Dr M: Umno needs support of non-Malays

(Bernama) – Umno, after its dismal performance in last year's general elections, now needed not only to win back the support of non-Umno members but also the support of non-Malays, noted former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said Umno, being the backbone of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government, should not just assume that support of its 3.5 million members would ensure it remained in power in the future.

"If we continue to place importance on the 3.5 million Umno members, it will not ensure we can win future general elections. Umno needs to win back the support of non-Umno members, as well as the support of non-Malays," he said in his keynote address at a forum entitled, 'Mengangkat Martabat Bangsa' (Uplifting the Status of the Race), at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia here Saturday.

mahathir-7.png Mahathir believed Umno could win the support from these two segments if leaders of the country's largest political party were serious in wanting to champion the causes of race, religion and nation.

He said, the thumping BN victory at the 2004 general election and the subsequent poor performance at the 2008 general election, showed Umno leaders then were not receptive to the views of the people, thus the massive decline in support, resulting in the BN losing four state governments.

Being united alone not enough

"We, in Umno, thought it was sufficient for us to remain united behind our leaders and we could win the hearts of the people. Being united alone, will not ensure victory in the general elections.

"When people saw that Umno was not fighting for them and their rights, they pulled back their support for the party and the BN. Many Malays felt that Umno was not fighting for their rights.

"Although support for the leadership is a must in any political party, members should also criticise leaders if something is not going right. Umno must not solely focus on unity among members and leaders but also fight for race, religion and country," said Dr Mahathir, the country's fourth prime minister.

He said the money politics menace in Umno, was also another cause for the party's dismal performance at the general election as the party was known as a corrupt political organisation.

He said, although there were many incidences from 2004 to 2008, to the dislike of many Umno members, party leaders, including grassroot leaders, continued their support for the leadership due to the unity factor.

"But, if we want to dignify the Malay race, we have to struggle and only Umno could improve the dignity of the Malay race. At the last party election, people spoke about corruption. Today, there are leaders who are involved in corrupt practices. And, these leaders are now asked not to campaign (at by-elections) because there is fear if they go to the ground, the people will reject them.

Evaluate struggles

"If this is the case, it sounds odd. You have leaders in Umno who can't go to the ground to canvass for votes. Leaders are supposed to increase support for Umno and BN, but this is the other way around. If Umno is known as a corrupt party, how is it going to improve the Malay dignity?," asked Mahathir, who served as the longest serving prime minister for 22 years.

He also said that Umno needed to re-evaluate the struggles of the party and its leaders, if it was serious inpas-umno.gif capturing the votes of non-Umno members and the non-Malays.

He said the culture in Umno to support the leadership even if a certain decision taken by the leadership was wrong, should change and that the party must think about issues that involved the people.

"If the people had made a stand on a certain issue but the leadership decides otherwise, we will definitely lose support. When the party does not place importance to the struggles of the race, religion and country, believe me, support for Umno will decline," added Dr Mahathir.

In terms of economy, he said, the Malays or Umno itself, should not blame other races in the country for the Malays to be backward economically.

"There are policies for the upliftment of Malays economically and these policies have opportunities. These opportunities are not used properly and that is why the Malays are backward," he noted.

He also said that the current leadership's stand to teach mathematics and science in Malay at primary schools and the decision to build a "straight bridge" linking Malaysia and Singapore had caused the ruling BN to lose "a bit of its support".

Mahathir said that he had yet to fully understand the 1Malaysia concept propounded by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak but feared it could be similar to DAP's Malaysian Malaysia concept.

Obstacles facing Vision 2020

"In the past, we had the Islam Hadhari concept but the people did not understand the concept. As a leader, we have to come up with slogans which are easier to understand. Like the Malaysia Boleh slogan…everyone understands that the slogan means that we can do it," he added.

He also said Vision 2020 to turn Malaysia into a developed nation faced various obstacles, especially the global economic gloom.

"When we planned the Vision, the country was expected to experiance a growth rate of seven per cent for 30 years, but even in the first quarter of this year, we are in negative six per cent…so it would be difficult.

"We also need to amend the national development policy to suit the times. We need to take a new approach in achieving development.

"We cannot continue to be dependent on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). We need to have transfer of technology. Malaysian firms must take the lead in doing this," Mahathir added.