PM need not be an Umno president, says Shahrir

(Malaysiakini) – Veteran Umno figure Shahrir Abdul Samad said his party must break free from the tradition of limiting its prime ministerial candidate to the party president.

At a forum in Kajang, Selangor today, Shahrir said Umno should drop its “one-man show” concept where power is centralised.

He said this is crucial as the party will soon be going into a general election and there does not appear to be a consensus on their candidate for prime minister.

“We haven’t made a decision, although we have a president, deputy president, and vice-presidents. We will be facing this (question) until the elections.

“Choosing an alignment (not linked to Perikatan Nasional) is also an acceptance that now is the time for a change, a time to try new things.

“We don’t have to go back to the rule that the Umno president must definitely be the prime minister,” he said during the forum hosted by the National Council of Professors.

Shahrir was a seven-term MP for Johor Bahru and once a cabinet minister. In 2009, he resigned as domestic trade and consumer affairs minister after failing to retain his seat in the Umno supreme council.

Shahrir said Umno needs two leaders – one to manage party affairs and another to head the government.

He said former Umno president Hussein Onn once predicted there will come a time when this is necessary.

“He (Hussein) said this will happen because the party (Umno) will grow while the government becomes more complex. Hence, the administration of a government and a party will require different skills,” he said.

Shahrir believed that Umno was capable of designing a “new alignment” because the party has experience and talent.

“We have spokespersons on various fields and we have been receiving a lot of visits from foreign embassies.

“We are in uncharted waters. Are we brave enough to embark on this new alignment?” he asked.