Not long ago, I was chatting with a close friend of mine and we were discussing (and lamenting) the state of the country’s political landscape. To many people, Barisan Nasional and UMNO (in particular) as well as certain people in positions of power needs to have a serious makeover (I’m downplaying her actual words here). Though I agree with her that things are not great I did have very different views as to the solution to the problem. I feel that targeting certain people or blaming certain people for the state of affairs is a wasted exercise which would ultimately lead to a need to punish which is not productive nor conducive for growth and progress. Instead, if we need to blame anything, we must blame the system that has led us here. She looked at me with incredulity (actually she had more of the ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’). I explained that we must always look for solutions to problems which can be generational, and not seasonal. If we get rid of a certain bunch of people, there will always be other people (who maybe worse) ready to take over. We must recognise that the system which allowed things to happen needs restructuring.
One of the quirks of Malaysian politics is that the leadership of this country is in effect decided by handful of men holding the post of heads of division. To contest for the post of party president, an aspirant need 30% of the divisions to support you (and 20% and 10% respectively for the post of deputy president and vice president). There are 191 UMNO divisions which means that if I wanted to run for the President, I need 58 people to support my nomination before I can even begin.
There may have been a time when such a system was needed but perhaps it is time UMNO considered that things have changed. The favourite reason often quoted by the naysayers is that it could lead to splits within the party resulting in camps. Well, splits are inevitable when people have differing views and opinions but maybe we have to begin giving people the benefit of the doubt that since the majority has spoken (even if contrary to our position) then we shall go with the majority. I know its a leap of faith but we’ll never know unless we do it.
The other thing to note is that this business of ‘no-contest’ for the sake of party unity needs to be obliterated from the vocabulary of Malaysian politics. We must never allow any of our leaders to assume leadership positions without having ‘earned’ the right to lead via contest. At this moment, I would say it doesn’t matter who leads, as long as the person leads with the consent of the majority.
6 months after that conversation, I am glad things are looking up and there may be real tides of change coming especially after that thing we called a ‘political tsunami’. I would venture to say that this is one of those generational solutions which will solve many a problem that seems to plague us at this time. If this is done, it can truly be called progress. I favour Tengku Razaleigh’s one member one vote concept as well as Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s ‘One nomination, a proposer and seconder’ concept. If this happens watch the country transform into something truly great.