Najib musters troops for polls
By JOCELINE TAN
Underlying the speeches, debates and, at times, the jokes at the Umno general assembly this year is the undeniable fact that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has put the party back on a sound footing.
DATUK Seri Najib Tun Razak was definitely in a lighter mood at the close of the Umno general assembly than when he opened it.
He looked relaxed, maybe even a little relieved. He just had a few sheaves of notes with him and he spoke mostly off the cuff as he responded to what he had heard from the debate of the past few days.
There were also quips and light-hearted remarks and the mood from the floor seemed to carry and lift him forward.
Yet, one sensed that when he arrived for the opening of his second assembly as Umno president, he had concerns about how his message would go down with the party.
His opening speech, as most people agree, was very sober mainly because he had a serious message to deliver.
He wanted to untangle the distorted discourse over the position and rights of Malays that had been going on over the last one year or so. He had to quell doubts that Umno was no longer the Malay party that it used to be.
At the same time, he wanted his party members to be realistic about the new political landscape, that they had to change to survive and part of this change involved honing their intellectual and professional skills.
He did not use the word “compete” – that seems to be a sensitive word for the Malays. But he urged them to improve themselves, to work hard and be successful alongside other Malaysians.
Little wonder that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad warmed to what he heard. Dr Mahathir has made it a point to attend the assembly opening since Najib took over and it was a speech the elder statesman might have made himself if he was still in power.
In fact, he had been saying more or less the same thing towards the later half of his own tenure, except that Najib was now putting it in a more intellectual and methodical way.
Some thought it reminded them of a history lesson. But he wanted to put into context the position and rights of the Malays and it all went back to the way this nation was formed, the Constitution that was drawn up and the events that shaped the NEP.
There is no need for extremist action in defending a constitutional right. Extremism is not Najib’s cup of tea and at the heart of his speech was the need for moderation in moving ahead.
It was evident that while members were assured by his assurances about the Malay position, not all were thrilled with the insistence for a more moderate Umno, which will take time to mature.
However, the party is eager for a general election because it was Najib’s rather passionate pledge to do what it takes to defend Putrajaya that finally brought the hall to its feet.
Umno wants to redeem its lost ground, restore dented pride and reclaim its prestige as a party that has been in power since independence.
This year’s assembly again demonstrated Najib’s hands-on style. The man runs a tight ship. He knows that if you want things to go your way, you need to plan, delegate and manage.
He wants to re-establish Umno’s standing as a Malay party which is also inclusive of the rights and needs of other groups. As such, the debates did not deviate far from the guidelines; and speakers did not run wild with their views and step on people’s feelings and sensitivities as happened several years ago.
Najib had to spend so much time and energy repairing the damage from those years and he was not going to have any of that happen under his leadership.
The Malay supremacy rhetoric and the waving of the keris that erupted in the Umno assembly of 2006 was so unnecessary especially after the landslide victory in the general election.
Malaysians who had given their unreserved support to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi felt betrayed and his own son-in-law was a central figure in beating the racial drum.
It was a tragedy because Abdullah is such an open-minded man in real life. The debates centred on political issues, with their guns trained on their political opponents in PAS, PKR and DAP.
They told off the DAP for questioning Islam and Malay rights; they slammed PKR politicians as traitors and they criticised the policies of PAS in states under the party’s control.
This year also saw an Umno that was far more comfortable with its mixed heritage than ever before as leaders joked about each other’s ancestry – mamak, Benggali, Turkey and, in the case of Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, a Bajau from Semporna in Sabah, a “lanun” because the coast there is known for pirates.
In their element
Delegates, and particularly the Kedah-born permanent chairman Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin, showed off their command of Chinese words and phrases.
The Youth and Puteri wings came under pressure about their delivery record in the week running up to their respective assemblies.
The perception was that they had under-performed, and both Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin had to defend their track record. It was a well-timed wake-up call.
Rosnah’s problem has less to do with her leadership than the fact that Puteri may have outgrown the purpose for which it was formed and that there is an overlapping of sorts with big sister Wanita Umno.
The party may have to seriously rethink Puteri’s role and future.
Khairy, as usual, came under scrutiny. His policy speech at the Youth assembly supported the direction his president wants to take the party and it echoed many of the things he had been saying in the last few months.
The more sophisticated segment in the wing understands his need to be on the same page as Najib. And given his educational background and lifestyle, he is probably more comfortable taking this moderate path.
His problem is that his recent past still jars with the new image he is trying to cultivate. When he cautioned in his speech against using political cables, people pointed to his own excesses when his father-in-law was Prime Minister.
It was smooth going for Wanita Umno now that Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, or Kak Ijat as she is known, has come into her own.
Her wing may lack the youthful charm of the Puteri girls or the flamboyance of the Youth guys but they have shown themselves to be a unifying force.
Her speech had verve and made demands that the women have long felt they deserve.
When Najib took over last year, he inherited a party that was afloat at sea.
