Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Malaysians learnt from the Umno assembly

MARCH 29 – The talking is done and the dust has settled. A picture is emerging.

• Umno – The country’s most powerful party, is not to be underestimated. Sure, it does not have the vintage class of leaders in the mould of Tun Abdul Razak or Tun Dr Ismail and, despite the enlightened rhetoric of the past few days, the party will be mired in a quagmire of corruption and self-interest for a long time to come.

Still, it controls all the levers of power in Malaysia and on Wednesday and Thursday, delegates voted in a team of politicians who want – and know how to exercise – power. They will not readily give up political control.

In its day, Umno still owns an impressive election machinery. When they are not fighting each other, Umno politicians make fearsome adversaries, opponents who are adept at occupying the shady space between white and black.

With a new leader at the helm and the feel good factor flowing back into recesses where recently only despair and self-doubt resided, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional will be tough to beat in Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang and Batang Ai.

• Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak – Malaysians got a peek of what Najib is going to do for the first 100 days after he is sworn in as Prime Minister at 11am on April 3. He will seek to surprise.

On Saturday, he went further than any recent party president by saying that he was going to dismantle the archaic and abused electoral system which has seen 2,500 party delegates deciding the line-up of Umno leaders, and by convention, the country’s leaders.

He proposes that 60,000 branch and division members become the party’s electorate. Najib knows that he has little wriggle room. He cannot afford to tweak here and there.

If he is to silence BN’s critics and convince his army of doubters, he has to make an impact with every announcement. Expect his Cabinet line-up to contain at least 50 per cent new faces.

Whether this line-up, which will be unveiled in early April, captures the imagination of Malaysians who have grown promise-weary, will be another thing.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Najib is tapping top overseas talent to advise him on his first 100 days in office and has engaged the services of an international public relations outfit to help with the messaging.

• Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – In October, several Supreme Council members cautioned Abdullah against defending his party president’s position, saying that with the strong groundswell against him, he may not obtain sufficient nominations to contest the top post.

His supporters argued otherwise. They told Abdullah that they had gone down to the branches and divisions and found out that the groundswell was artificial, manufactured by several Umno leaders who were driven by self-interest.

Several top Umno officials visited his home in Putrajaya with a game plan to defend the party president’s position. As Abdullah noted in his speech at the opening of the assembly, he could have defended his president’s position but chose not to, in the interest of party unity.

The election results on Wednesday and Thursday suggest that Abdullah’s aides and supporters were right when they said that the groundswell against him was manufactured.

New Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, Wanita Umno chief Datuk Shahrizat Jalil and at least 16 of the 25 Supreme Council members are identified as those aligned with Abdullah.

Out in the cold was Datuk Rafidah Aziz who told Abdullah that she would suffer the same fate as former deputy prime minister Tun Ghafar Baba if he persisted and defended his party president’s position.

• Party under siege – It was no coincidence that delegates elected more vocal candidates to the Umno Supreme Council. Puad Zarkashi, Tajudin Rahman, Bung Mokhtar Radin, Noh Omar, Idris Haron, Jamaluddin Jarjis may not have the gravitas or finesse of other Umno politicians but they are fighters and are not afraid of getting into a scrap with Opposition leaders or non-governmental organisations.

Listening to Umno delegates, it is clear that they want the party to start pushing back hard against what they view as excessive demands by non-Malays.

And if Umno’s partners in BN also start mouthing off like the Opposition, they too should be mowed down.

• Reform, what reform? – They want more positions in government-linked companies, they want the party to control the government, they want the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to stop investigating corruption in Umno, they want Malaysians to stop challenging the institution of the Malay Rulers, they want non-Malays to stop using the word Allah, they want newspapers to stop calling the Opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat, they want those appointed to the board of public universities to be Umno-friendly and they want Anwar Ibrahim corralled for promoting the concept of Ketuanan Rakyat and daring to put Chinese and Malays on the same platform as Malays. - MalaysianInsider

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

they want Malaysians to stop challenging the institution of the Malay Rulers
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As such challenges are the sole right and perogative of UMNO only.