NOVEMBER 27 — Are you upset? I am. Still waiting for my invite to the Umno General Assembly, which is going full throttle today. OK, I am not that upset. I’ll accept an invite even now.
Are you confused? Well most people are when this circus comes to town. But it is the circus we have to live with till they go broke or the country goes broke or wait for this... the country changes government.
So since that is way off for now, I’m proud to give you the A to Z of the assembly, a primer to the sessions and undercurrents, the multifaceted vagaries of the cultural oddity which is Umno.
A: That’s obvious. It’s the A***h word. Or if you are old school, Yahweh—which does not get you into trouble. Delegates have few ways to differentiate themselves. One is to provoke anyone outside Umno, usually someone who will speak back, therefore the delegate and the issue become relevant for a few news-cycles.
Or propose something so radical, in a room filled with radical, no one has heard about it. Or go for a sure-hit, a crowd favourite, just be very emotional about it since every other Johnny come lately will get into the action.
Nothing gets emotions going than the A word. This author is not interested in the word at all, he is just referencing it
B: Beauty pageant that is Puteri Umno. They rarely have an issue, but they are women, so they can’t go with the men, and they are younger so they don’t want to be seen with the aunties.
No one including Puteri members try to remember the speeches, because they will become aunties and join the more animated lot. But this I concede, Puteri Umno has always recruited those very easy on the eyes.
In our world where celebrity Aaron Aziz has more ladies paying for travel holidays with him, they do draw choice picks any multi-level marketing firm would envy.
C: Christians will be the topic of various discussions. Any problem facing Malays in Malaysia, delegates and leaders will have a way of linking the malaise to them — one would wonder how the Sabah Umno delegation which includes Christians (See, those papists and reformists have already infiltrated Umno) would take to the fear-mongering.
I’m no Jesus fan (or J***s if it offends you, my Christian friend) but I’m pretty sure it’s not Christians who are taking Umno division chiefs across the Thai border to solemnise their Muslim weddings to their second nubile wives.
D: Dogs. They can’t get into the Putra World Trade Centre where the events are being held, but those who do get in will not tire of getting riled about dogs and other people they have never met touching them.
Their doggedness about the matter must impress even those without rabies.
E: Electronic display wrapping the whole of Menara Dato’ Onn Jaafar at the PWTC. If Moses had a burning bush, Umno has its phallic equivalent in the shape of 42-storeys of LED display monstrosity. They are not going to let the Jews have the upper hand, not when it comes to gaudy monuments.
Economy is the other e word, and the word will be used by delegates before launching into diatribes of how everyone is grabbing the economy away from Umno when it is always willing to share with the rest, even if they never ever going to deserve it.
Election too, which this assembly won’t have.
F: Fatwa, of course. The delegates will remind that the faithful are under siege as the faithless continue to harbour thoughts and actions contrary to the litany of fatwa issued by the National Fatwa Council. Cringe-time.
G: Government contracts. Those snoozing at the back will raise themselves from the dead like Lazarus the moment the president addresses it.
H: Hussein Onn, the ex-president and third prime minister. His picture all over the halls, however scant mention of him never joining Umno Baru as he backed the other side. He died in 1990 without ever changing his status.
H is also hotels. Accommodations, which division chiefs, state chiefs and ministers have to “sort out” among them for the delegates before they are “sorted out” at the next party polls. Expectations increase in election years.
I: This year’s topic, the Internet. Ever unwieldy, delegates rue the end of protection for the masses against insidious messaging by their opponents. They want the masses to only receive the insidious messaging by them. YouTube, beware!
Or ISIS, the new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. The president experienced confusion early on about them, but it appears he is no more in support of them, and in fact is opposed to their murdering ways. But they have guns, are too far away and shoot back when you annoy them.
Indians. Yup, you heard me.
J: Juice or mixer. The party seniors in the various hotel lobbies sipping their juices or mixers, one after the other. Where you drink decides how tasty your juice can be.
K: Keris. Like the Sikhs’ Kirpan (small dagger), the true Umno patriot feels lost without a keris to brandish. The press love it, because every time a leader does a bit of a show and tell with it at the assembly the news writes itself.