He has been working non-stop since and it is to his credit that he has been able to rein in the sentiments, stabilise the party and inject direction and focus. And all this while being bombarded left, right and centre by the most aggressive opposition in history.
There is no one else in the party today who comes close to his ability, experience and intellect.
He saved the best for last in his closing speech, which demonstrated his factual and anecdotal speaking style – and the delegates loved it.
This year’s assembly was very important for Najib in that he was able to reclaim the Malay agenda that had been hijacked by Perkasa.
It was one of those supreme ironies that while Perkasa’s Datuk Ibrahim Ali was recovering from a successful heart bypass, Najib was reasserting Umno’s claim to the Malay agenda.
Still, many in Umno had nothing but good wishes for the Perkasa chief’s health.
Umno cannot be expected to reform and transform overnight but the seed for change has been planted even if individuals in the party speak and act out of line in the days ahead.
By the time the assembly drew to a close yesterday, there was no denying that Najib had, in his 18 months as president and Prime Minister, put Umno back on its feet.
And it seems like Dr Mahathir thinks so as well. He and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali were there for the opening and they were there again for the conclusion, arriving shortly before Najib began his closing speech.
Dr Mahathir is a very exacting man and it is really something to get this sort of recognition from him.
Since the March political tsunami, Pakatan Rakyat has been going on about how it is going to take Putrajaya in the next elections.
The Umno assembly saw party leaders rallying to Najib’s battle cry to defend Putrajaya.
The Umno president did talk about the “one big thing” that was on everyone’s mind, namely the general election.
But by the time the delegates gave him his second standing ovation of the assembly, it was as good as “Game On” for the battle ahead.Dipetik daripada The Sunday Star, 24 Oktober 2010).
Nampak gahyanya tahun depan (2011) merupakan tahun pilihanraya umum. Persdiaan ke arah itu terlalu nyata dalam ucapan pembukaan dan penutup Perdana Menteri merangkap Presiden UMNO, Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak dalam perhimpunan UMNO yang selesaikan semalam, 23 Oktober 2010.Petanda awal memungkinkan bahawa pilihanraya umum akan diadakan serentak di seluruh Malaysia. Itulah sebabnya Sarawak masih lagi belum mengumumkan pilihanraya umum negerinya yang dijadualkan juga tahun hadapan. Sarawak masih dan sedang menunggu momentum dan bukan tidak mungkin momentum itu akan tiba apabila Perdana Menterinya akan mengumumkannya sekaligus tahun depan.
Maka bermulalah ahli umno berebut-rebut tempat untuk dipilih menjadi calon BN. Makan ramailah yang akan berbuat apa sahaja untuk memenangi hati Najib dan timbalannya, TS Muhyiddin Yassin. Mungkin sebelum ini ahli beranggapan bahawa pilihanraya umum akan datang akan diadakan selepas pemilihan UMNO yang juga bakal diadakan tahun depan, kali pertama pemilihan dibuat oleh lebih 140,000 ahlinya di seluruh negara serentak. Nampaknya ahli-ahli UMNO yang mempunyai cita-cita untuk menjadi Yang Berhormat terpaksa mengenepikan usaha menjadikan diri masing-masing sebagai calon dalam salah satu jawatan dalam UMNO. Tak perlu lagi. Sekarang bagaimana memehangi hati dua tokoh utama parti. Dan seperti lazimnya, apa sahaja cara akan digunakan untuk melobi, mendekati dan mempastikan yang berhajat besar menjadi YB ini akan menjadi calon pilihan Najib dan Muhyiddin.
Najib dah kata beliau dan Muhyiddin akan turun padang, pastinya meninjau dan mencari calon-calon pilihanraya umum yang boleh menjadi "calon-calon yang bolen menang." Luput sudah zaman di mana "tunggul kayu yang jadi calon pun boleh menang." Mesej Najib dan Muhyiddin adalah jelas ketika berucap dalam sesi penangguhan mesyuarat perwakilan semalam. Muhyiddin dalam ucapan penangguhannya menyampai "beberapa bulan lagi" sementara Najib "akan turun padang secepat mungkin selepas mesyuarat perwakilan."
Maka suasana politik pun menjadi semakin hangat dan yang berhajat besar mula membuat congak dan bersedia. Bagi bakal-bakal calon ini mereka pasti bertekad, "Kalau tak sekarang bila lagi mahu menjadi yang berhormat."
Menarik juga untuk kita melihat senarai calon pilihanraya dalam kalangan orang Melayu, tidak kira daripada parti mana mereka akan wakili: UMNO, PAS, PKR, DAP, Gerakan di Semenanjung. Bak kata seorang anggota veteran UMNO yang ditemui di perhimpunan UMNO semalam."Kawan tak kisah asal calon itu di kalangan orang kita, tak kira apa parti pun. Yang penting mereka orang Melayu yang boleh berkhidmat. Dan bukannya tunggul."
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