Being kiasu in Malaysian politics: Sin Chew Daily columnist

PM Najib Razak (in red) arriving for a special media conference at Menara Dato Onn in Kuala Lumpur, on Sept 17, 2017. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A "major" announcement was supposed to be made on Sunday afternoon at a press conference at Umno headquarters.

What appeared in the limelight was nevertheless a lightweight figure.

Umno supreme council members were informed of the press conference by Prime Minister Najib Razak only a day earlier. Even Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid had to cut short his Perlis trip. It was normal for people to speculate that something very "major" was to be announced.

Speculations and rumours were rife, including Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) assemblymen jumping ship to Umno, bringing the Selangor state administration with them; or former Umno Vice President and now Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal returning to Umno; or party leadership restructuring in preparation for GE14.

Sin Chew Daily's news desk was busy getting all relevant background info in order and was even prepared to delay the printing of the day's evening edition. All the effort, of course, went down to drain in the end.

Najib announced that former Umno VP and Selangor Menteri Besar (MB) Muhammad Muhammad Taib was back to Umno again. The announcement was anything but of front page quality.

Many young people may not know who Taib is. He was Selangor MB from 1986 to 1997. In December 1996, he was charged in Australia for bringing into the country RM2.4 million (S$0.77 million) worth of undeclared cash. He subsequently resigned as Selangor MB.

He was rural and regional development minister during Abdullah's time, and momentarily quit politics after losing the deputy president race to Muhyiddin Yassin in 2009. He joined PAS on the eve of 2013 general elections and later PKR in September 2015.

Taib has been out of mainstream politics for so long, his influences waning despite the fact he was MB for 11 years. He won't help much to bring Selangor back to Umno's arms again.

I was guessing Umno made such a big fuss about something this minor probably because of a drought of encouraging news for the party of late. Umno might have pinned its hopes on more homecoming trips from ex-party leaders and members through Taib. This, I'm afraid, is not going to happen.

Umno has also hoped to "borrow" the mouth of Muhammad Muhammad Taib to protrude the party's image as a defender of Malay agenda and tell the rural voters that Umno is the only orthodox Malay party, their guardian angel.

Things weren't quite the same when he joined PAS in 2013. He then claimed that it was time for change, and only PAS' religious leadership could lead the Malays and make them better persons.

When he joined PKR in 2015, he vowed that he would strengthen the contacts with the grassroots so that people can understand the country's actual situation better.

If Umno were serious about recapturing Selangor, it had to make the necessary changes to its policies and pick a young leader with a positive and liberal image as an alternative candidate for MB post. Racist politics will not have its way in a highly urbanised state with a large non-Malay population.

Throwing such a big party for someone out of mainstream politics for so long only serves to confirm one thing: Umno's kiasuism.

Of course, Umno is not the only party that is kiasu; PKR is also afraid of losing Selangor. That explains why MB Azmin Ali has been reluctant to sever off ties with PAS in averting three-cornered fights.

Thanks to kiasuism, politicians are constantly calculating their risks, often at the expense of what they should rightly do.

Seven drug addict teenagers set fire to a private religious school at Datuk Keramat, burning alive 23 students and teachers and highlighting the seriousness of drug addiction and dropout problem among our youngsters.

If we do not tackle the issues of crumbling family education and juvenile delinquency as a result of urbanisation and marginalisation, the country's future will be in peril, and there is no way we can achieve the TN50 (National Transformation 2050) vision.

Similarly, blaming the flash floods in Penang on excessive rainfall is equally irresponsible. Floods are no strangers to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, apparently due to poor management and inadequate drainage system.

With so many problems now plaguing the country, our politicians should put more effort on doing the right things instead of wasting time on unnecessary political propaganda.

The anti-climax at Sunday's press conference shows just how low our political standards could get and how badly we have overestimated our politicians.

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