Khairy Jamaluddin, Umno youth chief, and seriously would look silly holding up a keris. But he still has to walk the tightrope of dishing out vitriol and brouhaha against all and sundry outside with the voice of a man who is capable of any kind of madness. We are talking about eating 8 types of cheese with nasi lemak crazy.
And when the dust settles, looks at ways to rebrand his actions as necessary but moderate. Like congratulating your opponent after kicking him in the face by saying the broken nose is giving him a more natural look.
L: Lunch, lobby, same thing really. Real decisions are made outside the debate chamber.
Liberals are behind everything sinister. They seem to espouse man’s independence, the horror!
M: Punch-card man Mahathir himself. Delegates speculate if the godfather shows up or not. In a single statement he can shift the discourse and focus of the whole party. Son, Mukhriz loves the drop-ins.
N: Najib Razak of course. Currently struggling to look presidential.
O: Onn Jaafar, founder. Has party building named after him, but just like his son, he died outside the party. Hishammuddin, grandson has no comment but hopes to end the spate of his family members leaving the party after leading it.
Opening salutations. There are poems, and then lengthy recognition of senior leaders and their sacrifices, dedication and then another poem.
P: Ever since Najib declared several years ago at the assembly that Pakistanis are also Malays, yearly observers listen hard to know who else over the last year has ethnically transformed by the power of living in Puchong. My money is on Kazakhs.
Right wing nuts, Perkasa, reminding the prime minister if he is soft on race, they’ll take over.
Q: Qualified statements. ”I’m not racist, I just had to fit in with the other racists” In the information age, all the incendiary remarks travel out, but those who said them would go for standard explanations like “but, I really did not mean them.”
R: Razak. Late father of the current prime minister
S: The oversubscribed letter. Sodomy, sedition and sex. Chatter in the hallways of whether it is better if Anwar Ibrahim is guilty from the perspective of the party, support for sedition because only the other side gets arrested and morbid expositions of how liberals, Christians, Hollywood movie producers and dog-lovers are stealthily leading the young to more sex.
T: Transgendered peeps. Admonishments expected of how secularism is allowing Muslim men to wear skirts because something called the Constitution allows them to.
Tunku Abdul Rahman did not wear skirts. In fact, no record of him even wearing a kilt in his British years. He too never joined Umno Baru, but like Hussein Onn and Onn Jaafar will have his picture prominently displayed.
U: The ultras. It is bamboozling to know that after Perkasa, Pekida and Isma, there are still other ultras in the party. Apparently, there is no end to rights.
V: Victory. Umno leaders talk about decades of victories won from nothing despite great obstacles. Of course, no explanation of how victory was grabbed from the jaws of defeat or admirable qualities of the sacrifices they made to overcome the obstacle. The way they talk about their successes you might be mistaken to think they’ve cured cancer.
W: Wanita. The women’s wing which is the party’s spine but willingly cedes power to their male counterparts. Curious to know if the increasing number of single mothers means there is a larger percentage of Wanita who are single moms, or if Wanita loses members when they become single moms.
X: Why the ex-members of course. They are referred to often. Top of the list is Anwar. Then there is former Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim who is now ex-PKR too. Another ex-Selangor MB who is ex-Umno is Muhammad Muhammad Taib.
Y: Youthfulness. Umno is a party inclined to experience, which is a euphemism to say they prefer older people. While young Puteri members and overseas Umno club members are great for press photos, the party is largely old, when real power is aggregated. When they mean youth, they are referring to middle-aged men who have no grandchildren yet.
Z: The sheriff Zahid Hamidi. He is the lightning rod for controversy and he absolutely revels in it. Zahid has president’s cousin Hishammuddin for company in the race to become the next deputy president and he is opting for the Mahathir route — be the unapologetic ultra that that the base loves. That’s about the only way they’d sidestep Hishammuddin’s bloodline.
That’s all folks.
Remember, since Umno leaders don’t want to engage, you have to engage. Hashtag #PAU2014 and tweet your thoughts to your favourite Umno leader. When they are not speaking, they are likely bored out of their skulls. They, or their surrogates (who are also bored), might just reply.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.