KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional will not survive the next general election if Umno cannot retain the support of the Chinese community.
Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said it was unwise and a bad strategy to sideline other communities, adding that Barisan must have appeal for all races if it wanted to remain in power.
Umno, he said, could continue to be progressive and inclusive without sacrificing its core struggle of upholding the interests of the Malays.
This message of inclusivity was the thrust of Najib’s closed-door briefing yesterday for over 5,000 delegates to the Umno general assembly.
“The president made it clear that Umno and Barisan will not survive the next general election if the party cannot at least retain the 10% to 15% Chinese support that it obtained in the last polls,” said a delegate.
“He told us to maintain and increase support not just from the Chinese and Indians but from the communities in Sabah and Sarawak.
“He reminded us that if we had received 25% of the Chinese votes in the last general election, Barisan would have won two-thirds of the seats in Parliament.”
He said Najib also strongly advised Umno delegates to be careful in raising and commenting on sensitive issues so they did not scare away their non-Malay supporters.
Cheras Umno division chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Alhabshee fully supported the president’s reminder that Barisan needed the support of non-Malays to do well in the general election.
“I can identify with that because I come from an urban division where Malays are the minority and non-Malays are the majority. Najib’s reminder to be sensitive and careful when commenting on issues makes sense.
“Like it or not, we need the support of non-Malays if we want to regain the two-thirds majority in Parliament,” said Syed Ali.
Supreme council member and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said Najib’s advice for Umno to be sensitive to the feelings of other races was timely as it would be tough for Barisan in the next general election without the support of non-Malays.
“We cannot win, especially if we want the two-thirds majority, if we depend solely on Malay votes; we have to be more inclusive of all other races.
“We have been doing this all the while but perhaps sensitive matters should not be discussed too openly,” said Mukhriz.
Najib, who had stressed on the need for the party to appeal to the youth, expressed frustration over young Malays joining other parties, including DAP, instead of Umno.
He acknowledged that one of the reasons Gen-Y Malays did not want to become party members was because certain division chiefs did not give them enough room to participate.
Najib also addressed what has been billed a major grassroots concern – that Umno was losing sight of its core struggle to champion the Malay agenda.
He assured the delegates that he personally monitored all government projects to help bumiputras, saying that 27 government-linked companies (GLCs) had been given very strict Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
The heads of the GLCs who could not meet their bumiputra-agenda KPIs would be considered failures no matter how successful they were in other areas.
Among the on-going efforts to boost bumiputra economic empowerment was the policy that all major projects must have bumiputra involvement, said Najib.
This, he said, included 11 mega-projects valued at RM23.5bil.
Putrajaya Umno member Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz said there were mixed feelings among the delegates in Dewan Merdeka during the briefing.
“We understand his message but the challenge is going to be how all this can be implemented. Finding out how best we can do this will be the main focus of debates at the assembly,” he said.