Thursday, May 07, 2009
It's in the name

Recently UMNO Youth head, Khairy Jamaluddin, announced the creation of 28 bureaus, secretariats and units tasked with 'attracting youths from from all races to support the party'. This move was spun as an attempt by the youth wing to 'widen its struggle for the benefit of all Malaysians'. This sentiment would be admirable if but for the inconvenient fact that UMNO was founded with the explicit purpose of defending Malay rights. (Whether or not the party actually does this is another matter; the rhetoric is clear enough.) The whole notion is akin to the British National Party throwing an injera party to shore up immigrant Ethiopian support for its anti-immigration policies.

On a more basic level, however, even after discounting the fundamental conflict of interest UMNO Youth faces in trying to fight the good fight for all Malaysians, there is the question of how a party based along ethnic lines would accommodate non-Malay supporters within its structure. Clearly, they cannot be members, as determined by clause 4.2 of the UMNO constitution (barring an incredibly improbable amendment to said constitution and a total revamp of the political landscape which has persisted in Malaysia since independence) and would therefore not have any voting rights when it came to internal matters. As such, within this arrangement minority hangers-on would bear the full cost of their own support—in terms of time, effort and money—without being able to have a say in how
and to what end this support is being used.

It is evident then that the whole endeavour is an exploitative one which seeks to bring gains to UMNO (although one wonders who would be so naïve as to fall for such a naked ploy) without any compromise, sacrifice or even reciprocity on their part, all at the expense of individual members from minority communities. Then again, perhaps it should not come as a surprise given the frequency with which UMNO Youth publicly expresses the rentier mentality it inherited from its parent party.

And all this after a three-day brainstorming camp. Damp fizzle is more like.

NB: A quick look at the
UMNO constitution lays to rest any notion of inclusivity. Aside from non-Malays and non-bumiputera, the party is not open to: republicans, anti-monarchists or anarchists (clause 3.2); non-Muslims, agnostics or atheists (clause 3.3); those who question the use of the Malay language as the official language of the federation or seek to elevate other languages to that position (clause 3.5); those who disagree with the entire concept of Malay 'special rights' (clause 3.6). And no communists too, because that ideology is verboten in Malaysia.


Update, 7th May 2009:
It turns out PAS has a similar setup in the form of the PAS Non-Muslim Supporters Club, which the party's top leadership has nominally agreed to elevate to an official dewan, or wing. Of course, any shift by the party from a strictly Muslim-only organization to one predicated on an Islamic moral framework, and thus open to Malaysians of all creeds, will be slow in coming but at least there is a precedent in the Christian democrats of Europe and Latin America. In any case, it is a damn sight closer to becoming a multi-ethnic party than UMNO will ever be.

Update, 30th May 2009:
PAS spiritual leader, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, has reiterated the willingness of the party's top leadership to absorb the PAS Non-Muslim Supporters Club, and will take under advisement recommendations regarding changes to the party's constitution from a purpose-formed technical committee before tabling the motion to the central committee.

posted by Hong at 12:05 am | Permalink |