Tun Dr. Mahathir’s call for UMNO in Johor Bahru

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The New York Hotel in Wadihana, Johor Bahru was the venue. 10 February 2007, 1100 am at the Grand Ballroom, on the 25th floor. This was the first public speech (on local and domestic issues) besides the 3rd Perdana Peace Forum concluded three days earlier for the former Prime Minister and UMNO President, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The audience was eager as is the speaker. One could really feel the aura as the man walked towards the stage, despite under escort, hundreds were closing in and offering their hand to greet and photographers were non stop shooting. The last time he spoke at a rostrum was at Kijal, Terengganu on 22 September 2006. One can actually tell his eagerness to address the Johoreans, especially after the planned 11 Nov 2006 talk for him at the same venue by the same organisers, were postponed indefinitely then, due to his admission at IJN for the mild heart attack right after Dato’ Mukhriz’s openhouse at Seri Cahaya, Seri Kembangan, Selangor, 8 Nov 2006.

The organisers were an UMNO supporting political portal, MyKMU.net. The acronym KMU actually stands for Kumpulan Menyokong UMNO. However, the portal is very critical about the leadeships’ shortcomings, the UMNO Youth Vice Head (who also happens to be the son-in-law of the UMNO President and Prime Minister) and it portrays many voices from the UMNO grassroot who are internet savvy.

It was almost evidently clear that too many issues were hatching in Tun Dr Mahathir’s mind, illustrative in his smile carved to all the pleasantries, even unspoken as so many walked up infront near the stage just to catch a closer glimpse of a man who few days earlier dared calling Bush, Blair and Horward as war criminals. The cancellation of the double tracking system project, the cancellation of the Scenic Bridge, the issue about the proposal to sell one billion cubic metre of sand to Singapore (hence, is referred as “The Malaysian Proposal”), the SJER and Free Access Zone that will come with the Wilayah Pembangunan Iskandar and change of policies and attitude towards Singapore, particularly the PAP / ‘Lee dynasty’ regime is thought to be “burning” within the former Prime Minister, which across the strait Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once described as an “Ultra Malay”.

The moment he grabs the rostrum and after a very short pleasantries to the organisers, Tun Dr Mahathir talks about how UMNO went through a series of changes, including leadership changes, for the betterment of the Malay political agenda, which eventually do good for the country as well.

He started by saying the UMNO founder Dato’ Onn Jaafar contributed a lot to the Malays when he managed to unite the Malays on 11 May 1946, coincidentally in Johor Bahru also, to voice a strong struggle against the Malayan Union. However Dato’ Onn’s idea to open UMNO to the non Malays was vehemently rejected by the UMNO members. As a result, Dato’ Onn left, with a very sore heart.

A happy-go-lucky Civil Servant who is one the Kedah Sultan’s prince was chosen to fill in the void Dato’ Onn left. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra lead the Malays from 1951-1970. In the 1969 elections, the Malays showed their dismay on how the UMNO President neglected their development issues. UMNO suffered costly and that was a sign him being showed the door. Being a perfect gentleman, he left too, with much frustration, one would assume.

The point that Tun Dr Mahathir as the immediate past UMNO President tried to emphasis was, UMNO needed the change because the leader was unable to carry on the aspiration of the members, which represented the larger Malays. Tun Dr Mahathir strongly advocated that UMNO became stronger and evolved into something better for the Malays, after the ineffective leader left.

He said, UMNO was formed to struggle against Malayan Union. After Tunku took over, UMNO managed to change its struggle towards “Merdeka” (Independence), which was proven to be successful six years later. The leadership change also provided opportunity for UMNO to work together with the non Malays (MCA and MIC), in a power share formula which is later known as the “Alliance” and a spirit is still carried on till today.

Then when Tunku was sluggish in his Government’s development programs for the Malays, there was another leadership change again. This time, the leadership change brought about better deals for the Malays. His successor, Tun Razak Hussein, managed to launch the New Economic Policy (NEP) on July 1971, a structured socio-political and economic plan to alleviate the Malays. This plan was accepted by consensus by the other parties as well (except for DAP). Tun Razak also managed to consolidate the oppositions like Gerakan and PAS together into developing the country as a team and thus Barisan Nasional (BN) was formed in 1973, which is still strong till today.

Therefore, Tun Dr Mahathir reitirates that UMNO members shouldn’t be weary and skeptical about leadership change within UMNO, even if it’s pre-matured. Leadership changes in UMNO actually brought UMNO to greater heights. The talk about UMNO leadership challenge will weakened the party is really a lame excuse. With over 3.2 million members, UMNO is strong enough to weather any leadership changes crisis and move towards making the right decision, for the betterment of the Malays and thus, the nation.

UMNO actually went thru 3 major leadership challenges. The 1978 episode where UMNO Veteran Hj Sulaiman Palestin challenged Dato’ Hussein Onn, the 1987 episode where Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah challenged Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and street mob style out-of-ring Anwar Ibrahim challenge after the UMNO Deputy President was sacked from the party 3 Sept 1998. Of course UMNO suffered a little dent here and there but in hindsight, UMNO actually came out stronger. So strong that in the 21 March 2004 12th national polls, UMNO managed to win 110 seats in the 219 seat Dewan Rakyat. For the first time, UMNO actually could form a Government without the BN coalition partners. One would expect an extremely a lot more than just a mere victory for UMNO, as the leading partner in BN to abandon the other 13 coalition partners.

Tun Dr Mahathir also strongly put the case where his attempts to talk, especially to UMNO members, were hindered. Pressures and artificial barriers were forced upon the organisers. He pointed out that 16 times invitations for him to speak were revoked by the organisers and some cancelled. He said that never happened before. When he was being challenged by Tengku Razaleigh in 1987, UMNO Team B people were completely free to organise rallies and campaigns. Its seems there’s a somewhat paranoia by the people who is serving the UMNO leadership today. Even media editors were constantly called and ‘adviced’ on stories to publish. Sometime which photos to be used! Tun Dr Mahathir commended the organisers of the Johor Bahru event the ability to weather pressures and willing to take risk. To him, today that’s a noble spirit.

Of course whilst in Johor Bahru, Tun Dr Mahathir raised and carefully dissected the issues that surrounds part of the 19 points which he raised in the four eyed meeting, two days before last year’s Hari Raya Aidil Fitri with the Prime Minister.

The Q & A that followed was equally interesting. Tun Dr Mahathir warns that UMNO is not for anyone in particular only but everyone has equal opportunity to become the Prime Minister. He itirates sternly that no one should create a dynasty within UMNO. One would strongly regard that particular point is about the Prime Minister actively plan for his son-in-law’s elevation in UMNO, whilst he is still very much in the executive seat.

It’s only obvious, that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, being a very responsible Malaysian and a God fearing man, wants to set things right, especially now he is approaching 82 and no longer as fit as he used to be. He simply wants to undo the mistake that he had done. He wants to make it good, this time. The immediate past UMNO President is advocating that UMNO do a leadership change soon, before it worsens and eventually, gravely and irrevocably affects the Malays.

And that was what Johor Bahru call was all about, last Saturday. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad chose to openly make this call in Johor Bahru, of all the places. One would intelligently guess, because 500,000 UMNO members come from the State. One was there, so happy to capture the moment, three feet north west from Raja Petra’s four thousand Ringgit CCD digital camera!

Published in: on February 18, 2007 at 22:40  Comments (13)