THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

> Harris: Umno has lost its moorings

Former Sabah Chief Minister Harris Mohd Salleh said he believes in retrospect that Umno lost its moorings in 1987 when under party president and premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The process has since culminated in malaise and loss of faith in the party, as well as in the federal and state governments under Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

More than this, there is public perception that money politics, corruption and mismanagement are rife in Umno and the federal government.

Harris revealed his thoughts in an op-ed article in the Daily Express yesterday, in which he called for Umno to revert to its constitution of 1946 “to overcome corruption in the party and the federal and state governments under its care”.

Harris listed mismanagement of the federal government as the most serious of the problems in Malaysia, followed by Umno’s restrictive rules on electing the top leadership, disillusionment among young and intellectual Malays (with Umno) and demands by non-Malays from various parties and organisations for their rights.

“Money politics has become so prevalent that even civil servants have become caught in the network of project fixers. Government officers who are not honest and upright are willing to go with the flow and may make hay while the sun shines,” alleged Harris. 

“It is obvious that such cases, highlighted regularly in various forums and the media, have merely been swept under the carpet. It is the norm now for all government departments to be slow and inefficient in reacting to solving problems.”

At the party level, Harris claimed, anyone with RM500 million can buy support in Umno and take over control of the federal government, “a measly sum when compared with the astronomical sums raised and spent by the two main candidates in the recent US presidential elections”. 

“Just a divisional head’s post would require over RM1 million with members being paid between RM2,000 and RM5,000 each for votes carried a show of hands,” he wrote, without disclosing how he obtained the figures.

“The imbedded practice of awarding negotiated government contracts or other favours to selected individuals or corporations has given rise to political and corporate leaders loaded with money and the means to play the role of ‘king makers’ and influence the outcome of contests at all levels in the Umno hierarchy.

“Actually, everyone in the Umno hierarchy - from branch chair(persons) right up to the president - needs to invest substantial funds to get elected. Umno must go back to the time of Tunku Abdul Rahman (left) when there was complete openness in the party and the government. 

“Each year, the federal and state governments spend a total of RM100 billion on negotiated contracts, which is 40 percent more than the actual cost.”

All-round discontent

Should nothing be done, “Umno itself and probably the government are going to crumble”, he said, urging “drastic reformation in the culture, attitude and motivation of all those concerned”.

For starters, he proposed  that corrupt practices and double pricing of government projects can be eliminated if Umno re-invents and restructures itself. A key element in this is for the federal government to make available RM10 per year per member to all political parties with an audited registered membership.

Other measures include a minimum monthly salary of RM1,500 for civil servants at office-boy level, a guaranteed bonus of RM500,000 to every state assemblyperson for every term completed, a guaranteed bonus of RM1 million to each member of Parliament for every term completed, and higher allowances of both state assemblypersons and MPs.

Young Malays are distancing themselves from Umno, according to Harris “because they know their aspirations can never be fulfilled by a party where hero-worship and “cium tangan (kissing the hands) continues and the practice of favouritism, nepotism and cronyism remains entrenched in the government”. 

Disillusionment has arisen because they perceive that the lack of transparency and openness in Umno and government, “has truly deprived them of any real expectations that their future in politics and business will improve”.

“Umno members should realise that unlike never before, their party has now come under siege, not only from other races but also the general Malay population. 

“Malaysians in general are no longer impressed by physical development projects and clich├ęs like bersatu padu (solidarity) meant to motivate the multiracial population to live in harmony. They are, instead, critically assessing and looking for real and convincing changes in the style of leadership and government.”

However, Harris also rooted for ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) in perpetuity, saying this is non-negotiable.

He further expressed objections to the notion of a non-Malay prime minister; non-Malays claiming that the Malays are also immigrants; and allegations by the Hindu Rights Action Front that Indian Malaysians are victims of ethnic cleansing - Malaysiakini.