When you refuse to engage with people and instead force them into silence, this indicates contempt and disrespect, says Azmi Sharom.
What have we learnt from the Umno general assembly?
Firstly, we learnt that there are some members of Umno who think that the only people worth caring about are Malays.
There was a speaker from Perak who said they should not care about non-Malay voters since they were beyond reaching, and therefore Umno should only concern themselves with Malays.
I wonder if this applies to an Umno government as well.
Speaking of which, I wonder if we don’t already have an Umno government.
Actually, if one were to look at the current state of affairs, the government that we have is a BN government.
Yet, the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten this.
When making his announcement that the Sedition Act would stay, he mentioned that he has decided to go back on his promise to get rid of this nasty law based on his conversations with Umno divisions, Umno Youth, Wanita Umno and NGOs (which I am sure are Umno-friendly).
All Umno only?
Where were the discussions with the other component parties of the BN?
Surely, when it comes to an issue of law-making (or law-retaining as in this case), the entire ruling coalition should be consulted and not just one party in the coalition.
Thus, the second thing that we learnt from the Umno General Assembly is that the BN does not seem to matter anymore.
Oh, and the third thing we learnt is related to the second point.
The reaction of the Umno delegates when Najib said he was breaking his promise and keeping the Sedition Act was unbridled joy.
I am sure there wasn’t a dry seat in the house. How they cheered and clapped! How happy they were!
Which means that Umno members like repressive laws that restrict freedom of speech.
They like it so much that they have paroxysms of pleasure when told that the law is going to be extended.
Which brings us to the fourth and final lesson that I wish to highlight: Umno’s attitude towards East Malaysia.
One of the things that the Umno government (let us forget the illusion of a BN government) is saying is that now, any talk of Sabah and Sarawak breaking up from Malaysia is going to be sedition.
It seems, therefore, that instead of being willing to discuss the grievances that Sabah and Sarawak folk have, Umno would rather criminalise those who are so fed up that they want to strike out on their own.
When you refuse to engage with people and instead force them into silence, this indicates contempt and disrespect.
Dr Azmi Sharom is an associate professor of law.