COMMENT Every year when the Umno annual general meeting takes place, we can be sure that there will be speakers looking for cheap publicity, who will use the occasion to make stupid and ridiculous charges against the so-called enemies of the race - meaning enemies of Umno.
We have seen again and again this same spectacle of the leading political party in the country showing to Malaysians and the rest of the world how deep the cancer of racial and religious hatred is within the party.
This year’s AGM was no exception, or as a Malay friend said to me in describing the proceedings: “SOS” - “Same Old S**t”.
But in fact there were two important differences from earlier years.
The first is that the prize for extremism and making baseless political allegations and instigating racial and religious fear must go to Umno president, Najib Abdul Razak himself. It did not come from any ordinary ambitious wannabe jaguh kampung.
There is a saying both in China and medieval Europe that “the fish rots from the head down”. How true this is from this year’s Umno AGM.
Personally I never thought I would live to see the day when a top political leader in Barisan would stoop so low to warn his members that “If Umno falls, we have all sinned”, as one newspaper headlined his speech to the assembly.
I can understand it if he criticises the opposition and their policies. I can also understand it if he makes a speech that argues that the current socio-economic crisis facing the country or ringgit decline is not entirely due to the Barisan’s doing but also because of global developments beyond the control of the ruling party.
But for him to claim that it is a “sin” for Umno to lose power shows how desperate he is to stay in power. His use of this religious card and also the emerging card of Umno power-sharing with PAS is clearly to avoid having to pay for his own “sins” of responsibility and involvement in the 1MDB scandal, the massive “donation” paid into his personal bank account, and the many other abuses of power he has been accused of.
I am glad that a response to this dangerous rhetoric has come from former deputy minister, former Umno MP and now Pakatan Harapan’s chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah who blasted Najib for his speech.
“No prime minister should commit such an error, which may lead to racial disaster,” he was quoted as saying.
The second difference is the extremism in boot-licking and sucking-up to the party president - or to use a more graphic Malay word, bodek-ism, demonstrated by the other top leaders such as Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin.
While one can understand that it is not possible for them to openly criticise their president, at the very least, they could have used the occasion to raise the serious issues of bread and butter and livelihood and employment which the Malay community is experiencing like other Malaysians.