Wednesday, 18 May 2011 00:55
Nepotism: Umno controlled by 3 families

Written by Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle

The word nepotism has interesting roots. It refers to a practice in the Catholic papacy, where the Pope would appoint his nephews as Cardinals, which in turn assured them a chance to become Popes. Why his nephews? Since priests take oaths of celibacy, they could not have sons. That's why they turn to their nephews to ensure the family’s continual presence in the papacy.

That is the root for the word “nepotism” - the Latin “nepos” which means nephew.

The practice ended when Pope Innocent XII issued the Romanum decet Pontifecem in 1692. This ruling prohibited Popes from bestowing estates, offices, or revenues to any relative.

But while the papacy has removed the practice of nepotism, everyday politics still thrives on it.

Nepotism mocks at the democratic system

Nepotism is still very much alive in politics. Where not only nephews are assured a fast track into high offices but wives, sons, daughter and even uncles. This in turn mocks the whole democratic system.

The main idea of democracy was to disallow a singular individual absolute power in governing a state. The Romans invented this democracy after successfully overthrowing the Etruscan monarchy.

In place of a King, the Romans chose to install an elected ruler - the original idea had two rulers in place so no one could have absolute power. This practice was slowly removed after peaking when Julius Caesar took office.

Nepotism is not merely the act of ensuring one’s own relatives get to assume high office, it also encompasses any act of bestowing privileges to family members. Privileges that allow a family to run the state directly or indirectly. Also, influencing nation-wide policies that in the end benefit only a select few.

Sounds familiar? Malaysia is rife with this.

Umno in the hands of the Razak, Hussein and Mahathir families

It is safe to say, nepotism is the root of Malaysian politics, where power rest within a select few families.

The deliberate act of placing one’s own family member within a position of power ensuring they have the means to reach the top echelon of public office is nothing new in Malaysia.

Najib Razak owes his place in UMNO to his father, the late Tun Abdul Razak, and uncle, the late Tun Hussein Onn. Najib’s cousin Hishammuddin Hussein is currently Home Minister. Najib’s younger brother, Nazir Abdul Razak, runs Malaysia’s second largest bank, Bumiputra Commerce Holdings Sdn. Bhd.

In 2009, then prime minister, Abdullah Badawi’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, was elected as UMNO Youth Chief, defeating Mahathir Mohamed’s son Mukhriz in the process.

After Najib took over from Abdullah, Mukhriz was appointed a minister and out went Khairy Jamaluddin. Not only did this reveal the ties between Mahathir and Najib, it also showcases nepotism at its best.

Nepotism in Malaysia is the real reason behind the argument that the current government needs to be maintained if we are to have stability. This has been UMNO's and Barisan Nasional’s argument all along, thus ensuring that they remain in power.

Yet, some of the most progressive countries have had premiers and governments that change on a constant basis. Take Japan and South Korea, their people elect the governments that best serve their interests.

A constant change of government as mandated by the people is in fact a way to counter nepotism, ensure transparency and chop down corruption. It brings us back to the original idea of democracy as envisioned by its creators.

The longer an establishment remains in power, the greater the opportunity for its members to build the network that ensures their families keep retaining public office.

And if ever we want to see a break in the practice of nepotism in Malaysia, we need to vote for Change. - Malaysia Chronicle