New Straits Times, 20th October, 2010
I have been a delegate to the Umno general assembly for the past 15 years. I’ve witnessed many changes – from three Presidents to as many deputy presidents, the sacking for one deputy president, no less than nine vice-presidents including two suspended ones and the changes in the Constitution.
I’ve witnessed shocking announcements by two presidents; one as a politically minded student when the late Tun Hussein Onn announced his retirement during his winding up speech, aired lived on television, at the 1981 Umno General Assembly and the other as a delegate from within the august hall of Dewan Merdeka when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad rocked the nation also with his retirement plans.
I remember clearly to this day that my mobile phone did not stop ringing as acquaintances, stuck in the paralyzed streets of Kuala Lumpur, wanted confirmation on what they heard on the radio. It was traumatic for many.
During Dr Mahathir’s reign, the mantra for the day was Bersih, Cekap, Amanah. Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi brought with him Islam Hadhari while the current Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak propagates 1Malaysia.
While I wasn’t around to witness the early stages of Cekap, Bersih, Amanah, which was really self-explanatory, I watched and listened to how Islam Hadhari was explained at several General Assemblies under Abdullah. A lot of time was spent to educate everyone including the ready Muslims on what it meant, many of whom were still unclear, well after his departure from office.
As for 1Malaysia, there are currently many different interpretations although there is only one, which promotes unity without distorting the Constitution.
I look forward to a crisp and crystal clear explanation of what 1Malaysia is from Najib so that everyone can understand, without the slightest ambiguity, once and for all in this General Assembly.
But in my many years of involvement in the General Assembly, none of the arguments were better prepared than the years that were accompanied by state conventions.
They make arguments and motions more serious and productive, in the form of presentation as well as action to be followed through by the leaders.
At these conventions, the Umno grassroots in each state usually deliberate thoroughly over two days to come with a collective resolution on what motion to table at the General Assembly.
This works well because even if the debates were considered guided ones, it would still be garnered by ideas and opinions from the mass as opposed to just a handful of members that meet on the eve of the assembly, flipping over the details for a decent presentation the next day.
This makes for a boring and unproductive three-day event that won’t really serve our purpose except to send out flashes of rhetorics.
Off late, we have not had these state conventions barring a few liaison committee meetings like that in the Federal Territory and Terengganu. I hope to see them revived especially when our political situation is left wanting in the face of a future General Election.
I also look forward to the New Political Model that the Prime Minister intends to introduce to Umno, perhaps in his maiden speech on October 21. In politics, serious measures need to be taken in time, well before a desperate situation arises to avoid irreparable damage.
I pray that by the end of the Assembly on Saturday, we can all proceed to believe with full conviction that Umno is still the party that best represents the Malays in a plural society while protecting the interest of all Malaysians at the same time.
The writer is the Vice Chief of the Pulai UMNO Division