KUALA LUMPUR — September 27, 2018: Working on strengthening Umno, especially in the rural areas, is what some members want their leaders to focus on at the annual general assembly which starts here tomorrow, amidst calls from those formerly and also currently in the leadership group for the country’s longest surviving party to transform itself.
There are those among the grassroots who feel that Umno should instead consolidate its core bases which they see have been neglected since the party and the Barisan Nasional lost their hold on the country in the May 9 14th general elections.
“They need to be quick about it before Pribumi Bersatu makes major inroads into the rural areas,” suggested Saad Hamid of Kuala Kedah, who believes that the reinvigoration of Umno’s influence in the rural areas should be the main priority.
In GE14, BN lost 53 parliamentary and 94 state seats, many of which were previously held by Umno in Kedah, Terengganu, Perak, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Johor and Sabah.
“The leaders’ aim to improve Umno’s reputation is good but they need to plug the holes in their bases first before anything else,” said Saad, while pointing out that his division has been too quiet since May 9.
He cited his division’s lackadaisical attitude in not removing BN’s weather-beaten election campaign materials as an example.
“It’s an eyesore and they are being a lousy sport,” exclaimed Zubeer Azeem from Bertam, Penang, who like Saad faced a similar problem in his area.
Zubeer can see that many senior members in his division seem to have lost their zeal to serve the party after the defeat, adding that “I had to ask my kids to help me bring down the buntings and posters”.
He attributes this to the leadership’s tardiness in outlining a clear and detailed direction for the party that has been aggravated by the constant attacks by Pakatan Harapan.
“Ever since he was elected, I have hardly seen (Umno president) Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi. He’s not even active in social media, unlike Najib (former president Datuk Seri Najib Razak).
“We’re lucky Pribumi Bersatu is still shaky and fragmented. If not we’d be in serious trouble,” he said in reference to today’s announcement of the disbandment of the Negri Sembilan Pribumi Bersatu due to internal problems.
Another member Shahila Zahari of Kubu Gajah, Perak, pointed out that she did not like the idea of how the leaders’ narrative to restore Umno seemed to pivot towards diluting the Malay-ness of Umno.
Shahila was referring to an interview of deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan with New Straits Times yesterday, where he argued that Umno’s sole ideology to uphold Malay rights has become irrelevant.
“I get the feeling like they are succumbing to DAP’s subtle propaganda that a Malay party is a bad thing. What is so wrong about a Malay-based party? Us, kampung-folks, are the cornerstone of Umno’s support.
“I know that the leaders want to woo urban voters by lessening Umno’s Malay-ness but is this right way to go about it? Have they asked us? If they are not careful, they might eventually lose our support,” hinted Shahila.