“Aku ini binatang jalang Dari kumpulannya terbuang Biar peluru menembus kulitku Aku tetap meradang menerjang.” – excerpt from Aku, Chairil Anwar, 1943.
UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) is in an existential fight for its soul. The party and the BN (Barisan Nasional) coalition that led the nation for 60 years from the time of Independence suffered a severe defeat in the election fight of 2018.
Since the defeat, former Prime Minister and UMNO party leader Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been charged with criminal breach of trust and money laundering of RM42 million involving SRC International. Yet, Najib is increasingly popular on social media with the gimmicky “Bossku”, and evidently remains a bossku for some.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
On 9 July this year, BN announced Najib’s appointment as “Advisor” to the coalition. This was an apparent concession to BN party chiefs who would only agree to “Advisor” rather than “Chairman”. According to Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, MP and UMNO Supreme Council member, this decision was made unilaterally by UMNO president Dato’ Seri Zahid Hamidi, without consulting the party’s Supreme Council. Nazri was quoted as saying, “Does he (Najib) want to be prime minister again? He should step aside for younger people. Cukuplah (enough).”
Padang Rengas, UMNO division meeting, 14 July 2019.
Early in his career, Khairy Jamaluddin attracted controversy relating to business dealings, which is well-documented elsewhere. After a relatively low-key period since losing the party elections for UMNO party president, Khairy, former Minister of Youth and Sports, now MP and Shadow Chancellor, seems to have found his voice at Padang Rengas, and is again courting controversy, this time within his party.
“I want to state what others are afraid to,” he says in his impassioned speech. His critics labelled him “anti-establishment” and more derisively, a “binatang jalang, dari kumpulannya terbuang” (wild animal, exiled even from his own group), quoting Chairil Anwar’s poem Aku. Written during Indonesia’s struggle for Independence, it remains one of the most powerful poems in the Malay language and alludes to a spirit that cannot be contained or oppressed.
Speaking to party members, Khairy said that he must speak up against the appointment as UMNO had lost its moral compass under Najib’s leadership. When I refer to this characterisation, he says, “If that makes me a binatang jalang…” so be it.
When former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked in 2015 by Najib, for openly criticising the government’s handling of allegations regarding 1MDB’s abuse of public funds, Khairy admits he “couldn’t take it anymore”. He met with Najib (in 2016) “to ask him to fix the problem with 1MDB, with SRC.” Khairy told Najib, “if 1MDB is not resolved, if Jho Low is not thrown under the bus, there will be terrible consequences” for the ruling BN. Najib said simply, “leave it to me”. “My mistake was to take his word for it,” Khairy says ruefully. “By staying on, I understand that this looks like complicity. But we live with our choices.”
This article is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s September 2019 issue from the article KHAIRY’S MALAY DILEMMA