UMNO leadership should consider Onn’s 66-year proposal that UMNO open its membership to non-Malays to defend and save democracy in Malaysia

Yesterday, I gave as the reason why the UMNO leadership should consider founding UMNO President, Datuk Onn Jaafar’s 66-year proposal that UMNO open its door to non-Malays the simple and basic one as to whether UMNO is a loyal and patriotic Malaysian party or just a communal Malay party – how the nation could have a Prime Minister from UMNO who could be a Prime Minister of all Malaysians when the ration d’etre of his political existence is to be the champion of one race against the other races.

I was responding to the Minister for Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Salleh Said Keruak, who had asked why UMNO must open its membership to non-Malays as UMNO has never claimed to be a multi-racial party.

Datuk Shabery Cheek, who was shunted off from the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia in the Cabinet “purge” reshuffle on July 28 last year, tried to come to his successor’s rescue, declaring that UMNO’s opening up its membership to non-Malays is not as simple as opening up a durian.

In a way, Shabery is very right.

If UMNO just opens up its membership to non-Malays, no non-Malay would want to be an UMNO member unless UMNO can change its political culture from a race-based party to a Malaysia-based national party.

But this is not adequate. In fact, even as a Malay communal party, UMNO has already suffered unprecedented erosion of support, not only from the Malays in general but UMNO members in particular, if UMNO continues to be hijacked into a party which who used the banner of uniting Malays to serve only the interests of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his cronies, to avoid accountability for Najib’s RM2.6 billion “donation” and RM55 billion 1MDB twin mega scandals, or outrages like RM56 billion worth of shares in public listed companies allocated for bumiputeras but only RM2 billion were left in bumiputera hands.

UMNO has over three million members and over 21,000 branches, and I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the UMNO members and branches do not agree with Najib’s prevarication and procrastination to avoid accountability for his twin mega scandals or the “sapu” of bumiputera rights by UMNO-putras.

These are among the factors for the lowest popularity rating for Najib’s UMNO/BN government among Malay voters, which has fallen below 50 per cent for the first time, plunging to as low as 30%!

If UMNO is not prepared to undergo a twin political transformation, firstly to become a party for all Malaysians and not just Malays and secondly, to be a party which champions the cause of the ordinary rakyat and oppressed low-income Malays and Malaysians instead of the UMNO-puteras, UMNO will become increasingly irrelevant to the aspirations not only of Malaysians as a whole but to the Malays as well.

I am taken aback by the tenor of Shabery’s comments, which seems to approve taking the line of least resistance, of avoiding embarking on a task because it is difficult and challenging. Where is the invincible spirit of “Malaysia Boleh”!

Will Shabery stop eat durians just because opening a durian can be difficult?

Of course not, and this is why a Minister who endorses the culture of avoiding a task because it is difficult and challenging is not only a grave disservice to Malays, but also to Malaysians, as well.

Nobody suggests that UMNO opening its doors to non-Malays is an easy task or there is a guarantee of sure success.

The important question is whether it is the right and patriotic thing to do – to make the transition from race-based to Malaysia-based politics in the sixth decade of our nationhood.

It has not been easy for DAP to persevere in our founding principles, commitment and vision to be a Malaysian party for and led by all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, especially with UMNO propagandists working overtime right from the beginning of DAP’s formation to demonise DAP as anti-Malay and anti-Islam.

Life will be very much easier if DAP had succumbed and surrendered to UMNO propagandists and just confined the DAP as a political party for and by all non-Malays.

In fact, in the 1969 General Election, DAP had more Indian Members of Parliament than MIC!

But DAP would not be thwarted or browbeaten from our founding principles, commitment and vision to be a Malaysian political movement, as we never intended be just a Chinese or non-Malay political party, or just confined to a few non-Malay states in Peninsular Malaysia.

This was why the three by-elections contested by the DAP in the sixties were UMNO-strongholds – Kampong Baru in Selangor in 1966 (where the UMNO candidate, Razali Ali won and went on to become Selangor Mentri Besar), Tampoi state seat in Johor in 1967 and Segamat Utara parliamentary seat in Johore (where the winning UMNO candidate, Musa Hitam, went on to become the Deputy Prime Minister in 1981).

This was also why the DAP presented a multi-racial slate of candidates since our first general election contest in 1969, which saw the election of two DAP Malay State Assemblymen, one in Perak (Ibrahim Singgeh – Tapah Road) and the other in Negri Sembilan (Hassan Ahmad – Si Rusa).

In the past 11 general elections, DAP had elected Malay Members of Parliament (Ahmad Nor, Zairil Khir Johari, Arif Sabri Abdul Aziz and Senator Ariffin Omar) and State Assembly representatives in Peninsular Malaysia (Daing Ibrahim Othman, Mohd Salleh Nakhoda Hitam, Fadzlan Yahya and Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji).

Furthermore, DAP Secretary-General and Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng had paid the highest political price to protect the honour, dignity and human rights of an under-aged Malay girl, went to Kajang Prison, losing his parliamentary position and pension rights as well civic rights to stand for elective office and to cast his vote for five years on release from prison. Can UMNO leadership furnish one such example in its seven decades of establishment?

Despite the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, suffered by DAP leaders in the past 50 years, we remain true to our founding principles, commitment and vision to be a Malaysian political party with multi-racial and multi-religious representation at all levels of party leadership and elected representatives.

UMNO leaders should be commending and even emulating the DAP example of staying true and loyal to Malaysian principles, commitment and vision, instead intensifying the campaign of lies, fear and hatred to demonise DAP as anti-Malay and anti-Islam.

Let me here give the Sallehs and Shaberys another reason why UMNO should open its doors to non-Malays – to save democracy in Malaysia.

On Sunday, Taiwan elected Tsai Ing-wen of Democratic Progressive Party as President, which marked a third peaceful “turnover” of power through the ballot box – from Kuomintang (KMT) to DPP in 2000, DPP to KTM in 2008 and KTM back to DPP in 2016.

Malaysia has yet to become a normal democratic country, as we have yet to undergo one peaceful “turnover” of power through the ballot box when scholars say that a country cannot claim to be a normal democracy without two peaceful “turnovers” of power through the ballot box.

There are those who want to subvert even any peaceful “turnover” of power through the ballot box, by falsely claiming that Malays will lose political power if the UMNO-led coalition is defeated in a general election, which appears most likely in the 14th General Election by 2018.

The 14GE is not battle between the Malays and Chinese for political power as Malays will not lose political power even if Najib and UMNO lose the battle for Putrajaya.

The baseless campaign of lies, fear and hatred that Malays will lose political power if UMNO is defeated in the 14GE is a grave threat to democracy in Malaysia.

UMNO will be able to help defend democracy in Malaysia if it opens it doors to non-Malays and become a Malaysian party dedicated to the upliftment of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region and not just for any one single race or religion.

This will go a long way to debunk the lies and falsehoods that Malays will lose political power if Najib and UMNO are defeated in the 14GE.

Is the UMNO leadership prepared to consider Onn Jaafar’s 66-year proposal for UMNO to open its membership to non-Malays to be a patriotic Malaysian party and to defend democracy in Malaysia?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah