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Friday, March 30, 2012

Umno leaders and Hang Nadim...


I remember reading the legendary book on 'Singapura dilanggar todak' (Singapore attacked by todak) - a swordfish family known by its scientific name 'xiphias gladius'. I had my first encounter with it while fishing under the Penang Bridge some years ago when it 'jumped' on our boat. About half a meter long.

The book narrates about a seven year old boy, Hang Nadim who 'rescued' the Singapore sultanate from ferocious attacks by the fish. However, the Malay Sultan ordered for his kill, afraid that if they boy grow up, he would be smarter than the Sultan.

Whether its true or not, the story has lots to do with the Malays and Umno, and what was said by former Prime Minister and former Umno President Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

For generations, the Malays place significant preference to their leaders, those who lead and the ones elected to become 'ketua kampung' or 'penghulu'. Anything that comes from the leaders would be deemed right and should be respected.

In Umno, it is still very much in practice. Those elected to the higher positions are seen as a pool of perfectionist that nobody should contest whatever decision that is passed down. The officers around their waist will go around telling the grassroot members that since these people are elected, they must be obeyed.

And for members to give fresh idea or opinion, they will find themselves being stopped at the officers level, no chance to get any closer to any of the leaders.

Fifty-years after Independence and 64 years of Umno, this has not changed much. While more Malays are becoming professionals - doctors, engineers, lawyers, journalists, pilots, etc - the demand and calls for Umno leadership to improve the party and its approach, gets louder.

Many have joined the party, especially during the 1980s when the nation laid a strong foundation for modernisation. Some made it successfully at various levels of the party leadership - from division heads to State Assemblymen and Members of Parliament and also as ministers and others.

In the present day, if you are not holding any professional job, you will find it difficult to compete for such party positions. You need a little bit of luck, of course.

Part of the reasons why they joined Umno is to help the top leadership formulate a new approach as to how they could steer the party towards a better direction. While Umno is seen as a party to 'tolong Melayu', it also bears the responsibility to assist other parties in Barisan Nasional in administering the government.

But since the mid-2005, the number of professionals in Umno has dropped significantly. While some left the party, the new ones chose to become members of the Opposition. Not that they didn't want to join Umno but their application was rejected.

Dr Mahathir said, Umno divisional and branch leaders should open wide the door for professionals and intellectuals to join the party and then field them as candidates for the general election.Umno, he said was facing a dearth of capable leaders as the leadership at the divisional and branch levels were hampering their entry into the party.
For decades Umno has ‘not allowed’ the smart ones to join the party. That is why many doctors have joined PAS. This ultimately makes it difficult for Umno to find suitable candidates in ensuring victory in the elections.
Umno must practise meritocracy in choosing candidates to contest in the general election including from outside the party and not only from among the top leaders in the divisions. Umno needs more talented and qualified people to form a capable government.

However, Umno top leadership is still not widely open for good suggestion and positive minds. To some, those trying to 'teach' them how to run the party are the ones who would threaten their position should their political march advances.

And there are leaders who swallow anything given by their subordinates at the State level, with the belief that everything is fine and in order. No need to name them but I think many Umno members and those in Putrajaya know who they are.

And just because they hold key position in the Cabinet, they commit no mistake. When someone tells or points out their mistake, that someone will eventually find himself in a cold storage.
Umno leadership must realise that BN’s victory in a general election was determined together by voters who were non-Umno members as votes from Umno members alone were not enough to win seats.
The party leadership should realise that they will not be clinging on to their position for life. New leaders will take over when the time comes. And to ensure that the party gets good and quality leaders, Umno must open its door widely and wisely to the professional Malays.
The leaders must be willing to listen to the masses. There are many who cannot lead a party or a government but they acquire the right idea and knowledge to solve major problems. If we keep on 'killing these Hang Nadim', Umno would one day become irrelevant.

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