KUALA LUMPUR, 15 Oct 2009: Umno will be the champion of the people by putting the people of all races above itself through the changes that the party is currently undergoing, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
In his first speech as Umno president at the party’s general assembly, he said Umno would continue to champion the people’s lot in matters relating to their welfare and livelihood and he wanted the party’s initiatives to be in keeping with the times.
“Umno can no longer be seen as a party that leans towards only one group,” he told the 2,500 delegates attending the assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre here.
As the backbone of the ruling coalition, Umno could not afford to be regarded as focusing solely on big business initiatives or mega projects but instead should be the champion of the people, he said.
“Umno’s service must be done evenly. We will definitely be a party that advocates resilient economic growth, just distribution of wealth, comprehensive social security network and controlled cost of living,” he said.
Umno, he said, wanted to be seen, felt and be given full confidence as an inclusive party that put the people, and not itself, first.
Najib, who took over the helm of the 63-year-old party in March 2009, said Umno could not be seen as a party that only fought for a small group.
“The perception of Umno as a party to make a living from must be thrown far, far away, must be discarded,” he said.
Najib, who was dressed in a blue baju Melayu with light blue songket, said it was vital for Umno to be a party which upheld the “wasatan” philosophy, that is, moderation or what is described in political science as a centrist party.
“Umno cannot be an ultra-left or ultra-right party,” he said, adding that since its establishment, Umno had not leaned towards a liberal or a conservative ideology.
Najib said Umno would also change the criteria for picking candidates for elections because the key performance indicator for a political party was to win elections and form a strong and stable government.
The candidate must be a person who was acceptable to the local community besides having the quality to serve at three important levels, namely the people, party and country.
“In the final analysis, this is the candidate that the people want and who will win elections,” he added.
He also invited all Umno members to discard negative elements like money politics so that that the party could be clean and respected after the constitutional amendments were made at its special general assembly, which would be held after his policy speech.
He added that the amendments were not cosmetic or patchwork but were substantive and significant.
Najib said the amendments, among others, would increase the number of members directly involved in voting for leaders, from 2,500 delegates now to more than 146,000 members.
“This is a sign that the democratic spirit is alive and kicking in Umno. Clearly there is no other party in Malaysia which is brave enough to do this,” he said in his 16-page speech which took 75 minutes to deliver.
Umno had acted courageously to amend the party constitution to make it more transparent, inclusive and democratic, he said, adding that the move had drawn knee-jerk reactions from certain quarters who tried to copy and change their party constitutions without thorough study.
He said this was their trick and they were making promises in public without any follow-up.
In his speech themed “Upholding Tradition, Evolving Change”, Najib called on the members to bring back the service culture and volunteerism to the party.
The past generation was willing to be moderate and to sacrifice material gains to fight for the party, he said, noting that this was different from the situation now where everyone wanted comfort and luxury.
For example, he said, in the present scenario, so few professionals like lawyers, doctors, accountants and engineers came forward to sincerely help without expecting any reward when Umno needed volunteers from this group during the election season although they were Umno members.
On Umno’s success in retaining the Bagan Pinang state seat with an increased majority, he said it showed that Umno was still the party of choice of Malay Malaysians and the people.
However, he added: “We cannot feel comfortable or be complacent that we are the people’s choice just because there is no other dependable party, in others words, being the best among the bad.”
Najib said Umno would continue to have a place as a party so long as it fulfilled the people’s needs and aspirations, and this was manifested in the drafting of comprehensive government policies for the interest of the people.
No problem would arise if Umno’s aspiration and that of the majority of Malaysians were one, he said, adding that confusion would only occur if Umno’s concept no longer represented that of the majority.
Najib wounded up his speech by inviting all the party members and leaders to bear the party’s mandate to champion the people’s aspirations. He was given a standing ovation after the speech. — Bernama