Ah yes, another week has passed and headlines have been dominated by things such as the whale book and the Port Dickson by-election. But one piece of news you may have missed is that quietly over the weekend, UMNO held their 2018 General Assembly.
There might be a reason you probably missed it too. Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to the UMNO General Assembly being some huge mega event that spans for almost a week. However, this time round, the UMNO General Assembly only went on for two days instead of its usual five day extravaganza.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t filled with weird and wacky incidents tho. In fact, there were so many of it (read: just enough for an article #ihatecilisos), that here’s a quick recap of all the eccentric stuff that went down at the Putra World Trade Center.
1. Najib was in tears 🙁
Yep, you read that right. At the general assembly, Najib was so moved by the show of solidarity around him, that he ended up shedding a tear or two.The current UMNO president Zahid Hamidi was giving his speech to the crowd and praised Najib for still willing to be in the audience together with UMNO delegates from Pekan despite everything that happened. Following his speech, the crowd stood up and began to sing the song ‘Teman Sejati’, meaning ‘true friend’ #aww. Members of the crowd also started chanting ‘continue the fight’ in support of Najib. By then, the floodgates had quite literally opened. Later that day, Najib actually addressed his tears in a post on his Facebook, saying:
“I’m sorry for not being able to hold back my tears. I remain patient. All these had been a test from Allah, and now I know I am not alone. I have all of you with me giving strength and support. May Allah bless us all,” – Najib, translated from his Facebook
But not everyone was so happy at the general assembly tho, as…
2. MCA was booed, while the crowd cheered on PAS
Okay, so you might not know this, but it’s actually a tradition for other parties in Barisan Nasional to send a rep to attend whenever any party organises their general assembly. While MIC did have their men at the UMNO general assembly last weekend, MCA members tho were mysteriously missing at the PWTC.
The UMNO Youth, Wanita, and Puteri meetings all did not have a member of the MCA in attendance. In fact, when UMNO Youth head Asyraf Wajdi told the crowd that MCA Youth leader Chong Sin Woon won’t be able to make the event due to a meeting and apologised, the crowd booed. As it turns out tho, there’s a proper explanation for MCA’s absence. MCA Youth was apparently organising their state-level polls during the same day, and that the date was decided before UMNO announced the general assembly.
This comes on the back of some serious tension between the two parties, with MCA leader Liow Tiong Lai threatening to kick out UMNO from BN or even dissolve the coalition altogether last week, as a preemptive warning towards UMNO if they seek to become racially or religiously extreme. They might have reason to worry too, as UMNO’s relations with PAS continue to warm up like freshly made lemang over a stoking hot fire.
The latest development in their relationship is that while MCA wasn’t around at the UMNO general assembly, PAS were there. And not only did they make an appearance, when their presence was announced, the crowd cheered them on. Photos of PAS leaders were also up on the walls of UMNO’s gallery during the general assembly as UMNO-PAS relations were debated during the meetings itself.
3. Wanita UMNO had a member in ‘lockup orange’, while Puteri UMNO had headbands…?
So if you’ve seen pictures of the UMNO General Assembly you probably would’ve noticed a strong sea of red and white, with the occasional blue. However, a Wanita UMNO member appeared at the meeting with a bright orange t-shirt – not the colours of Amanah tho, but the colours of MACC’s lockup attire.
The shirt was made by the UMNO-linked NGO Pemantau Malaysia Baru as part of a campaign to get MACC to properly investigate the former head of Tabung Haji, Azeez Abdul Rahim, who was detained by the MACC last week as part of their investigation into how Tabung Haji hires their contractors. Pemantau Malaysia Baru were selling the orange tees at a booth in the PWTC, where the UMNO General Assembly was happening.
Meanwhile, Puteri UMNO also had some head-turning acts to pull. The Puteri UMNO leader Zahida Zarik Khan led a crowd of members in wearing black headbands with the general assembly’s theme on it, before taking a pledge to never betray UMNO. Think of it as ’til death do us part’ except instead of bride and groom it’s UMNO and you. This comes after former Puteri UMNO head Mas Ermieyati Samsudin quit the party, joining other big name politicians such as Anifah Aman and Mustapa Mohamed.
“We pledge to continue to be loyal to Umno as long as we are alive, we will remain steadfast and will not take a step back. We will not betray Umno,” – Zahida Zarik Khan, as quoted by Malaysiakini
4. Zahid suggested a two term limit as UMNO president
For a party whose arguably most well known leader stayed on for over twenty years, it’s kinda weird and almost progressive even that the current UMNO head Zahid Hamidi suggested a two term limit as UMNO president.
Zahid’s suggestion to limit the presidency to just two terms means that the longest time someone can stay as UMNO president is nine years, as while UMNO elections are to be held every three years, the party can allow an extra 18-months before a term ends. If this rule was here from the start, Tunku, Mahathir and Najib would have exceeded it already.
“I propose that the term of (UMNO) president be limited to two terms. Discuss and debate this, for the interest and survival of our party,” – Zahid Hamidi, as quoted by Malaysiakini
His suggestion to limit the term of the UMNO presidency was part of his ’21 steps to reform UMNO’ that he announced during his speech at the UMNO General Assembly. His other suggestions include lowering UMNO’s membership age to 16, rebranding BN, allowing people to join BN without joining a component party, and to sue those who defected from UMNO.
5. Khairy’s still not done criticising the party
If there’s one thing that’s consistent about UMNO since GE14, it’s that Khairy Jamaluddin continues to criticise the direction of the party under both the former leadership and the current. You might be forgiven tho for thinking Khairy would ease up and not be a party pooper during what is probably UMNO’s most contentious general assembly in years, but no. He’s still critical of UMNO’s leaders, and specifically called out Zahid Hamidi’s speech during the general assembly.
Khairy didn’t like how Zahid failed to make clear the path UMNO is taking, especially on Zahid’s previous suggestions regarding forming a ‘unity govt’ with PAS and Pakatan Harapan.
“You said previously that we should fight the cruel Harapan government. Then you came out with a statement saying we were exploring opportunities via a JV (joint venture). You have to be clear as to which way you are leading the party,” – Khairy Jamaluddin, as quoted by Malaysiakini
He’s not the only one who’s not happy with Zahid’s lack of clear direction either. Federal Territories representative Tun Faisal Ismail and Selangor rep Datuk Megat Zulkarnain also voiced their concern, while uh ‘vocal’ UMNO member Bung Mokhtar said Khairy only voices out his concerns because he loves UMNO. That being said, some aren’t happy about Khairy’s complaints, such as UMNO supreme council member Tajuddin Abdul Rahman who had this to say about Khairy:
“Others who listened understood clearly the new direction brought up by the president. But for Khairy to say it was unclear… maybe he wasn’t listening, maybe his mind is closed. He has made all kinds of statements to show that he is not supportive of the party leadership. He isn’t happy, and I don’t know for what reason,” – Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, as quoted by Malaysiakini
Regardless of how people react to Khairy’s comments, one thing is for certain…
UMNO remains a major party in Malaysia, and we should pay attention to its every move
We know some of you are probably thinking that UMNO’s time is up, but far from it in fact. There remains a large crowd, altho it’s definitely a lot lesser compared to previous years when they were in power. UMNO still manages to find an audience, and as such, we should continue to pay attention to what they say and do, as it can still affect millions of Malaysians. No one wants to see another 60 years of a one-party rule again, so perhaps it’s only fair we give UMNO the benefit of doubt that they may one day fight for the people.
By doing so, we could just be seeing the emergence of a healthy democracy in Malaysia.