We Need More Ahmad Ismails in UMNO Now January 29, 2009Posted by malaysianstory in Malaysian Politic.
Tags: Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, UMNO
No doubt there are many flaws and weaknesses in Umno that need urgent correction and improvement to make it relevant to the Malays, but this does not mean the party has not accomplished anything for them.
I believe many in Umno now do not even know the history of their own party, lest they have forgotten or repudiate to read, learn and understand its history, let us go down memory lane for us to ponder, value and appreciate the struggles and sacrifices of our forefathers in defending the rights of the Malays, without getting any returns or rewards, unlike today.
The United Malays National Organisation, or UMNO, ( Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu), is a right-wing party and Malaysia’s largest political party; the founding member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been Malaysia’s ruling political party since independence and known for being a major proponent of Malays nationalism, Islamism and capitlism, which holds that the Malay are the “definitive” people of Malaysia and, thus, deserve special privileges as their birthright than any other race in Malaysia.
After the British returned to Malaya in the aftermath of World War II, the Malayan Union was formed. However, the Union was met with much opposition due to its constitutional framework, which allegedly threatened Malay sovereignty over Malaya. A series of Malay congresses were held, culminating in the formation of the nationalist party, UMNO on May 11, 1946 at the Third Malay Congress in Johor Bahru, with Datuk Onn Jaafar as its leader. UMNO strongly opposed the Malayan Union, but originally did not seek political power. UMNO was comfortable with continuing to play its supporting role to the British rulers. The leaders cooperated with the British and helped to defeat the communist insurgency.
In 1949, after the Malayan Union had been replaced by the semi-autonomous Federation of Malaya, UMNO shifted its focus to politics and governance. Being afraid of claiming ‘independence’ of Malaya in front of British officers, the independence is proclaimed as the independence of Malayan people, not just Malays. The Malay people thus search for their birth-rights since the government of Malaya did not proclaim it openly, resulting in a confusing situation.
In 1951, Onn Jaafar left UMNO after failing to open its membership to non-Malay Malayans to form the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP). Tunku Abdul Rahman replaced Dato’ Onn as UMNO President. That same year, the Radical Party won the first election in Malaya—the George Town municipal council election—claiming six out of the nine seats available. However, the following year, UMNO formed an agreement with the Malaysan Chinese Association (MCA) to avoid contesting the same seats in the Kuala Lumpur municipal council elections. UMNO and MCA eventually carried nine out of the twelve seats, dealing a crushing blow to the IMP. After several other successes in local council elections, the coalition was formalised as an “Alliance” in 1954.
Let me also jog your memory on how former Gerakan president and Penang Chief Minister had behaved when his party was in Alliance as many may not be aware.
In Malaya’s first general elections in 1959, the Alliance coalition led by UMNO won 51.8% of the votes, resulting in 74 out of 104 seats, enough for an absolute two-thirds majority in Parliament, which would not only allow them to form the government again but amend the constitution at will. However, for the Alliance, the election was marred by internal strife when the then MCA leader Lim Chong Eu demanded his party be allowed to contest 40 of the 104 seats available. When the Tunku rejected this, Lim and his supporters resigned, many of them running in the election as independents, which cost the Alliance some seats.
To reflect the change of name to Malaysia, UMNO’s coalition partners promptly altered their names to the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress. Several political parties in East Malaysia, especially Sarawak, also joined the Alliance to allow it to contest elections there.
Let me also remind you Malays how your own race was treated by Lee Kuan Yew which led to the expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia..
In the 1963 Singapore state elections, the Alliance decided to challenge Lee Kuan Yew’s governing People’s Action Party (PAP) through the Singapore Alliance Party. UMNO politicians actively campaigned in Singapore for the Singapore Alliance, contending that the Singapore Malays were being treated as second-class citizens under the Chinese-dominated PAP government. All of the UMNO-backed Malay candidates lost to PAP candidates. UMNO Secretary-General syed Jaafar Albar travelled to Singapore to address the Malay populace. At one rally, he called the PAP Malay politicians un-Islamic and traitors to the Malay race, greatly straining PAP-UMNO relations. The PAP politicians, who saw this as a betrayal of an earlier agreement with the Alliance not to contest elections in Malaysia and Singapore respectively, decided on running on the mainland in the 1964 general election. Although the PAP contested nine Parliamentary seats and attracted large crowds at its rallies, it won only one seat. The strain in race relations caused by the communal lines along which the political factions had been drawn led to the 1964 Race Riots in Singapore.
Alliance leaders also were alarmed at Lee’s behaviour, which they considered unseemly for the Chief Minister of a state. They thought he was acting as if he were the Prime Minister of a sovereign nation. Finance Minister Tan Siew Sin of the MCA labelled Lee as the “greatest, disruptive force in the entire history of Malaysia and Malaya.”
On August 7, 1965, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, seeing no alternative to avoid further bloodshed, advised the Parliament of Malaysia that it should vote to expel Singapore from Malaysia. Despite last ditch attempts by PAP leaders, including Lee Kuan Yew, to keep Singapore as a state in the union, the Parliament on August 9, 1965 voted 126-0 in favour of the expulsion of Singapore.
Tunku opened his speech in Parliament with the words, “In all the 10 years of my leadership of this House I have never had a duty so unpleasant as this to perform. The announcement which I am making concerns the separation of Singapore from the rest of the Federation.” On that day, a tearful Lee Kuan Yew announced that Singapore was a sovereign, independent nation and assumed the role of prime minister of the new nation. His speech included this quote: “For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories.” Hence, Singapore became the only country in the history of the modern world to gain independence against its own will. After the separation and independence of Singapore in 1965, the Singapore branch of UMNO was renamed the Singapore Malay National Organisation (Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Singapura).
The party is neither ‘dead nor alive’ under the rule of PAP, dominated by the Chinese, in Singapore.
Let me also remind you how someone like Ahmad Ismail who was championing and defending the rights of the Malays was treated by his own race and leaders in UMNO.
On the evening of August 23, 2008 Datuk Ahmad Ismail, UMNO Penang’s Bukit Bendera division chief for 20 years campaigned for the BN candidate for the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat. On August 25, local Chinese daily Sin Chew Daily reported the speech he made at Kampung Pelet in which he allegedly said Chinese were “squatters” and could not have equal rights. He escalated the tensions between UMNO’s ethnic Chinese Barisan partners with an outburst in which he warned the Chinese community not to seek political power. “The patience of the Malays and Muslims has a limit. Do not push us to the wall, as when we turn back we will be forced to push the Chinese in the interests of our own survival,” he told a press conference. “The Chinese should not try to be like the Jews in America. It is not enough they control the economy, now they want political control.” Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said after a meeting of the Barisan Nasional’s Supreme Council that party leaders had expressed “regret and anger” over the Ahmad Ismail’s comments and that UMNO would make a decision on Ahmad’s fate.
Ahmad Ismail was defiant as he left a meeting with the premier earlier, saying Malays were “frustrated” and that Malay “dignity” was at stake. “Half the Chinese say I’m a racist but most Malays say I’m a nationalist defending my race,” he told reporters. “What I see now is a rise of the Malay people, and I feel we should capitalise on the strength, the support we get from the Malay people… I know they are with me.”
Ahmad Ismail was eventually suspended from UMNO for the next three years on September 10, 2008. However stronger action than had been expected in a bid to soothe growing anger in the economically powerful Chinese community and among parties in his ruling coalition.
Metaphorically, we hope there will be more Ahmad Ismails and not Abdullah Ahmad Badawis in Umno now so they can sincerely and genuinely pursue and continue the original and fundamental struggles of Umno forefathers.