commented.

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