The undoing of Umno’s BN partners

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Umno’s championing of PAS’s shariah bill comes at the price of sacrificing the credibility of its partners in Barisan Nasional, particularly those partners that are based in Peninsular Malaysia.

While “the objections of BN component parties” may have prolonged some internal discussion, they ultimately toed Umno’s line right up to the point the debate on the bill, known as RUU355, was stopped until the next sitting of the Dewan Rakyat. As some have speculated, that sitting might happen only after the general election.

Contrast the attitude of MCA, MIC and the like against the vocal opposition to the bill from the BN parties in East Malaysia, and you’ll understand why people think these peninsular parties are headed for oblivion.

They may choose to defend themselves by saying that BN does not disagree in public, but such an excuse would be counterproductive as the communities they supposedly represent need tangible proof that their interests are truly represented.

When the MCA and MIC keep silent in public on issues like RUU355, they deepen the impression that they are far too subordinate to Umno to raise any substantive objection. We do note with annoyance that MCA has been grating in claiming credit for the government’s reversal on its decision to adopt the bill as its own. We have our doubts.

It has been clear to the politically savvy for a long time that MCA has no idea what it is doing. It seems to have no idea of how to appeal to the young, no idea of how to lend credibility to its supposed advocacy of the community’s interests and no idea of how to present itself as other than a smug and irrelevant figure of authority.

Neither can the MIC be excused for apparent failure to effectively represent Indian interests. It seems that it rears its head only when it is caught in controversy over leadership issues.

The MCA is no longer a marketable brand, especially among the young. In eight years out in the wilderness, it has failed to rebrand and reinvent, and can only blame itself for the dismissive tone with which members of the public often greet its announcements and pronouncements.

Prime Minister Najib Razak and other BN leaders can use all their charms in trying to convince Chinese and Indians that the only way for them to have true political representation is through BN parties, but they can’t turn over those who have persuaded themselves to believe that no representation is better than one that is subordinate and subpar.

Scott Ng is an FMT columnist.

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