All the Umno president’s men

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

For the so-called winners of the much-disputed general election, Umno, and rest assured Umno is the only winner; the next big struggle is the internal conflict that would see a clash between the various power groups to determine who controls the gravy train.”

– ‘Fear and loathing in Putrajaya’

COMMENT | Just after the 2013 general elections, in ‘Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya’, I wrote of how Umno was slowly imploding after the “bad win”.

It was a time when the current Pakatan Harapan PM-designate had not chosen to change the narrative and was going on about how the Chinese community had rejected the hand of Malay friendship, that the DAP strategy was making the Chinese community hate the Malay community, and Umno potentates were complaining about how they were backstabbed. This was the time when Umno was briefly floating around the idea of “reconciliation” with PAS, and the MCA was considering rejecting cabinet posts in the new Umno regime.

For Umno, the enemy has always been within. The race baiting and the religious provocation, while systemic, has always been subservient to the realpolitik that Umno survives because its political operatives have managed to control the gravy train through a system of patronage and whatever cultural traits that a strongman like former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad have attributed to the community.

The recent Singapore’s Straits Times article claiming that an early BN candidate list was scrapped because of fears of internal sabotage in Umno is further evidence of the slow implosion of Umno which began in the last election, could change the political landscape of this country. From the article – “Najib had apparently decided to ditch the plan, after BN sensed unrest among its core group of Malay supporters.”

As I claimed in an earlier piece, from what I can gather from Umno political insiders, propagandists and those familiar with Umno politics, the grand Umno poobah does not really fear a Malay tsunami but revolt from his base. Revolt takes on many forms which, of course, include the moves by Mahathir sleepers within Umno to destabilise the current Umno president. This was the fear of many Umno insiders who spoke to me and which I have written in many articles about the slowly disintegrating hegemon.

Umno warlords and Malay establishment structures realise that Umno is weak because the man who leads Umno is mired in financial scandals, which although complicated, plays well with urban voters who live in the cash cows that Umno wishes to milk. While Umno warlords seek to maintain their status, Malay establishment figures are considering their option of throwing in with a newly-minted Malay power structure to ensure the idea of ‘ketuananism’ sustains in these fast-changing times.

Umno handles dissent rather differently than the opposition. While DAP political operatives who find themselves out in the cold have no support from either opposition supporters or cabals within the DAP, when an Umno political operative finds himself/herself in a similar situation, there are consequences for the hegemon.

The ousted political operative can rely on sources that depending on how they have managed to finesse the warlords and take care of their home turfs, ensure that Umno receives a black eye when it comes to its internal elections and general elections. Special elections are a favourite time to settles grudges, by the way. As for the rest of the "Malay" based opposition parties, dissent and betrayal are the norm. They expect these things to happen.

“Internal sabotage” is what Umno fears the most ...

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