On the way to Kampong Pantos in Jelai, I received news that former top police officer Ramli Mohd Noor has been announced as the Barisan Nasional candidate for the Cameron Highlands by-election on January 26.
I want to congratulate Ramli for making history as the first Orang Asli parliamentary candidate for UMNO/Barisan Nasional in the nation’s history, for the ruling coalition had never fielded an Orang Asli whether for Parliamentary or State Assembly elections in the past six decades.
In the 14th General Election, DAP fielded an Orang Asli, Nasir Dollah, for the Kelantan State Assembly seat of Galas, although he failed to be elected.
In fact, DAP fielded three Orang Asal candidates each in Sabah and Sarawak, and we have now an Orang Asal MP from Sarawak, an Orang Asal Senator from Sabah and an Orang Asal Deputy Minister in Sabah.
UMNO and Barisan Nasional are now learning from DAP to select Orang Asli to be in the forefront of political leadership, but it is open to question whether this is from conviction or from sheer political opportunism.
As the UMNO Acting President, Mohamad Hassan said at the press conference this morning:
“Last time, our usual practice is that the party will carry the candidate. Last time, anyone under the BN coalition will win.
“But in the current political situation and amid all the accusations being thrown against BN, our approach now is that the candidate can carry the party and the candidate is actually the most important factor, not the party anymore.”
But UMNO is now a sinking ship. Although I congratulate Ramli on his selection as parliamentary candidate for Cameron Highlands, the question arises as to whether it is worthwhile to be associated with a “sinking ship”?
In fact, UMNO with the kleptocratic past,has even now to depend on its erstwhile foremost adversary, PAS, for lifeline support. Under these circumstances, should Ramli be associated with a political Party whose President believed that a corrupt Muslim is anytime better than a clean and honest non-Muslim?
It is indeed sad and unfortunate that an Orang Ali of Ramli’s calibre and stature had not been fielded by UMNO at the height of UMNO’s power, when he could go on to become Deputy Minister or even full Minister to end the poverty, backwardness, neglect and marginalisation of the Orang Asli community and bring them into the national mainstream of national development.
The Cameron Highlands by-election has given me an opportunity to better understand the depressing plight of the Orang Asli community in the country, as I have been able to visit eight of the Orang Asli posts so far.
JAKOA was formed sixty years ago to ensure that the Orang Asli community could progress as other communities in all fields of human endeavour, whether in education, economic advancement, housing and most important of all, land development.
I asked Orang Asli representatives whether JAKOA has achieved its objectives, but the answer is that “NO” and in their view, JAKOA has not accomplished even half of its goal after six decades.
Do we want to continue to have a JAKOA for next 100 to 200 years?
After 60 years, an Orang Asli has only become the Director-General of JAKOA for the past eight months, while less than 22 per cent of the JAKOA staff are Orang Aslis.
Orang Aslis should have become elected MPs and State Assembly representatives in the past few decades, instead of becoming a current “glass ceiling” waiting to be broken.
The problem of the Orang Asli must be resolved at two levels, the Federal and the state government.
Pakatan Harapan is now the Federal Government in Putrajaya but it can do nothing about the land problems of the Orang Aslis as this is a state government matter. This is why the Cameron Highlands by-election is also an open salvo for the winning of Pahang state government by Pakatan Harapan in the 15th general election in four years’ time.
While I congratulate Ramli for being chosen as the BN candidate for Cameron Highlands, how can Ramli help the Orang Asli community if UMNO and Barisan Nasional are sinking ships, steeped in the culture of abuses of power and kleptocracy.
It is no exaggeration to say that Pakatan Harapan represents the future while Umno/BN represents the past, corrupted by greed, abuses of power and kleptocracy. Even with the prop from PAS, Malaysia cannot return to a kleptocratic past with UMNO, as the future belongs to democracy, good governance, rule of law and justice for all communities in Malaysia.
The Cameron Highlands by-election is therefore not just a battle of individuals or political coalitions, but even more important, a battle between the future and the past of Malaysia, between a New Malaysia with democracy, good governance, rule of law and justice for all communities in Malaysia and the Old Malaysia of sham democracy, kakistocracy, a failed state and global kleptocracy.