Written by Nawawi Mohamad, Stan Lee, Malaysia Chronicle
What sort of choice do UMNO delegates have in their leadership lineup? That there is a dearth of talent in UMNO is well-known with even former premier and party president Mahathir Mohamad admitting as much.
This talent vacuum will be UMNO's deathblow - not the Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Dusun, Murut, the Dayaks or Ibans. Not even the Christians or Israel can be blamed. It is fair and square UMNO's own fault including Mahathir's for being selfish and wishing to keep the spoils of the game 'all within the family'.
Young & talented Malays wouldn't touch UMNO with a 10-foot pole
Young Malay leaders such as PKR's Nurul Izaah, Rafizi Ramli, PAS' Dzulkefly Ahmad, Khalid Samad or DAP's Zairil Khir Johari would never dream of touching UMNO with a 10-foot pole, so bad is its brand name. UMNO has simply become synonymous with corruption, racism, sex and gutter policing - you name it, the party has been caught doing it.
For UMNO leaders, the name of the game is not how to serve Malaysia but how to make money from Malaysia. For example, current party president Prime Minister Najib Razak carries a back-breaking amount of 'baggage', literally dragging UMNO down with his personal scandals and inability to make decisions.
Yet UMNO grins and puts up with it. They even accept Najib's panacea for all the criticism, which is to spend more of taxpayers money on public relations to magnify himself and to deny all negative accusations against his administration and party. As if the people have no minds of their own!
Worried Mahathir steps in
Yet no amount of money can hide the fact that Malay support for UMNO is dwindling and Najib's personal popularity on the slide. The recent Merdeka Center survey shows his approval rating still on the down slide - now at 64% - and BN's at an all-time low of 42% due mainly to erosion of support from the Malays.
So worried is Mahathir that Najib will commit another disaster at the 13th general election that the 87-year-old has decided to step in and pull the strings before it is too late. That is how bad the situation is in UMNO. The only weapon Najib has in his hand is the timing of the GE-13 and he is using this to hold the 'warlords' to ransom.
Party insiders say his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin is "simply pretending" not to be challenging Najib at this critical moment because Najib is already under control - Mahathir's!
So, while waiting for further orders from Mahathir, who still wields enormous influence, Muhyiddin has been carrying on with his daily activities as if all is fine in UMNO. Some even say Muhyiddin is smiling to himself, under the happy impression that he just has to wait for the big moment to come when he will replace Najib whether UMNO and the BN coalition it leads wins or loses in the GE-13.
In the past, such a prospect would have raised a howl of horror around the UMNO divisions in the country because Muhyiddin too has his own baggage, albeit less heavy and controversial than Najib's. Nonetheless, the fear used to be that if UMNO-BN wins, he would become Prime Minister and that would be a disaster for Malaysia like an earthquake with a reading of 7 on the Richter scale and an epicenter in Putrajaya.
But with Najib's failure to do better and Mahathir proving all his critics right that he is the darkest and most dangerous force in the UMNO-BN blocking a more normal democratic rule in a multiracial Malaysia, Muhyiddin as PM has become less alarming.
It is the classic case of being the lesser of many evils.
Muhyiddin the next disaster from UMNO
Let's try to understand the 64-year-old Muhyiddin and what makes him tick. People can understand each other better amongst their own peer groups, culture and race. For example, students and youths understand their own peers. They can appreciate, envy and emulate each other, yet for motivation, people will always aim high and look beyond their own group.
That is how people should be motivated and in Malaysia's endeavor to be a developed and great nation with high-income levels, the leadership must be able to set a high standard and work towards achieving it. It should never look back, nor should it ever lower the benchmark.
Yet Muhyiddin has displayed a different kind of mentality. His views are not in sync with what one would expect of a true leader at all. During a “buka puasa” (breaking of the Muslim fast) event organized by the Ministry of Information in collaboration with JAKIM and MAIWP, Muhyiddin proudly proclaimed that,”It has been proven that the world looks at Malaysia as a special nation that should be envied.”
Now, there is nothing wrong with his statement but when he explained that his conclusion is based on the comments by visitors from Palestine, Somalia and Afghanistan, it is laughable and his naivete becomes the joke. With such low satisfaction levels signifying commensurately low IQ, Muhyiddin looks set to become the next disaster from UMNO if it wins GE-13 and he is selected to be prime minister in place of Najib Razak.
From Tiger economy to starving African nation
Malaysia was once the envy of other nations like Korea and Japan for our football. Our economic development projects were the envy of many Afro-Asian nations and we initially led South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan - believe it or not! That is how far the nation has fallen and Malaysia is now competing with Thailand. Even Indonesia, the worst hit during the 1998 Asian crisis, has pulled away thanks to sincere reform and better leadership.
Despite the showy Economic Transformation Programs launched by the Najib administration, even Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines are catching up. So Muhyiddin may not only be too unambitious and mundane in his aspirations for Malaysia's future but he may have no choice but to compare his nation with Palestine which is not even a sovereign nation, or Somalia which is devastated by civil war and Afghanistan which has been destroyed by the US and its allies. All these are third world countries, all of them in such bad shape.
If Muhyiddin used them as benchmarks, he may be right in that Malaysia is heaven by comparison. But it surely speaks volumes of the depths Malaysia has plunged to after 55 years of BN rule.
Mahathir who used to propagate the “Malaysia Boleh” or (Malaysia Can Do It) slogan, launching the tallest twin towers in the world to inspire the nation has now lowered his standard. The Petronas Twin Towers were briefly the world's highest buildings until they were overtaken by other newer constructions in China and the Middle East. It looks like Mahathir's lofty aspirations were just as short-lived and he too is now 'slumming'.
Mahathir recently said in defending the present status of the Malaysian economy, “Financially and economically, we are not too badly off. The cost of living has gone up a little but people are not starving the way the Africans and some Asians are starving. A generous government is ever ready to extend help."
Imagine, Malaysia - one amongst the Tiger economies in powerhouse Southeast Asia - now being compared to the poorest African nations, where starvation is not yet an eradicated risk.
Dr M admitting he didn't do a good job at all!
Indirectly Mahathir is admitting that his 22-year rule has not done much at all in making Malaysia a developed nation. His critics say this is because whatever he put in with his right hand, he took out more than triple with his left hand.
It is obvious Mahathir has long ago bid goodbye to Vision 2020 - if ever he was serious about it at all. Many pundits say Vision 2020 that aimed for a Bangsa Malaysia without racial lines was just his way of appeasing the people after they nearly threw him out of office for sacking and jailing his deputy Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up sodomy charges.
So if someone as racist as Mahathir can rule Malaysia for 22 years and get away with it by planting one excuse after another, why not Muhuyiddin who has already shown similar signs of using racial politics to become popular with his 'Malay first, Malaysian next' statement.
By the way Mahathir may be right in comparing Malaysia with Africa. Yes, the Southeast Asian nation is not yet like any of the poorer African countries but with the present trend of leadership and the unabated greed and corruption of its leaders, it can easily be. Especially if UMNO-BN continues to rule after GE-13, Greek and Africa-like crises may be Malaysia's to experience next