ALL eyes are on Umno today as it chooses a new president and other key office-bearers. Two of the three key candidates for the top job – Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Khairy Jamaluddin – share their thoughts on their plans to revive Umno. The following are excerpts of their written replies to a similar set of questions from The Star.
On what needs to change in Umno
Dr Ahmad Zahid: We were complacent. Some of us were happy in our comfort zone. This proved to be a disaster. This time around, we must get it right. Gone are the days of common perception that only those with royal blood and aristocrats are fit to lead the party. Bid goodbye to politics of authoritarianism and compartmentalisation. Umno is not anyone’s personal domain. Millions of members have a right to it, the right to rehabilitate and strengthen the party. Umno is for all members, no more teams and no more room for dictators.
Khairy: We must get rid of politics of patronage. Loyalty to the party does not mean loyalty to the president, and we can no longer protect the president and the party leaders from the ugly truths – from the rakyat’s grievances to the party policies. For far too long, the party and its leaders have been perceived by many to be arrogant, samseng (hooligans), racist, right-winged and sexist. Now is the time to end this.
On their 100-day plan for Umno should they win the presidency
Dr Ahmad Zahid: We must come up with new ideas on how to get back the formidable Umno which once had the trust from Malaysians and respect from other parties. This does not rest on the leadership alone but is a concerted effort by all. We must be able to attain this in 100 days or less. Be an “Umnoist” in the true term, and not riding it for fame or personal glory.
Khairy: Firstly, we will have to get our house in order and sort out the party assets frozen by the MACC (Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission), and ensure that Umno does not get deregistered. We will meet the Government if we have to, explain ourselves and if it comes down to it, fight for the party’s legitimacy. I also want to start bolstering our side to become a formidable Opposition by setting up a shadow Cabinet, keeping the ministers in close scrutiny and check and balance.
On preventing a further split in Umno due to the presidential contest
Dr Ahmad Zahid: We must ensure that the politics of self-interest, dominance of “godfathers” and a caste system in the party disappear. In other words, this revived Umno must comprise pure loyalists, and stay open from top to bottom so as to encourage more communication, including with the grassroots.
Khairy: There are still roles for Zahid and Ku Li (Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah) to play in the party, even if I become president. And if I am not chosen to be Umno president, I will not leave the party either. This is my lifelong commitment to the party. As long as I breathe, I will continue to fight alongside the party in rebuilding that trust between the rakyat and Umno and Barisan Nasional.
On making Umno a strong Opposition party
Dr Ahmad Zahid: Individually, we have the most seats in Parliament. But other parties formed a pact under Pakatan Harapan. Let’s not touch on what they are and intend to do but Umno must prove that it is a constructive Opposition. Its a bit odd to see a Malay party on the other side of the Dewan Rakyat. But we’ll be there to support what is right and oppose what is deemed not right for the country and rakyat. Like in some governments, the Opposition works closely with the government of the day in formulating development programmes for the people.
Khairy: First, we need to be true to ourselves and our defeat. Whatever happened to us, was not because we lost a “perception war”. The rejection is real.
We have to start acting like a formidable and credible Opposition, one that is competent, intelligent and able to give sound criticism to the Government.
We need to keep them in close scrutiny and provide the check and balance, and at the same time, provide solid alternative ideas to the people and remind them what made Barisan Nasional strong.