On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Dwell not in glory of the past

Five also had their rights to vote forfeited and their
rights to contest party elections suspended for six years.

Those suspended were charged with breaking the party's code of ethics by taking
part in money politics during the election of divisional leaders. They were
accused of giving money, throwing parties or providing overseas trips as a way
to influence internal elections. One of the accused was a state executive

The fact is that money politics is merely a polite word for corruption.

As Dr Mahathir himself admitted recently, the perception of many Malaysians is
that Umno has been riddled with money politics.

Rightly or wrongly, many people, including even Umno members, assume that
joining the party is one way of becoming rich.

Umno aspirants are prepared to fork out millions of ringgit to buy votes,
believing that they will reap profits from their investment.

These crooked politicians believe that if they are elected as division heads,
they would stand a better chance of being picked to contest a state or
parliament seat.

Some Umno members even believe that their membership is enough to win them a
contract for a project.

On Monday, Dr Mahathir said Umno must be cleansed of money politics, adding
that the people would never believe that corrupt leaders could set up a good
government to serve them effectively.

The people, he rightly pointed out, will not pick the party leaders if they
think that these candidates are corrupt. He added that Umno would lose members
if its members did not close ranks after the election process.

In the past, Umno members used to laugh at the fisticuffs and chair-throwing at
MIC meetings.

But such squabbles no longer take place in MIC meetings only but also in Umno

Over the past weeks, there have been reports of fights and even one reported

In Libaran, Sabah, police had to be brought in as tension ran high over a hotly
contested division election.

Money politics is not the only problem afflicting Umno. Party discipline seems
to be badly missing from the party now. Dr Mahathir has correctly pointed out
that greed is the problem.

Umno leaders cannot hope to win the hearts and minds of the young if they
perceive that self-interest is the only preoccupation of the party leaders. The
party's history of struggle against colonialism will not be enough to convince
the young to join the party.

Umno cannot live on the glory of its past; it has to prove to the young that it
is still relevant and that it feels and believes in the sentiments of the

As the backbone of the Barisan Nasional, it has been successful in producing a
new class of confident, educated and successful group of Malay middle class.
Many of these young professionals, however, do not believe that they have to be
thankful and obligated to the Government for their positions and it will be the
Government's mistake if it continues to remind them.

The young Malays are concerned with issues such as corruption, justice and
freedom of expression and, unless these concerns are addressed, the opposition
will continue to chip away at the support for Umno.

That aside, the leaders of Umno Youth deserve to play a bigger role in the
Government. In comparison with Parti Keadilan Nasional and even PAS, many Umno
leaders are already past 50 years old.

Umno Youth leaders have proven their maturity in handling controversial issues.
In the case of the failure of top non-bumiputra students to get entry into
universities, Umno Youth has demonstrated its moderation through its

They have come out better than some yesteryear heroes who have attempted to
return to mainstream Umno politics by trying to play the nationalistic card to
garner support.

The statements of these Umno Youth leaders, in calling for more non-bumiputra
students to be admitted into public universities, reflect their calibre as potential
leaders not just for the Malays but for all Malaysians.

The task of Umno has become tougher because of increasing competition from
Keadilan and PAS.

But unlike these two parties, Umno continues to receive the support of not just
Malays but other ethnic groups who are more comfortable with its brand of
politics of consensus.

As Umno celebrates its 55th anniversary, its leaders and members have to bear
in mind that only they can prove to Malaysians that the party has not reached
retirement age but is still relevant.