The Doom of Ketuanan Melayu: UMNO in Sarawak

UMNO coming to Sabah was one of the greatest mistakes this organization has ever made since its birth in 1956.  It has been proven now that UMNO is susceptible to spontaneous and reactive decisions, just like some leaders in Sabah.  Hence, the decision to move into Sabah was in response to the headway made by the Semangat 46 in influencing the PBS government in Sabah then.

However, this decision cannot be achieve with the presence of USNO.  As a result, UMNO could only come into Sabah through USNO, which means USNO must be sacrificed in order to make way for UMNO.  At this point USNO was already a spent force and financially the late Tun Mustapha could not provide the necessary personal support to the party after twice failing to form the state government (in 1985 and 1986).

At this juncture I ask is it conceivable for UMNO to expand itself to Sarawak?  Many questions have been raised about this particular issue.  My simple answer would be, it is inconceivable for them even to contemplate the idea.

To understand the reason, it is important to understand the background of UMNO and its power structure (Such information is available in public domains if one cares to look for it and understand them).  There are many similarities amongst the Political parties in Malaya as compared to the Political parties from Sabah or Sarawak.  Sabah and Sarawak tend to be unique in many ways.

Political parties in Malaya focus on Parliamentary Seats unlike the Borneo States, which emphasis the State Legislative Seats.  This was the main bone of contention when UMNO initially came to Sabah.  UMNO emphasis was in establishing only 16 Protem Divisions instead of the 48 Divisions that USNO already had then.  As a result a large number of USNO supporters were sidelined in the process and at the same time a large number of BERJAYA supporters were included in the 16 Protem Divisions.  With a single stroke of the pen, USNO was eliminated from Sabah politics to the abyss and a new threat looms in the horizon. UMNO has set foot in Sabah.  But at what cost?  Well if you care to listen then let me explain below.

UMNO’s Horse Trading

For a would be contestant to ever consider contesting in any of the UMNO Supreme Council seats he/she must first be nominated by “two divisions” (this is based on their old constitutions, any current amendments is not included).  This is where it gets dicey as the fun hasn’t started yet because as some would put it, it becomes “more expensive (or heavier if one considers the Iran issue)” as the days goes on.  Anyway the Divisions will determine the number of delegates that has the right to vote for the Supreme Council.  In this context, 11 members from each Division will be selected to vote in the Congress.  The total number of Delegates that can vote for the Supreme Council is 2010 delegates. So in a sense, these delegates are the “King” makers. I wonder if they have a weighing scale room there…?

Today Johor has the highest number of Divisions (26) followed by Sabah (25) and third is Perak (24).  Any aspiring UMNO member who wants to be in the Supreme Council must be able to garner majority votes from any of the states mentioned above.  Failure to do so mean it is very likely they won’t be sitting in the coveted Supreme Council unless of course they are prepared to break the dial on the weighing scale and that in itself is no guarantee they will win!!

For those who got this far in reading this article the man who just cannot shut up, Tun Mahathir introduced the above process!  Yes!  This is when the bargaining or horse-trading takes place. This process is full proof because in this way, he made sure he would always be at the top while everybody else will have to fight for his or her seats including the Deputy President post.  This was how money politics started in full bloom in UMNO.  Mahathir should have won the Oscar for his tearful rendition over money politics while silently in his heart he gleefully congratulated himself for making fools of the Malays for 22 years (and some of the years to the KDM’s).

With the above structure, only the President has total control of UMNO. Not a single state or person has that ability. Ah! What a smart cookie this Mahathir! Or is he?


The distribution of divisions throughout Malaysia is as follows:

1. Perlis 3




2. Kedah 15
3. Kelantan 14
4. Trengganu 8
5. Pulau Pinang 13
6. Perak 24
7. Pahang 14
8. Selangor 22
9. WP Kuala Lumpur 11
10. Putrajaya 1
11. Negeri Sembilan 8
12. Melaka 6
13. Johor 26
14. WP Labuan 1





15. Sabah 25
16. Sarawak 31


New Broom, same dirt

To address the situation Najib is introducing selection of candidates to the Supreme Council as all-inclusive.  No more will 2010 delegates choose the Supreme Council members.  The 3 million odd members must be represented fairly. Therefore the eligibility of voters will be increased and voting will be done simultaneously nationwide.  The main objective, it seems, is to curb money politics in the selection process.  But judging from the PKR election recently, it is doubtful such massive exercise can be done smoothly without some delegates crying foul.

UMNO, I feel, is tearing at the seams and the hairline cracks are getting more obvious. It would be a very hard task for Najib to undo what Mahathir had sow in the culture of UMNO for so long.  Delegates and candidates would find some new method to fish for votes or being fished in the process.  The players are the same although the rule book may have changed. Same old story as old habits die hard.

New Kid on the Block

Every political commentator is seeing when and not if UMNO is to spread its tentacles to Sarawak.  If Najib do decide to venture into Sarawak then that action would indeed hasten the demise of UMNO, which in turn would spell the doom of Ketuanan Melayu.  In the present scenario, Sabah UMNO is the dark horse.  Their allegiance waives from one candidate to another.  Adding Sarawak into this equation will dilute further UMNO’s strength in Malaya.  This is what making money politics in UMNO today a dangerous game to play especially when the economy is shrinking at lightning speed.  Putting Sarawak into the game may as well make the Borneo States the one to determine the next UMNO President, which by convention also becomes the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Sabah Sifu


About sifusiber
A husband & a father who wants his children to have a better future

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