I have a knack of finding myself in places I would least expect doing things that I would not imagine. That happened to me as an undergraduate a couple of times with the instance of me hiking in the Sierra Nevada on a whim notice as the best example of all. Though less life-changing than that hike and instead reaffirming, I found myself with an observer pass to the ongoing UMNO assembly. I observed the Puteri UMNO session from the back and I can say that I do not remember when was the last time I felt so angry.
This was Puteri, mind you. If it was a Pemuda session, I probably would have gone berserk.
How I got the pass should be left out of this space because that is yet another story of unsuspected chain of events that if told, would force me to digress from what I really want to share here. So, please do not ask how I got the cursed pass.
I came with an open mind because I have met with some of who I would call reformists within UMNO. Despite knowing that their aspiration comes far short than my expectation, I do wish them success because if everybody is to be kept honest, there has to be competition and at the moment, UMNO — and BN in general — does not provide quality competition. The lack of quality competition is what I attribute as a factor to what I see as Pakatan Rakyat abusing the trust it has respectfully gained not too long ago.
Besides, the opening speech by Najib Razak on Tuesday’s night at Putra World Trade Center was not a bad experience after all. I am not saying I was impressed with or believed in his speech but it was a good learning experience. It was an opportunity to learn the mind of UMNO. Furthermore, this is the time of a leadership change. To witness it is something to remember, for better or for worse.
Admittedly, I arrived at the venue early with great consternation. I think, seeing myself so flagrantly among UMNO people near their headquarters is bad for my reputation. But I swallowed that feeling, advising myself to give it a chance.
That was my mistake.
To be fair, it started mildly. Puteri UMNO said this and that and I learned a thing or two about the internal politics and atmosphere of UMNO deeper. There were a lot of pretty girls too and free lunch. So I thought that could provide me with at least a break even experience: I could learn something, enjoy pretty faces and eat some good food while having my ears and consciousness abused.
Despite disagreeable ideas, the first half of the day went somewhat okay. The second half was another story.
I was on time for the second session but clearly, time is inconsequential to the members of Puteri UMNO. The program began about 30 minutes late because there were too few people in the hall. While I do not pretend to be extremely precise with my time management, a wait of 30 minutes is intolerable. I tend to get very restless when I have to wait that long. I started to talk to myself, criticizing them. Hey, this is a party that governs a country!
It was downhill from then on.
They talked about their policy on the monarchy and language to paint themselves as the most Malays of all Malays while ignoring past contradictory actions that UMNO had committed. For instance, the 1993 amendments to the Constitution of Malaysia. To use the oft-mentioned phrase of UMNO, “Melayu mudah lupa.” Really, UMNO mudah lupa because not all Malays are forgetful of history.
A state representative of the Puteri wing proposed for money politics to be legalized in a controlled fashion in UMNO, without any hint of remorse. I have heard this suggestion at a closed door discussion before and I thought then it was just a wacky suggestion made by an outlier. To hear it in the assembly so publicly however is shocking.
Maybe, she wanted to say to allow a political donation system, like the one practiced in the US or UK but the way she presented the idea — if indeed what I think that was what she wanted to say really — was too crude.
Another suggested for UMNO to strengthen its hands in business, seemingly unaware of criticisms which UMNO seriously faces.
Still on money politics, there was an unbelievable call for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to not investigate UMNO. More audaciously, she wanted UMNO to manage its own problem with corruption and money politics while outsiders, like the MACC, should stay outside. Having UMNO to investigate itself is like having the accused being both the judge and the jury. Oh, and the legal counsel too. Yes I know, what the fuck, eh?
Pardon my French for I think I should not restrain myself any longer. That would be bad for my psychological health. How can I restrain myself? Why should I restrain myself?
I restrained myself long enough when I was in the middle of the whole circus. That earned me my right to say fuck.
There were some good points: a representative questioned why Ali Rustam was punished while others were let off the hook. The chairperson tried to encourage the representative to not to talk about it but she persevered.
One sang a song despite being reminded that her time was up, several times by the chairperson of the session. Nice voice and face too but, man, this is not American Idol, babe.
Good points however were short and what I considered as bad were aplenty. I do not remember them and I do not intend to refer to my notes. What I remember is that my ears were red. The temperature of my ears was above room temperature.
I was bad at concealing my emotion after some period of time and I think some people started to notice my demeanor at some point of time.
I finally blew my fuse — in a very silent way; I did not make a scene — when a representative spoke of how Malays are successful not mostly because of their own effort but because of BN-government policy which, in no uncertain terms, refers to the New Economic Policy.
Enough, I said. No more of this.
So, I packed by stuff and went out of the hall only to suffer a slow elevator ride downward. There was a beautiful Puteri UMNO who smiled at me but I was at a stage where if I had a shotgun, I would have gone on a shooting spree. She would be my first victim. I impolitely ignored her because the air in the elevator was suffocating and filthy and sinful and full of cruel intention.
The door finally opened but only to a floor full of people shouting and campaigning for candidates which I would rather generalize and accuse them so liberally all as corrupt racists. Something was boiling inside of me and yet here I was, having to navigate myself through a sea of people I would rather not associate myself with. These are the people that make me ashamed to be a Malay.
I marched, determined to get out while putting a straight face, trying to mask my anger and disgust.
Once outside under the cloudy but still open sky of Kuala Lumpur, I breathed deep. My lungs were almost busting until the time was right for me to breath out. All that vicious feelings melted all at once, giving way to a feeling of liberation. My pace started to slow down and finally to a halt. I wanted to relish the fact that I was out of that ill-filled hall and building.
And I saw Australia.
I cannot wait for Australia anymore, even when Australia for me is expected to be a temporary experience.