After all, it takes two hands to clap. The giver and the taker share equal blame.
Dr Mahathir's declaration of war against
money politics is timely. On Wednesday, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
will open the Youth and Wanita
assemblies, followed immediately by
All eyes will be on the tussle for the top
Wanita post between incumbent Datuk Dr
Zaharah Sulaiman and Datuk Seri Rafidah
On Thursday, Dr Mahathir will open the
general assembly proper where delegates
will decide on the three vice-president's posts, which are vied by nine
Dr Mahathir and Abdullah have both won
their respective posts unopposed. Acting
Youth chief Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein,
likewise, won without a challenge.
The target of these so-called demanding
delegates, according to Umno insiders, are the vice-president aspirants, where the stakes are the highest. The winners are
seen to be in line for the top party
If delegates believe that they command a
price, because of their voting power, then they would spend money to get themselves elected at branch and division levels.
Should leaders at higher levels splurge
on these delegates, then they are merely endorsing money politics.
It is a vicious cycle because those who
spend huge sums of money need to recoup
It would not be surprising if those holding
public office compromise their positions or are prepared to accept kick-backs. There must be an open display of disdain and
contempt against money politics.
Although the party elections would be the
focus of the party and the media, many also want to know the future directions of
This year's general assembly is important
because it is the first of the millennium and, more importantly, the first since the
1999 general election.
There is immense interest in the assembly, not just among the Malays but
others Malaysian because Umno is the
backbone of the ruling Barisan
Critics of Umno have charged that the
party has lost its credibility and an overhaul is needed. They point out that there is
resentment against the leadership among the
The result has been a split among the Malays, with many supporting PAS even if
they are wary of the Islamist party's
This issue is expected to be a focus in Dr
Mahathir's address at the assembly.
Although Umno has come under intense
criticism, many still accept the fact that the party's strengths outweighs its flaws.
Its moderation and willingness to compromise have been its strong points.
Umno should not be ashamed that it has
the support of non-Malays.
In fact, Umno has proven itself to be committed to self-renewal over the years.
Even as PAS debate over whether
non-Muslims should be associate members,
with no voting rights, Umno has long
accepted non-Muslim bumiputras from
Sabah as members with equal
It also has shown great ingenuity in the
formulation of the New Economic Policy,
which has led to fairer distribution of wealth and the strengtening of Malay-Sino
Dr Mahathir's expected emphasis on the
substance of Islam, rather than its form, will reassure many Malaysians that Umno has
no intention of competing with PAS to
win Muslim votes.
The assembly offers the members the
highest channel to carry out some soul searching. For a start, some
confidence building will help mend the post-election dent.
Umno must accept the fact that it has to
enhance its image at the grassroots through more community-related work.
The “Datuk politician,'' in his corporate
image and shiny Mercedes-Benz, may project the image of a successful
bumiputra but it has also sent wrong
signals to the kampung voters.
Complaint bureaus, where the ordinary
people can seek help, could be set up in
housing areas so that the party will be accessible to the
If the successful Sanggang by-election
campaign is to be a lesson, Umno leaders not only need to make themselves relevant
but they have to relate to the
sentiments of the ordinary rakyat.