(Updated 11:41pm, 24 March 2009)
KUALA LUMPUR, 24 March 2009: Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak has called on Umno members to undertake a complete transformation that is total and tangible in the name of survival of the party.
Addressing the joint opening of Wanita Umno, Umno Youth and Puteri Umno general assemblies at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here tonight, he said the party would lose the support of the people if it did not change.
“We must change. For if we do not, we shall surely falter,” said the incoming Umno president to some 2,300 delegates of the three wings.
Delivering a speech entitled “Menakhoda Zaman” (Leader of the Times), he outlined steps to be taken by the party to regain the confidence of the people — which included changing the process of choosing the leaders, ending money politics and training of political cadres.
Najib, who is deputy prime minister, said the right to choose leaders should be given to the greater number of members to reflect the preferences of more than three million Umno grassroots members.
“To my mind, the time has come for us to review the selection of Umno leaders that will be more inclusive of a greater number of Umno members from all levels.
“This move will enable us to end money politics and abuse of power. This is the path we must take, if we are to regain the strength of the party by returning to the grassroots the mandate for choosing party leaders.
“When the people are with us, Umno will regain its full strength once again. And we can accomplish this if each and every member and leader in Umno embraces the passion for service to the people,” he said.
On the education of political cadres, he said Umno must strengthen the political training and education of its members through well planned courses based on a carefully crafted curriculum which emphasises history, self-confidence and esprit de corps.
The modules for such training ought to focus on the strengthening of values aimed at creating honourable leaders.
At every level, Umno members must be given sufficient training and education so that they fully understand the history of the party’s struggles, he said.
“Only then can we foster loyalty predicated on the full belief in what Umno stands for,” he said.
Umno must remain relevant
The Deputy Prime Minister said Umno must win back the hearts and minds of the people to remain relevant.
“Whether we like it or not, we must change for the benefit of the people. We must dare to change and abandon negative behaviours in favour of praiseworthy attitudes.
“Change from being aloof to being friendly and approachable. Change from always thinking of our self interest to instead putting the interest of the people above our own.
“Change from laziness to diligence. Change from doing the required minimum to embracing a passion for service,” he said.
Najib asked the delegates to pick leaders who were strong and able.
“Present to me a team that has the traits of loyalty, integrity, ability and dedication to duty,” he said.
He said Umno needed a capable team, leaders who dare to make changes and to accept change, and able to criticise and open to criticism.
He said Umno must first remove itself from being linked to money politics and any other form unsavoury activities.
Eradicating money politics
“Umno, or for that matter any party or organisation will be destroyed if its leaders are enshrouded in the evils of money politics.
“Leaders of good standing, who do not indulge in corruption, will be sidelined in favour of those who bribe. The party will be led by those who will bring their culture of corruption in the way they lead,” he said.
Abhorring on the evils of corruption, Najib said: “If the evil is not halted and is allowed to grow, it will become so commonplace that leaders and followers alike can make light of it with humorous remarks like ‘to give would be wrong, not to give would result in defeat’.”
“This is no laughing matter. We must resolve to eradicate money politics right down to the roots.
“If not, we will all be collectively responsible for the demise of this beloved party of ours,” he said to the applause of the delegates.
Apart from that, Najib said there was now a perception that the aspirations of Umno were far removed from that of the people.
“They feel that what Umno wants is very different from what the people expect. As such we must correct the perception and we must not get trapped in our own cocoon. We must not get caught up in the internal processes of the party.
“We must never be too preoccupied with winning positions in the party, to the extent that we forget that the real measure of success of a democratic political party is whether or not it can win elections.
“What is the point of winning party positions within a party that is bereft of authority and is no longer in power?”
Najib said Umno would become stronger if it opened its doors to as many Malay Malaysians as possible if it was to become a party that represent their aspirations.
“Umno will be truly great if the culture of humility and readiness to serve is embraced by all its members.
“Umno will be more resilient if its members stop asking what they can get from the party, but instead ask what they can give to the religion, race and nation through Umno,” he said.
As such Najib reminded the delegates of the three wings they shoulder the biggest responsibility in the history of Umno.
“What is at stake is nothing less than the very fate of Umno. The decision we collectively make at this assembly will determine the future of our party; whether we continue to shape and mould history, or just become an entry in the annals of history,” he said.
But, said Najib, Umno was still very much loved by Malay Malaysians. — Bernama