Umno Youth’s keris waving 10 years ago was start of BN’s decline, says DAP

The waving of the keris by former Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein 10 years ago today at the wing's annual general assembly marked the beginning of the decline of Barisan Nasional (BN) as its lynchpin party moved to embrace right-wing politics, DAP said.

The party's national political education director Liew Chin Tong called the act "controversial" and said it was a symbol of the ruling Malay party turning to the right.

It also spelt the death of the ruling BN, as Umno that year passed resolutions touching on the Malay agenda and reintroduced affirmative action policies for Bumiputera under the New Economic Policy.

Hishammuddin, then the Umno youth chief, had brandished the keris – a traditional Malay dagger – on July 20, 2005 during his speech at the Umno Youth general assembly.

The move was introduced then to symbolise Malay tradition.

Liew, said this paved the way for the party's "dramatic decline".

"The keris-waving act and Umno's right turn did not gain Umno much new Malay support as the Malay middle ground dislikes harsh and extreme acts," he said in a statement today.

However, the Kluang MP said Umno's Malay agenda had failed to improve the lives of the community in the last decade.

Instead, it had resulted in more wastage, scandals and corruption, citing the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal as an example.

He said the party's pursuit of right-wing rhetoric has worsened ethnic relations in the last 10 years.

Taking a harsh racial line had not helped Umno at all, Liew said, pointing to the 2008 and 2013 general elections when BN lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

He said by championing extreme positions in public policies since a decade ago, Umno has kissed a "permanent goodbye" to ethnic Chinese and Indian voters, and the party is also seen to be losing the native votes in Sabah and Sarawak.

"I often wonder what goes on in the heads of Barisan Nasional strategists.

"Between the announcement of Vision 2020 in February 1991 and July 2005, there was a period of 14 years when national politics were relatively non-racial and Umno leaders were at least seen trying to project an inclusive image, whatever the substance was.

"The middle ground approach paid off for Barisan Nasional electorally," he said.

But BN "wasted" the last decade since July 2005 by turning to right-wing politics, Liew said, and added that it was time to build a "new Malaysia again, starting from the middle".

In 2008, Hishammuddin was reported by The Star saying that he regretted wielding the keris and said it could have contributed to BN's poor performance in the general election earlier that year.

Race and religion in Malaysia have become sensitive topics, with some quarters advocating for the supremacy of the Malay race, as racial identity is tied to certain policies concerning economic activity as well as education. – July 20, 2015.