Readers will be disappointed if they think, judging from the title of this article, its a Malaysia without Umno. Its a Malaysia with Umno and the rise of the others. People are busy documenting the rise of others that they forget Umno is capable of adapting.
By the others I mean non-Umno political parties that are asserting their presence as stakeholders of this country. Correspondingly, its a Malaysia where Umno recognises this fact. Its a Malaysia where Umno, which will remain as the preeminent political power, adapts to a new environment where it has to give space to other stakeholders. But its also a Malaysia the other stakeholders must know that Umno and the Malays are not going to disappear just like that. Thats the only way to ensure its survival. Its also the only way for the others to survive.
I have not been writing for some time. I have gone back to catch up with some reading. Also, a brief interval is necessary to allow me to see things in perspective.
For example I have extensively criticised Datuk Seri Najib Razaks big ideas: 1 Malaysia, the ETP, GTP, New Economic Model, etc. I am still critical and will continue to examine these ideas. These ideas must be examined on their merits.
On the other hand, looking at these from a wider perspective, there is a rationale behind them. Its a plan for political survival. For Umno, essentially.
How so? Najib knows Umno must adapt or perish. It cant survive in its present form. His biggest problem? Making the Umno people understand this. Its troubling to note that most of his big ideas were rejected at the recent Umno general assembly. Yet none of the big Umno leaders addressed this point.
He needs to disseminate his ideas, for which he needs champions at various levels. If many in the higher leadership do not share his passion in his big ideas, how can they be the common cause of the masses? Ei! ther man y of them are indifferent or are too daft or its only Najib that is thinking how Umno can survive.
Whats happening to Umno can be discerned if we ask, why couldnt Japan overtake America as the biggest economy or most powerful nation, etc.? In the 1980s, many people were forecasting that Japan will overtake the US. That didnt happen because; Japan didnt have the institutions and the values to allow it to overtake the US. In order to move into the next phase, Najib and his government must devise ideas and institutions that support his grand designs.
I take it, therefore, the requirement to enable an entity to move to the next phase is that we must have the institutions and practice that support that transition. Its Umno and the government machinery first.
Umno couldnt make it to the next phase because the institutions that made it successfully in rural areas, the values that can sustain the transformation, are not there. We dont have the same grassroots organisations that operate in villages replicated or transplanted in urban areas where the majority of Malay voters now reside.
In the villages, you have institutions such as ketua kampong or village heads, the penghulus, the kumpulan 10, the surau and madrasah committees, etc and many other voluntary social organisations. Through these, the government can disseminate ideas and also receive feedbacks with great immediacy. The same grassroots organisations are not replicated in urban areas.
So how do you ensure longevity and survival? You adapt. It calls for a strategy of adjusting to the process of natural selection, politically speaking, that is. Najib has several options: one, to submit passively to a process of natural selection, letting Umno develop traits that can ensure its survival; or two, to carry out artificial selection. The former process may take a longer time and a luxury Najib cannot afford. Also, we are not sure the cross section of Umno people want to develop the necessary traits.
The next option is artif! icial se lection, by grafting onto Umno the desired traits that can ensure its survival. This will demand an iron-willed leadership. No flip-flopping and no going back.
An organisation that fails to adapt to changing environments will become extinct. So, in a related sense, those big ideas that Najib churned out are measures thought and taken to adapt to new demands from the political environment. Failure to do so will cause Umno to perish.
But I maintain my reservations that his big ideas do not have the soldiers to carry them through. Most were hatched in labs and are clubbish in nature. And I am not sure Najib has the absolute political resolve to see it through. That may be an indication that his ideas have not been fully accepted by senior Umno leaders too. He must inspire confidence in us.
He must have that team, a new one if necessary, to carry through his ideas. He must have a team that works harder. I was listening to the conversation with Andrew Gould, the CEO of Schlumberger (the French company) talking about leadership. One of the things that he mentioned is team building.
The incoming CEO must have a team that shares his passion and ideals. He must first identify members of the outgoing CEOs team who can make the transition to his team most easily, and usually, there are only a handful. The rest he must release and take on a new team that is able to more reflect and share his ideas and passion. PM Najib must have a new team. And that must also include members of his staff.
When Voltaire arrived in Portsmouth, he was shocked to see a man being executed with pomp and ceremony. Upon inquiring, he found out the man who was shot was an admiral. His crime? He did not kill as many enemies when in battle against a French navy. But why execute him, asked Voltaire. The answer was the British find it necessary once in a while to execute an admiral so that the others work harder.
So, in forming his team, maybe PM Najib needs to execute one or two admirals so that the others un! derstand he means business. Throw out those dysfunctional ministers.
Umno must relearn what it means to be Malay.
Umno considers itself as the only real voice of the Malays. Now it must validate that claim by understanding what it is to be Malay. Understand first and formulate the operating strategies accordingly.
The social outlook of a typical Malay is shaped by the values he lives by, which have been drummed into him for generations. He is basically submissive and functions well in an ordered and structured society. By that, I mean the typical Malay operates best when there is a well ordered hierarchy in society.
He will follow the leader, out of respect and also out of adherence to the way as it has always been. Malays follow the leaders, elders, the positioned, the uniformed, etc. Malays submit to authority and finds nothing demeaning about that. It has always been that way.
Understanding this basic nature will then require us to approach a desire to graft and cultivate desired traits in a certain way. The only way, I suppose, given the cultural disposition of the Malays, is to impose a regime of disciplines. This requires an iron-willed leadership or some kind of benevolent dictatorship.
This notion of a will imposed from without, the notion of a regime of a disciplinarian or benevolent dictatorship may be abhorrent to democrats. Personally I feel that, too, but I fear our kinship with libertarian ideas cant be the route to change the mindset of the Malays. Not in my generation, I think.
They need the exhortations from the strong willed-leader or leadership. They cant be expected to voluntarily develop the necessary traits to survive farther.
This is my central point with regards to Umno. Like the Malay, it cant be expected to change on its own. We cant expect Umno people, with their vested interests and their cultural set up like the Malays, to voluntarily develop the traits to ensure its survival in the future. It must be whipped into shape by an iron-wille! d leader ship.
So if Najib announces his various initiatives without the discipline, the iron resolve, and without the foot soldiers to carry them through, they cannot transform the Malays and Umno. He needs good men at every level of leadership to ensure his various initiatives can go through. He must operate via the operations room method of Tun Razak.
Otherwise, his big ideas do not become shared ideals and his army of ketua bahagians and other party men are in the dark about his big ideas. He has inadvertently created a vacuum that is filled by gangs of misfits such as Perkasa.
While Perkasa may fight for some causes that find ready clientele in the Malay heartland, I think what they are fighting for is superfluous. Umno is fighting the same causes and is better organised to achieve them.
This theme will be examined in the next few articles. sakmongkol.blogspot.com
* Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Hj Abdul Aziz. He was Pulau Manis assemblyman (2004-2008).
Letter & Opinion From Joe Public