The future for UMNO

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The UMNO Supreme Council will meet this Friday, and many believe the subject of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s position as party president will be discussed.

I suggest that members of the Supreme Council don’t waste too much time on this. Let Zahid remain as president. There are other politicians who have not relinquished their posts when facing criminal charges, so why should different considerations apply to UMNO?

On the other hand, let’s congratulate Dato Seri Najib. He is the one making the rounds, defending charges and accusations and that’s something UMNO should be proud of. He is not running away.

I believe him when he says he no longer wants to be President or become PM again. Although he has more than fifty criminal charges to answer, he wants to give his side of the story. Government leaders are still on full assault mode, but surely it’s only fair that we allow him to respond and not make fun of his public appearance.

Other UMNO leaders have blamed Najib for BN’s lost, but not themselves. They have told the world that they were scared of Najib, and given other excuses for their silence on 1MDB. They are just cowards; and that makes them the worst kind of politician.

What the Supreme Council should do on Friday is discuss the new political philosophy of UMNO. If those who are blind continue to lead the blind, then UMNO will be out of power for a long time. A blind leadership is one that does not use its head, but only its ‘semangat’ (spirit).

These leaders like slogans and the style of raw firebrand politics, ostensibly championing Malay Rights and Islam, but they don’t understand what they are saying: their objection to the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is an example of the blind leading the blind.

The reason given is that if we ratify ICERD, then Malay special privileges will disappear. No they will not. ICERD is about the ban on institutionalised discrimination, such as Apartheid, discrimination against women, and slavery. It’s not about positive discrimination.

Positive discrimination is government policy and is practised by many countries, where extra help and support are given to a particular disadvantaged group. Australia and India practice positive discrimination, and have extensive socioeconomic programmes for the poor and the marginalised, and so do we.

Some in UMNO say that all they need is 80 per cent Malay support, and that’s enough to win, with minimal Chinese and Indian help. I believe that unless UMNO leaders start using their heads and talk some sense, there will not be enough Malays around to support them and they will not get the 80 per cent.

UMNO must be modern and progressive, and yet it must never forget its roots in Malay society. UMNO must move Malays forward, and to do that they need to understand Malays better.

Malays want most things free. They want increased social welfare and better access to cheap housing. So the economic thrust of UMNO has to be skewed towards a controlled socialist state, with some room for private activities. This is the opposite of Dr M’s economic policies.

To be credible, UMNO must oppose Dr M’s laissez-faire economics. They must oppose his privatisation plans, and the selling of state assets. UMNO was stuck with his policies for a long time, because for 20 years they were scared to oppose him. Then in the twenty years that followed, leaders enriched themselves by benefiting from those policies. This greed set in deep and it finally led to the loss in May because those policies could no longer satisfy the Malays.

Dr M is the Margaret Thatcher of Malaysia, so to win against him you need a Tony Blair in UMNO. I see a few bright ones in the third liners. Promote them. Be courageous for a change. Talk more about positive education, morality and good conduct.

The next leader must be able to talk to taxi drivers of his plans, without banning Grab. He must be able to tell the Malays how he plans to cut out greed and curb the crookedness in the way power is exercised. Any Malay party that can instil values such as honesty and integrity in our political culture, and help nurture the Malays to be successful, will get support.

To run against Pakatan Harapan is not too difficult. Look at their Manifesto and you can tell it was written by idealists and academics who painted a picture of hope for an equal and egalitarian country. They promised a welfare state without looking at how it will be sustained financially. They promised everything.

The problem is that the real decision makers in the PH Government are not socialists or supporters of the welfare system. They are billionaires and towkays who are close to, and are in line with, Dr M’s economic thinking. Obviously they like selling assets and are in favour of creating more wealthy businessmen. They believe this will have a trickle down effect, and everybody will be happy and satisfied.

But nothing of that sort ever materialises. There is always a mismatch between electoral promises and policies implemented. The rich will get richer and the gap will widen between the haves and the have-nots.

If UMNO is unable to handle this, then they do not deserve to rule again.

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