KUALA LUMPUR – June 29, 2015: Umno grassroots leaders are bracing for the arduous task of reuniting the party as their leadership shifted focus from internal dispute to preparing for the next general election.
The announcement that Umno would postpone its party polls last week – which was scheduled to take place next year – for 18 months had prompted many to ponder on how to patch the gap between those who were in favour of the leadership of party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and those who were not.
The postponement effectively ensured that Najib will lead the party and Barisan Nasional into the next general election.
Umno has been deeply divided, especially at the grassroots level, following criticisms of Najib’s leadership by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who wanted the prime minister to step down before the polls.
While some agreed that there was still a chance for reconciliation, others were leaving the bridging of the gap for the majority in the party to decide.
Segamat Umno division chief Zahari Sarip when contacted by The Mole said that Umno needs to bring back its focus to its core if the party wants to win back the middle ground lost in the ‘rebellion’ led by Dr Mahathir.
“We need to strengthen the party by solving problems faced by the people so that we can restore the support and trust of those rebels.
“For instance, in the 2016 Budget, Najib must emphasise on issues that are troubling the people such as the rising prices of goods.
“If we do our best to attend to the people’s needs and wants, it would reassure the questioning members that Umno is still passionate in serving the people,” he said.
When asked about the best formula to deal with those in Umno who were opposing Najib’s leadership, Zahari suggested that any decision made by the party supreme council should be done discreetly.
“Dissatisfaction among members is common in a political party. In fact, Dr Mahathir and Najib’s predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had gone through the same obstacle.
“The party supreme council has its own way to deal with this faction but they should not make public of every move the party is taking.
“If they wish to reshuffle the Cabinet, do it. There is no need for them to disclose anything prior to the reshuffle as it would only trigger negative perceptions among the people,” he added.
Zahari further elaborated that the same method applies if there is a need to sack Umno members who are now liabilities to the party.
Cheras Umno division chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Syed Abbas Al-Habshee on the other hand did not see the possibility of winning back the support of the anti-Najib faction.
“In politics, it is impossible to gain full support from everybody. The most important thing now is that Najib has the support of the majority party members.
“Umno practices a democratic system and we cannot simply pursue every demand by the minority,” he said.
Syed Ali also proposed that some clauses of the Umno constitution be amended so that the party polls be held after every general election instead of the three-year-period in order to keep the party intact.
Sekijang Umno division chief Datuk Baharum Mohamed agreed with Syed Ali as he opined that there is no other way to win back the support of those who are against Najib’s administration.
“It is impossible to satisfy everybody in every decision making process. We just have to go with the majority.
“If they really want the change they desire, just wait for the next party election,” he said.