PETALING JAYA: It may not be the usual fanfare at the Umno General Assembly with food trucks, stalls and bazaars but inside the halls of the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur (WTCKL), it will still be full of drama.
Political pundits have pointed out that Umno, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, is expected to have a heated debate on its direction as it prepares for the 15th General Election and following speculation of informal talks with opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Umno Youth chief Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said it had been a tradition for the general assembly to become a platform for delegates to iron out all the relevant issues such as ties with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and to make clear the party direction.
“I think this is the general assembly that is important as it will probably be the last before we face the general election.
“This will be our chance to discuss all the relevant issues in detail, including our direction and policies for Umno, ” he said when contacted.
The annual general assembly, scheduled to be held over the weekend, will be conducted in a hybrid manner that combines physical attendance at WTCKL and virtual attendance of 190 divisions.
The assembly will begin with the simultaneous opening of the Women, Youth and Puteri wings by deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan tomorrow, followed by the flag-hoisting ceremony and policy speech by Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Sunday.
Asyraf said there had been too much speculation and preconceived notions about the position of Umno but he believes they would be settled in the assembly.
“I believe the keyword here is stability and this is what Umno and Barisan can offer to the people, ” said the former deputy minister.
“We have a good track record and we want to offer stability as it is the source of peace and harmony, and will even improve our current economic conditions.”
Political analyst Prof Sivamurugan Pandian, of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), said the assembly could be an acid test to see to what extent Umno remains intact and united under Zahid who is currently facing various challenges from within and outside the party.Another matter that should be watched during the assembly is Umno’s stance on whether it will sever ties with Bersatu.
“The Umno supreme council and the recent division meetings have pointed towards ending ties with Bersatu. This can be a turning point for the national political scenario if they affirm the decision made earlier, ” he said.
USM social sciences lecturer Prof Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain also agreed, saying that he expects a heated debate on the proposal as Umno had several camps or cliques or kabilah with different views on that issue.
“However, the Umno leadership coupled with a strong desire of the Umno members to unite among themselves, I think they would be able to handle this issue and close ranks toward achieving their decision with consensus, ” he said.
Asked his views on what will happen if Umno and Bersatu do not cooperate in the general election, he said it would be a “zero-sum game competition”.
“We let the people make decisions on both sides, let the democratic process determine the wishes of the people, ” he said.
Umno supreme council member Datuk Mohd Razlan Rafii said the wishes of the majority of the grassroots must be respected.
“And most importantly, the spirit of solidarity must be brought once it is decided by the delegates.
“They can discuss the direction of the party and how we can move forward, ” he said.
Wanita Umno information chief Datuk Norshida Ibrahim said the assembly would be seen as a new chapter for all members at all levels of the party.
She reminded members to set aside their differences, animosity or envy which would destroy party unity, as they will be going to the polls soon.