On The Beat
By WONG CHUN WAI
UMNO delegates must bear in mind two things when they attend the coming party general assembly – the way they deliver their speeches and who they choose to lead the party.
They must be reminded that Umno is the backbone of the Barisan Nasional that lost five states in the March 8 general election.
It may have snatched back Perak from the Pakatan Rakyat but with so much resentment on the ground, no one can predict the fate of the Barisan in the next elections.
The fact is that except for Penang, the rest of the states in which it lost badly were Malay-dominated areas.
When the delegates take to the rostrum, they have to remember that their speeches and the way they are delivered will have an impact on Umno and the other Barisan component parties.
We want to hear Umno delegates talk about the coming financial tsunami and how we need to fend off the effects. This is not the time to talk about who gets what slice of the cake but about making sure there is still a cake for Malaysians.
They can take the easy way out by playing the racial card, get the applause of some communal-minded members and win party votes but they will alienate a massive chunk of voters.
The general assembly is unlikely to be telecast live this time but rest assured, the contents of the speeches and mannerism of the speakers would make it to YouTube, the video-sharing portal.
Umno leaders have a chance to redeem the mistakes of the past at this coming party meeting.
They not only have to win back the Malay votes but they should also never alienate the non-Malay voters, who have in the past been their lifeline, but the political scenario has changed as PAS has cleverly reinvented itself to the Chinese and Indians.
The rest of Malaysians may not be voting but they are certainly entitled to have many expectations of the 2,500 delegates.
Malaysians have a right to see men and women of integrity and credibility being elected into places of leadership in Umno.
We want Umno delegates to pick leaders who are moderate and able to articulate the wishes of not just the Malays but the rest of Malaysians as well.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has won the Umno presidency unopposed and is set to be the next Prime Minister.
Surely, he would want intelligent people of calibre in his Cabinet, as well as his Deputy Prime Minister.
Umno delegates need to vote in competent leaders who understand the complexities of a global economy, especially in this doom-laden period. It is not about whether a candidate smiles more or not. It is not a popularity contest.
They must be leaders who can help him face the challenges ahead, not burden him further with their baggage.
Out with the corrupt
Can Malaysians be blamed if they perceive Umno as a corrupt party when, as ordinary people, they hear of how huge sums of money are required to secure party posts, even at the branch level?
They ask cynically whether it’s true that only a few thousand ringgit is the normal amount as reported in money politics cases, or is it many times more?
Malaysia is doomed if corrupt figures lead Umno because, ultimately, the posts would have been sold to the biggest bidders.
These corrupt figures would be indebted to their financiers and the money spent would have to be recouped. It would also send the wrong message to the civil servants – if the bosses can put their hands in the baskets, why can’t the underling who just wants to earn a living?
Politicians need a war chest, let’s not kid ourselves. Money is needed for campaigns. There would be expenses, no doubt, and there would be reimbursements.
From the US presidential campaign to the elections in Britain, politicians receive donations, especially from powerful lobbyists.
But that’s quite different from pressing money into the hands of delegates for a vote. That’s corruption – pure and simple.
Umno leaders have to park in their mind that there is little point in winning this battle but losing the war.
Najib has to put things right – it’s time for direct party elections to be carried out as that would wipe away corruption and the powerful division heads who treat politics as a business.