The cult that is known as Umno Baru

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By Mariam Mokhtar

To most people, Umno Baru is a political party. To some of us, Umno Baru is like a cult. It is steeped in ritual and ceremony. The annual general assembly is treated like a pilgrimage. Their gatherings involve people dressed in specific colours, to remind people who their members are, but more importantly, to reinforce the image of “them and us”.

Like shrines, Umno Baru buildings have sprouted up in all the major towns, often in prime locations. The land in these places is highly sought after and expensive. How did they do it? Wealthy donors? Perhaps. Umno Baru appears to have plenty of donors, including an allegedly fictitious prince from Saudi Arabia.

Umno Baru processions are not restricted by the police, or the city council. The requests of others are subject to delays and restrictions.

Cults are associated with obedience and sacrifice, and in a sense, many of the men and women who join this cult have made many sacrifices; they have sacrificed their principles, their sense of right and wrong, the rule of law and fair play.

Anyone who belongs to Umno Baru is a law unto himself. Its leaders may as well say, “Do as I say, but not as I do.” That also includes interpreting the law according to Umno Baru terms, avoiding certain issues which could result in embarrassment and reveal Umno Baru’s true colours.

Cult members can utter seditious remarks and allegedly not be arrested. They can allegedly steal the rakyat’s money and get away with it. They can allegedly use public funds to go on a jolly to Antarctica, or spend it on shopping trips, or transport their families and friends to private events overseas, without censure. Another way this cult bends the law is in the declaration of personal assets.

Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, the wannabe prince from Aceh with the smug smile, is a member of Umno Baru and is also the Federal Territories minister. Why is he afraid of disclosing his assets? What does he want to hide?

He claimed that his wife and children could be targeted by kidnappers and his family could be robbed. Surely not in KL; the safest city in the world, with the best police force that money can buy.

So what about the rest of us? As a minister, Adnan is given extra protection, although it did not stop criminals from targeting the residence of the Deputy PM’s daughter when her house was burgled twice in 18 months. The moral of the story is that if the criminals want to target him, they will, with or without the declaration of his assets.

Adnan claimed that as a former businessman, he had lots of assets which would make him a choice target for kidnappers and criminals.

We know all about ministers who allegedly earn RM20,000 per month, with sons owning several imported luxury, sports cars. Some ministers allegedly spend a few million ringgits on flowers for their children’s wedding reception. Others allegedly buy luxury condominiums here and abroad. Their children attend foreign boarding schools.

They dress in designer clothes, own expensive gems, handbags, and designer watches which the average worker would not be able to buy after a lifetime of saving.

‘A matter of perception’

When the rakyat complained about rising crime, Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that this was a matter of perception. In fact, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed to be friendly with the Malay triad, Tiga Line. Why does Adnan not discuss the issue of rising crime with Zahid?

There was also the badly handled controversy over the missing RM3 million when a ransom of RM12 million was paid to Abu Sayyaf, in exchange for four kidnapped Sarawakians.

The inspector-general of police (IGP) denied the involvement of the Special Branch. The kidnapped victims’ families claimed otherwise. Zahid said that the police had actually received the money but had disbursed it to various Muslim charities. If the authorities want to lie, at least get the story correct.

When the PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil urged both Adnan and city mayor Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz to publicly declare their assets in the interests of transparency, Adnan dismissed him with, “I declare my assets directly to the prime minister every year.”

A political pundit said, “Is Adnan familiar with ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’? Adnan’s admission is like one of the thieves in the classic tale telling the bandit chief that he only has a small amount of loot stashed away. The minor thief just has to ensure that he does not have more treasure than the chief.”

In March 2015, the Cheras Umno Baru division chief, Syed Ali Alhabshee, urged politicians in the opposition coalition to declare their assets. Syed Ali said that they need not worry, if they had earned their wealth in an honest fashion.

What is good for the goose, should be good for the gander. Adnan should heed Syed Ali’s advice. He has nothing to fear, has he? Surely his wealth has been earned in a honest fashion. – Malaysiakini

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

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