Najib turns the sword on Anwar
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim made a surprise ‘appearance’ in the middle of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s opening speech at the Umno general assembly.
The Opposition Leader was caught lying first about non-existent Bangladeshi voters and then lying that he never said it. The Opposition parties have used the new technology to great effect but it is a double-edged sword and, yesterday, Anwar fell on his own sword. But the most tragic thing is that so many Malaysians fell for the lie.
Joceline Tan, The Star
WHEN Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as Petronas adviser last week, some read it as a sign that he was upset with the Umno leadership.
He had resigned for health reasons but the timing of his resignation was too close to the Umno general assembly for comfort.
It is no secret that the elder statesman has been quite critical of Petronas’ policies and a number of people even imagined that this would be the beginning of the end of his cordial ties with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
But there he was, bright and early, at the opening of the Umno general assembly, seated at the centre-front row several seats away from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Dr Mahathir has not missed a single general assembly since Najib took over as Umno president and it does look like his relationship with Najib will endure even if he and Abdullah are still stuck in a civil cold war.
As usual, Dr Mahathir was mobbed the moment he stepped out of the hall. His voice was softer than usual, he sounded a trifle breathless and although he did not praise the speech, he had nothing negative to say about it either.
But he must have enjoyed the “multi-media show” of his old nemesis.
Midway through Najib’s opening speech, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s image appeared on the giant screen.
The video opened with Anwar claiming he had never said anything about Bangladeshis being flown in to vote in the general election.
This was followed by more video clips showing him making these claims – not once but several times before and after the May 5 election.
The Opposition Leader was caught lying first about non-existent Bangladeshi voters and then lying that he never said it.
The Opposition parties have used the new technology to great effect but it is a double-edged sword and, yesterday, Anwar fell on his own sword.
But the most tragic thing is that so many Malaysians fell for the lie.
The video would have been a good laugh had it not been for the grave implications.
Many in the hall were clearly still angry about the issue and they jeered and booed as the Opposition Leader was exposed as a liar.
Later, when they cooled down, some of them joked that Anwar had made his “first appearance” at the general assembly 15 years after he was sacked.
“It shows that Najib is very confident of his place in the party to have ‘invited’ Anwar back to Dewan Merdeka,” one of them joked.
Najib is indeed quite unassailable in the party at this point in time.
He is surrounded by loyalists who won in the party election while he himself won uncontested.
In the last few years, Najib has used the Umno forum to speak to an audience that extended beyond the walls of the party’s PWTC headquarters.
But yesterday, his speech was the most “Umno-ish” ever since he became the party president.
It was a speech aimed largely at the party members and he was not apologetic about it.
Najib’s aristocratic background has often been a sore point among the Umno folk but his political instincts cannot be faulted.
The Malay rhetoric this year was quite deliberate.
The party has survived a bruising general election and it has also emerged from a successful party election.
Najib could sense that the members did not want any more reminders of how they must reach out to the other communities.
They have yet to recover from the feeling of being rejected, especially by the Chinese voters.
As such, a key message from his policy speech was that Umno has not and will not stray from its core values of defending the religion, the race and the nation. It was what the members wanted to hear.
“They need to hear it at the general assembly and from the president himself. Once they are reassured, he can move on to the national agenda,” said the insider.
It was also a celebratory speech of sorts because his party had performed better than in the 2008 general election but was let down by its component parties.
He singled out Sarawak and Sabah for mention because the two states helped carry Barisan Nasional.
“Going back to our core values does not mean that we have abandoned our objective to be inclusive and just. Policies have to address the bumiputera needs because they will comprise 69% of Malaysians by 2020,” said former Penang Umno strongman Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad.
But Malay rhetoric aside, Najib is very focused on what he wants out of his party from now till the next general election. His problem is whether the rest of the party can come along at the pace he has set.
For the second time in two days, he held his handphone up in the air as he stressed the need for the party to embrace new technology.
Barisan’s survival will be determined by the six million new voters in the next general election.
The new generation is technology-savvy and their opinions will be shaped by what is streamed by social media and the internet.
Umno’s own survival will depend on the Malay voters whose priorities will revolve around what Najib terms as surau dan masjid.
In fact, there was a roar of approval when Najib touched on the party’s defence of the kalimah Allah issue.
The party has begun to attract young, progressive ulama into its ranks and the signs are there that Islam will also play a bigger role in Umno’s future and survival.
Like many Malays, Najib loves his cup of tea which he now drinks without sugar. He has lost his paunch and his clothes look good on him these days.
He is looking lean and fit, which is a good thing because it is a tough race ahead.