For example, the use of force, fear, bribes, threats, violence, deceit, unchallengeable positions, indulgence, and parasitic existence and not worrying about appearances would be a reasonable answer to the first question.
To answer the second question, “Is there any difference?” I will examine how Umno performs in many of these dimensions to answer that question.
1. Force – The police, the Attorney-General's Office, the courts (I will call them the Unholy Trio from now on) are the instruments of force of Umno.
You see them figuring prominently in all occasions where Umno's acts of lawlessness are questioned. Being involved with Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, I can tell you that, without batting an eyelid – our people are constantly threatened with detention under ISA, or with charges of sedition, or are charged with being involved in an illegal organisation after Umno unconstitutionally and unlawfully outlawed Hindraf.
The form of force used and the way it is administered may vary in specifics between the gangsters and Umno but in essence they are the same – Umno and the gangsters equally resort to force because that is the sole source of their power.
Umno has lost its moral legitimacy in its claim for power and hangs on to power only because of the control of the instruments of force – the Unholy Trio being the prime instruments. The gangsters never had moral or legitimate basis for claims to power, their claim to power hinges only on one thing – the use of raw and brutal force.
2. Fear – Umno so readily instills fear just like the local gangsters.
Umno uses the Unholy Trio along with the media, and when necessary the underworld members to achieve this. The police have a special unit called the Special Branch just for this – the Malaysian Gestapo. Every so often we see battalions of the Light Strike Force or the Federal Reserve Units called in to disallow, to disrupt or to frighten off citizen's gatherings.
You should have seen the hundreds at the anti – Interlok forums throughout the country and the thousands at KLCC for Hindraf's Solidarity March against Umno's racism. This is exactly the kind of behaviour of a local gang boss. What the gang boss does is what Umno is doing.
3. Threats – The laws enacted by Umno – ISA, Publishing and Printing Presses Act, Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act, Police Act and even the MACC are all actually devices crafted by Umno that threaten all those who dare cross the line
This is the primary purpose of these acts and organisations, though more noble intentions are proffered to legitimise them. But the true intentions of these are to act as a sword over the heads of any that dare.
The media for its part carries statements from time to time from the ministers, from the IGP, from the attorney-general, from Umno stalwarts, from right wing group Perkasa or carries images and reports of the police overpowering any attempts to challenge them or of right wing demonstrations threatening the rest.
But the purpose is singular – to pre-empt potential trouble makers. The gang bosses just use outright threats, they do not need these more sophisticated devices. As the saying goes, cut the throat of one chicken in front of all the monkeys so the monkeys will behave themselves. In that sense the devices of threatening may be different, but both Umno and gangsters use threats to remain in power.
4. Violence – What happened in Kampung Medan in 2005 is a clear example of the workings of the Unholy Trio, the media and the underworld in the meting out of violence whenever they see a need.
A little further back we had the May 13 riots and May 13 is still a keyword for violence . Hundreds of police killings and maiming continue till today in Umno's police stations. The police in the fore and the Armed Forces at the back are nothing more than Umno's killing machines. The threat of violence that Umno can unleash, should it decide to, is what holds much of the opposition back. Violence is the bread and butter of gangsters and it is the bread and butter of Umno. Umno and gangsters both understand this very well.
5. Bribes – When expediency requires and it is wiser, then Umno bribes to clear their way of trouble makers.
They buy up leaders of groups outside their circle of influence. They make 'mafia offers'. They use skeletons in cupboards to assist them, as we see regularly happening in buying up of the opposition members of the legislature.
Other forms of bribery, we see during elections. There is a free flow of gifts, goodies and promises. These are tidbits used to corrupt and remove obstacles or create perceptions while Umno walks away with the loot – to Umno these bribes are nothing more than the cost of doing business. Gangsters for their part use bribes to share their bounty when attempting to get at very large bounties. It is a cost of doing business for them too.
6. Unchallengeable positions – Umno's positions on issues are unchallengeable, just like it is with the local gangster. You challenge at the risk of losing everything.
When you challenge they fight tooth and nail so you do not get what you seek, on the contrary they make you lose further with intense vindictiveness. A case in point is the Interlok novel issue. The book remains in the curriculum, meanwhile the rest who voiced dissatisfaction get beaten up and charged in courts for speaking up.
Another clear case in point is what Umno is doing to Anwar Ibrahim. He gets all kinds of nonsense thrown at him and with increasing frequency just because he dares to challenge the Umnoputras. A challenge at a great personal risk – they will ruin you if they can. They feel their position must not be challenged.
This is very clearly the ways of gangsters too. The hallmark of a gangleader is one who has overcome all those who have challenged him, and anyone who challenges the leader must lose or the leader loses his basis to continue as a leader. This is precisely the case with Najib vis a vis Umno, and Umno al vis a vis the people.
7. Deceit – 'Biji setelor, riuh sekampung' as the Malay proverb goes. Umno throws a tidbit here, a tidbit there and the media steps in and creates perceptions of a totally benevolent and caring Umno.
Umno holds the reins of the media tight. Umno is able to manufacture perceptions to the people that are so far removed from the truth that the lies are more real the reality itself. You speak the truth and no one listens to you, for they think you are distorting the facts for personal advantage. Umno has established a monopoly over their minds and Umno will do with it what they want. They deceive the people and leave the rest of us biting the mud.
Umno, caught between getting the non-Malay votes and increasing their appeal to the Malays, use their outsourced vehicle Perkasa to create a perception of the Malays losing out to the non-Malays because the Malays are split.
The reality is both the Malay and non-Malay people are losing out to the Umno leaders and their non-Malay elite accomplices, as they use this perception to delude the people and walk off with the loot. No one really listens to this truth, they think it is distorted for personal use. This is a very refined deceit-making machine that we are up against.
On this count Umno has improved over the gangsters, recognising they have to operate within a community of nations and have to be seen to be in accord with the norms of civilisation. They worry about how they will be perceived, they need to legitimise their position, while the gangster does not have to.
So, except for this last point there is really not much difference between gangsters running this country and Umno running this country. Umno is nothing short of being dignified gangsters. This truth may look far- fetched, but you think about what I have said, deeply. Just think about it.
If you agree, then do not be the person Umno, the gangster wants you to be, the meek and powerless person. Look at what is happening in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. When all the people get together, the empire crumbles, because the true sovereign is the people united. We have to move out and into the light, to a future based on competence, not on force.
The people have to get out from the grips of gangsters.
The writer is a member of Hindraf.