Of Kimanis, Pakatan and my late grandfather’s vision

Last Sunday, Jan 19, marked the 58th anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, and also Umno’s founder — Onn Ja’afar. If you follow and read my social media postings, I wrote a short piece on him on Facebook.

The traction received was overwhelming and undeniable.

That’s why today, I’d like to share a little more on Onn’s values and take the opportunity to comment further on Barisan Nasional’s victory in the recent Kimanis by-election as well as some views on the nation.

BN’s victory in the Kimanis by-election last week meant a lot to me personally as it brought with it a set of values which I have held consistently to since before.

It was not just because it is the fifth consecutive by-election win after Cameron Highlands, Semenyih, Rantau and Tanjung Piai, but mainly because throughout the campaign, I personally felt the strong and undeniable sense of unity in BN’s election machinery.

Campaigning from polling district to polling district, village to village, house to house, I personally witnessed how dedicated our multiracial machinery was in campaigning for Mohamad Alamin’s victory. They comprised not only party members but also supporters who were Malay-Muslims working hand-in-hand with the Chinese, Indians and Sabah Bumiputeras.

This reminds me of Onn’s vision. When he once proposed that Umno’s membership be opened to all races in 1951, it was met with strong opposition. After nearly seven decades, who would’ve thought that his own grandson would bear witness to his dream, and struggle, to see all races united become a reality through BN.

When I was campaigning in Kimanis with Johor Umno chief Hasni Mohammad, Umno Supreme Council member Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin and other party comrades at Batu Enam, we visited a certain Mrs Agnes Anggim.

At the front of the house was a “Merry Christmas” sign. Naturally, Sharkar then wished her son, who greeted us downstairs, a “Merry Christmas” to which he replied that he’s actually a Muslim and his parents were Christian.

It was so heartwarming to see that these differences did not prevent them from living under the same roof. Rather, they respected each other’s religion and beliefs without prejudice.

Truly, this is what Malaysia represents — a spirit of togetherness and unity that Onn envisioned for the nation. As his grandson, this is what gives me the strength to carry on. This gives me hope to continue doing my utmost to continue the legacy he left behind. This is even more important today as the nation continues to be engulfed in an atmosphere of pessimism.

‘Endless cycle of negativity’

One can easily be consumed by this endless cycle of negativity. In the very first three weeks of 2020, countless rhetorical and racial statements have been made. These actions have been further exacerbated by politicians on both sides of the political divide. These contribute to worry and fatigue in the people. This must end.

In Kimanis, for example, those desperate to win resorted to slander to bring down their opponent. This included putting up provocative billboards blaming BN for practising racial and religious politics, accusing BN of implementing the Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS), vandalising our flags and posters. These immature acts are not what the people want to see.

The voters wanted to know what had been planned to develop Sabah, how the parties will advocate welfare through empowering the youths, how their safety and security will be safeguarded, and other initiatives to ensure their needs will be prioritised.

Unfortunately, it was the opposition — the BN — that championed the people.

And that’s just in Kimanis. In Johor, the birthplace of Umno, political polemic is also not exempted. In Sembrong, a billboard wishing my constituents a Happy New Year was taken down.

Instead of focusing on the people, the Johor government instead paid attention to changing their exco line-up and even changed their menteri besar.

If my grandfather, Onn, who was once a Johor menteri besar, was still alive, I believe he would be saddened by the state of affairs and unrest in Johor, led by Pakatan Harapan, today.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this piece just to attack PH. I am speaking on behalf of the people who would like to see a positive change in their lives. At the multiple by-election campaigns, I’ve met countless individuals and had heart-to-heart conversations with them, and the message is clear — they are disappointed with PH’s performance.

So, my message to PH is simple — as long as you are still in power, please be a government that cares. Enough of the rhetoric, enough of the slander — serve the people. You were voted in by the people; do not betray their trust.

There is much you can do to improve the livelihoods of all Malaysians by focusing on economic policies that directly provide benefits to those who need it the most.

If we just look at the past year or so, there have not been many policy decisions that have directly benefitted the people. Instead, we’ve only seen multiple U-turns, such as the promise to abolish tolls gradually; and a sign that the economy is flailing, evident by low dividends for Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) account holders. Worse yet, our Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) was faced with its lowest LTAT dividend in history.

Looking back, Onn spent his entire life fighting for the welfare of the people — that was his main agenda. In the mid-1950s, he established the Rural & Industrial Development Authority (Rida), which has now grown into Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara).

His aim was to rebuild the rural society, specifically the Malay Bumiputeras, as well as improving the community’s economy. He fought hard to ensure the rural community received the best education possible to secure a better future for itself.

This is what PH should be focusing on instead of playing the blame game.

However, to my family in BN, we must never assume PH’s weakness is our advantage. Always remember that our victories should not be a reason for us to be boastful and arrogant.

Instead, we must be consistent in rectifying our weaknesses and strengthening unity in our party. We must fulfil the needs of our constituents in our parliamentary and state seats.

We must instead build on our collective strength to guarantee that BN will once again win back the trust of all Malaysians and be the people’s hope to govern the nation.

Let’s strive to emulate the values that Onn fought and struggled dearly for. Let us be united and share the same determination he had.

We can do so much more to ensure a brighter future for our nation, for Malaysia belongs to us all, and it will be our children and grandchildren who will inherit this land. We must defend her together. Remember, #MalaysiaDeservesBetter.

Hishammuddin Hussein is the Sembrong MP and a former Umno vice-president.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.