Shahrir’s think tank may include Mahathir


(Bernama) – Umno veteran Shahrir Samad, defending Umno’s conservatism, is looking towards the young to help draw up plans for Johor Umno’s resurgence as a political force, in the face of new opposition challenges.

Shahrir, in an interview with Bernama recently, said Johor Umno’s think-tank, Bait Al-Amanah (House of Trust) would come up with a long-term plan to rejuvenate the 69-year-old party.

He said Umno was now seen by many as having deviated from its original ideology and struggles.

“Yes, after more than 60 years in power, we may be different from what was expected. Maybe we have diverted a little…have become fat and bloated, with a lack of endurance.

“So, in a precarious situation like this, we have to look at ourselves, in self-reflection, and not just every time there is a problem, then we say or allege that it is caused by outsiders or people who deliberately want to provoke and so on,” he said.

Many interpretations had arisen about Umno’s ideology, which had become seen to be only about taking care of the interests of the Malay community.

“There is a great need to prevent the party from being misunderstood by the public, especially the non-Muslims. Umno is indeed a conservative party, but it is conservative because it is defending its ideology, which has become part of what is contained in the country’s constitution, he said.

“While it is conservative, its policies and strategies can still be applied as pragmatic policies and strategies for all, but all this is not understood by the people.”

He said the think-tank was considering who to approach for carrying out research and planning Umno’s road ahead, with academicians, scholars and former party leaders on the list.

He did not rule out former prime minister and former Umno president Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Shahrir said Mahathir’s views and thoughts were still required, in order to look at, and understand, certain situations or bigger scenarios than in the context of Johor Umno alone.

“BAA is not huge and will only look at Johor Umno, but if we want them to get views and ideas outside the context of Johor, then of course we have no qualms in inviting (Dr Mahathir). We are always ready,” said Shahrir, who is a longtime MP for Johor Bharu.

Shahrir was once part of the Mahathir government in the early 1980s, serving as Federal Territory minister.

He said the more important need was not to marginalise the voices of young people. The think-tank would need to interact with civic groups, non-governmental organisations and youths with various expertise.

However, the aspirations of past generations would also be considered such as their hopes for improvements in the education system.

Shahrir said among the challenges was to meet the challenge of opposition parties and come up with strategies to win the hearts of voters in the 14th general election.

“Our challenge now is to reignite our frame of thought and political philosophy which has already existed in Umno, but not implemented well enough right down to the grassroots level,” he said.

He hoped the think-tank could also contribute ideas to the top leadership on national issues. “We cannot escape the impact of national issues, but in a positive way, we should present rational and substantiated points of view so that we do not become part of the problem, but bring about solutions for it,” he said.