KUALA LUMPUR – December 5, 2019: It is day one of Umno’s second annual assembly as an opposition party and signs of its weakening financials were aplenty, a stark contrast to its heyday as a ruling party.
The tell-tale hint of the party’s monetary constraints was the conspicuous absence of well-wishing banners that would, in the past, lavishly decorate the area around the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) where the event is taking place until Saturday.
Yesterday, the only noticeable banners that were sparsely hung within the vicinity of PWTC were those from the Youth and Puteri wings.
“Umno’s coffers isn’t what it used to be. On top of that, our accounts are still frozen. So what do you expect?” was a rhetorical remark by Baling member Hasheem Abdul Karim.
The party has had its accounts frozen by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission after its defeat in last year’s general election due to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad probe.
While the optics were rather tepid, morale on the ground, however, was the opposite.
The kaum ibu, the term used in years gone by for the party’s women folk, particularly those from small towns and rural areas, were the most optimistic.
In the foyer of PWTC where they huddled to watch the televised keynote address by deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan last night, many spoke confidently of Umno’s survival and comeback as a ruling party.
“Many thought that Umno was on its deathbed when we lost on May 9 [last year] but we bounced back. We won Cameron Highland, Semenyih, Rantau and Tanjung Piai. I am optimistic we’ll win in Kimanis too,” said Habsah Jabar of Bertam, Penang.
Umno and its allies in Barisan Nasional along with Pas have enjoyed a surging popularity, winning four of the five by-elections held this year, with the latest in Tanjung Piai, where it crushed Pakatan Harapan by 15,086 votes.
BN’s astounding victory in Tanjung Piai was a crucial essence in Mohamad’s speech, which he used to shore up morale and as a precursor to his sobering reminder on Umno’s flaws and ways to overcome them.
The soundbite that really stood out and had momentarily silenced his audience inside the Tun Razak Hall was his reminder of how politics of patronage will once again dominate the party if its members forsake its ideology.
“Without our ideology, we’ll be an empty body. Soulless. And our politics will centre towards politics of the elites…. politics of personalities and favours. I implore you to return to and have faith in Umno’s ideology.
“It is the only thing that links us with the party’s founders and their struggles and is the bridge that will connect us with our successors. Umno’s ideology [to safeguard Malay interests] will always remain relevant,” reminded Mohamad.
Many in the foyer nodded in agreement.
Some even believed that it was a tacit slap on the wrist for several Umno leaders and parliamentarians who had allegedly been scheming for a deal with certain leaders in Pakatan.
“I hope those idiots get the hint. Umno doesn’t need dirty tactics to win the next election. What it needs are strong and loyal leaders to lead the charge,” said one of them.