Not many people would read this posting but I believe those who do will understand what are the actual sentiments of people like me and a few million more - the grass root members of Umno - for the party we support and have faith in. It is the only Malay party I've known in 1965, two years before I enrolled as a pupil at Masjid Tanah English School (MTES).
Umno became a brand to me ever since. I shared the pride and excitement each time my mom (a branch Wanita chief) brought me to some of her meetings. I remember seeing Ghafar Baba coming to our kampung to deliver a speech and officiating the 'balai raya', and also chief minister Ghani Ali shaking hands with students (including me) when he visited our school.
Mom told a lot of things about Umno, its history and how it fought for Independence. When curfew was imposed as a result of the May 13, 1969 communal riot (I was already in Standard 3), a few cars belonged to Umno, MCA and MIC members were allowed to ferry us to and from school. And mom said the riots in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and other parts of the country were done by 'stupid and evil people'.
In fact, I still met my Chinese and Indian friends, studied together and played at day time and none of us talked about the incident. We are very much intact. Mok Kian Tong whose family supported the DAP said, 'biarlah dia orang gaduh, kita tetap kawan!' (Mok joined MCA in 1981 when I became a member of Umno).
One thing which puzzled me each time Umno wanted to choose its office bearers for a branch and division was that, almost nobody wanted to take it up. Even my mom refused to become a branch Wanita head until she was persuaded by members to take it up. When somebody nominated her, everybody raised their hands, no contest and no objection. She held the position for three terms until mid-1970s.
And so were others who were 'forced' to become Umno branch heads and committee members. At one of the meetings, (the late) Tun Ghafar said, "Takkanlah tuan-tuan nak saya pegang jawatan semua ketua cawangan dan bahagian untuk satu negeri Melaka ni! Tolonglah saya!"
Those were the days when a 'cikgu', a 'kerani' and anyone with strong grass root support got the ticket to such positions. At that time, most of the Malay doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals in Umno today were still studying in colleges and universities, locally and abroad.
As time flies and Umno entered a challenging era of post-1969 and with Tun Razak launching the New Economic Policy in 1971, the Malays' interest in Umno suddenly increased. When Tun Hussein became Prime Minister and Umno president, the quest for positions in Umno was overwhelmed by the fact that those who became State Assemblymen or Members of Parliament could access government's contracts.
During that particular era, Malay entrepreneurship was on the rise and Malay contractors were already given priority to government projects. This made branch and division heads more important. A lot of people would go to them, seeking political support for this and that contract. To me, it was the NEP that changed the whole scenario in Umno.
Tussles began to flare at some branch and division elections. Tug-of-war games among various factions wanting to push up their candidates, began to take up its toll when some members left the meetings and voted for the Opposition in the general elections. I know some Umno members in my kampung and in Masjid Tanah division who sent out SMS during the 2008 general elections, asking the Malays to vote for PAS or PKR. Why? Their candidate lost in Umno divisional election or he or she failed to become a Yang Berhormat.
When I became a journalist in 1981, I made it a point to 'balik kampung' at least twice a month, noting not much changes had taken place. Some of the poor folks remained poor - the Malays, Chinese and Indians. Our 'wakil rakyat' seldom paid them a visit, the JKKK committee members were difficult to talk to while the people who worked with the 'wakil rakyat' were a snobbish lot.
But there were changes. The YB brought new water irrigation project that totally dried up the whole 'sawah padi'. It failed! And of course, the narrow 'jalan tanah merah' to Solok Limau Nipis (where Rocky's Bru parents stayed) was paved with a thin layer of bitumen (I learnt in school that it was John McAdam who introduced such roads).
The balai raya Allahyarham Pak Ghafar officiated is still there, as a 'kandang kambing'.
Apart from that, nothing. I sometimes wondered what is the actual function of the JKKK (Jawatankuasa Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Kampung) if they failed to do a simple job of identifying the poor family in their kampung, and report it to the YB for further actions. Unless the YB is not doing his or her job!
Frankly, I'm ashamed of TV3' Bersamamu program. It reflects much of JKKK, Aduns and MPs failures in attending to such a minor social problem in their respective constituency, especially where Umno has its reps. Had proper attention was given to the group, there won't be any hardcore poor in the country and TV3 will have to go to Papua New Guinea or Africa to find footage for that program.
Umno should have stopped attending to such a social issue had the party - via its 'wakil rakyat' and JKKK - addressed it 20 years ago. It's time to concentrate on our bigger agendas. After 54 years of Independence, we should be ashamed of letting some rakyat still having not enough to eat and not enough to wear before our very own eyes.
And some of our newly-elected Umno State Assemblymen and MPs are already making rounds in their constituencies - not to listen to the rakyat but to show their new cars, bodyguards and guns on the coffee shop's table!
to be continued...