UMNO: Then and Now

Perak Academy kick started 2017 with a lecture entitled, “UMNO: Then and Now” as their first talk of the year. Presented by Professor Clive Kessler, it was held at Symphony Suites & Hotel on Tuesday, January 10.

The enlightening evening began with a moment’s silence for the late Professor Lee Poh Ping. Lee was formerly a professor of history and international relations at the University of Malaya. One of the best known academicians in the area of international relations, he spoke on “The World after September 11” in 2002 during a lecture hosted by Perak Academy.

Clive Kessler, an Australian, is an emeritus professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He has been researching and writing about the politics of resurgent and militant Islam in Southeast Asia and globally, for half a century. Most recently, he has published a treatise titled, “UMNO: Then, Now – and Always?”

The insightful and erudite discussion, attended by over 60 people, was moderated by 66-year-old Zaira bin Tak, an UMNO stalwart and brother of the late Dato’ Azumu bin Tak.

Clive spoke on the heroic exploits by UMNO formative members in 1946: the UMNO of Hidup Melayu and now Ketuanan Melayu; and the UMNO of 1951, and especially 1955 to 1957: the UMNO of constructive inter-ethnic conciliation and compromise, the UMNO of modern, inclusive, progressive democratic nation-building.

“UMNO has a continuing veto power over Malaysian politics. Do UMNO and its leaders now see it as a responsibility or some kind of a perpetual right?” asked Clive.

“So, does UMNO need to change? Yes. Can it change? Perhaps. Will it? I fear not. Does it even want to? I doubt it, not yet anyway.

“The two classic yet pertinent questions now are: one, what is to be done, and the other, what is the way forward?” he added.

In retrospect, the changing of the political party’s declaration from “Hidup Melayu” to “Ketuanan Melayu” forms the basis of the party’s and, perhaps, its members’ mindset.

Chan Kok Keong, deputy chairman of the Perak Academy, hosted the event while Harold Kong emceed.

Mei Kuan

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