UMNO Lost An Opportunity to Court Middle Ground

UMNO Assembly 2012

Khoo Kay Peng, Straight Talk

I was asked by several media organizations to comment on recent UMNO’s general assembly. I had predicted that it would be an opposition bashing session. UMNO was not expected to raise sensitive issues which included wrongdoings and controversies involving some of the party leaders.

As expected, the party and its delegates went full throttle against Anwar Ibrahim, Pas, PKR and Dap. There were attempts to use fear and threats to win support by summoning the battled spirit of May 13 to the forefront. A leader even suggested that the party is mandated by God to rule the country perpetually. Invoking the mandate from heaven is as feudalistic as you can get. Unsurprisingly, UMNO and its component partners are already using religion and race in their divisive campaigns to garner support.

Against the backdrop of several damning and serious controversies such as Lynas, PKFZ, Scorpene, Pengerang, RM40 million kickback for UMNO Sabah/Musa Aman, Sarawak fiasco, NFC, Selangor land grab and others the party had chosen to keep mum. This is inconsistent with the mantra of change the party president has tried to peddle in the assembly. How can the party change if it refuses to address its own shortcomings?

UMNO wants to attract first time and young voters.  How can the party gain the support of this segment if the party shows little initiative in trying to understand the issues and challenges facing youths in the country?

There is little to show that the UMNO led government has been successful in creating jobs, generating economic opportunities and provide a safer environment for youths in the country. Little is done to curb the arrivals of migrant workers who are taking away jobs from the locals and provide no incentive to local companies to scale up technology adoption and use better skilled an educated local workers to wean off their addiction of low cost and low skilled foreign workers.

The party president did not provide any clue how he is going to govern differently in his second term as the prime minister. His transformation plans are full of euphoria but short on results and real implementation. He needs to address sectors such as manufacturing and services which are providing employment to more than 60% of the workforce.

The party’s chest thumping, ethno-religious rhetoric and senseless threats of violence is going to push away the middle ground instead of winning them over.