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Monday, November 5, 2007

General election to take centre stage at Umno assembly

Bernama (4/11/2007): Many quarters are predicting that with the general election looming on the horizon, it will take centre stage at this year's Umno general assembly which begins Monday.

Several senior party leaders confirmed this.

Umno vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently said that at this year's assembly, party members would be reminded to focus on the general election.

Wanita Umno head Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz on Thursday also said that she would touch on the matter when giving her address to impart the message that focus should be on the general election to ensure a big victory for the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Umno Youth also stated as such. It would be the main thrust of the policy address by the movement's head Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, said deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin recently.

It goes without saying that all eyes will be following the assembly very closely. All the debates that will take place will be seen as "report cards" to evaluate whether Umno had performed well or otherwise.

Not only the population, but foreigners too will be monitoring the proceedings with "microscopic eyes" as the resolutions passed and the assembly's ramifications normally influence the policies of the country.

What's interesting is that this year's assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here is being held against a backdrop of the people having to contend with hikes in fuel prices and daily necessities apart from inflationary pressures, all of which there is really not much the government can do because of world economic dynamics. The government and economists do not expect the scenario to change much next year.

Once the election is over, Umno members will be due for party polls which will have a major bearing on the pattern of debates by delegates this time.

In speaking on issues like the price increases and the cost of living, Malay supremacy, religion, New Economic Policy (NEP) and Malay privileges when debating the presidential address, there is a chance that some speakers might not be able to restrain themselves adequately and go "off course" or even venture into what is deemed "sensitive territory".

This can lead to unnecessary controversies especially if viewed out of context, like what happened last year when the debates were telecast for all and sundry.

However, this year Umno's Supreme Council (MT) took the decision not to air live telecasts of the speeches, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.

Some political observers are of the opinion that it is not wrong for delegates to touch on sensitive issues so long as they are within the confines of the law and furthermore other parties also do it at their own conventions.

They felt that after 50 years of independence, the people are mature enough to accept political debates with open minds and besides, in the final analysis, the doctrine of "consensus of the races" would still determine policies and the direction the nation will take.

Umno, they say, being the biggest party and backbone of the 14-member BN coalition, however, should continue to be fair to all races to preserve racial harmony and political and economic stability.

The subject on unity is also high on the mind of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also Umno president.

This was admitted by Muhyiddin, who recently said that Abdullah would stress on national unity when delivering his policy address.

Abdullah in his policy address at last year's assembly held on Nov 15 had said that when discussing sensitive matters it should be done in a calm and rational manner and that delegates should not let emotions get the better of them.

The Umno Assembly is also the appropriate platform to clarify grey areas, and as such, there should be no reason to hide things or that they are not discussed openly but to be done in a wise and humble manner, said one political observer.

Meanwhile, the 12 thrusts to bring the nation forward outlined by the Umno president at last year's assembly should be upheld to continue to guide the party and nation, he said. (Abdullah first presented it to the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 3, 2003).

The 12 thrusts he outlined are right political leadership; collective responsibility; human capital development; economic development; buildng Bumiputeras to be businessmen, industrialists, scientists and technologists; recognising the private sector as the engine of growth; improving the public delivery system to facilitate the private sector; eradicating corruption; greater transparency and enforcement of laws to combat crime; encouraging the young to actively participate in the nation's growth and the emancipation of women; defending the nation's sovereignity; and building greater national unity under the power sharing concept.

However, many are of the opinion that the last one is a matter of concern to the nation's leaders as it appears to be eroding among the younger generation.

The proof being in the pudding, the people have witnessed many successes as a result (of the 12 thrusts), among them Malaysia putting a man in space, the setting up of the Iskandar Development Region (IDR), Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), East Coast Economic Region (ECER), the relentless fight against corruption with action being taken against many civil servants and even high ranking police officers, the setting up of Pemudah (Special Task Force to facilitate Business) apart from international accolades for Malaysia's contributions on the world stage.

In his policy address this time, Abdullah in conjunction Malaysia's 50 independecne anniversary is also excpected to revisit the last 50 years of the party and nation's growth and also set the direction for the next 50.

An issue that has many worried is that whether Umno is still relevant to the Malays because of the view that is a party for "old hacks" and not suited for the younger generation.

This is expected to be addressed at the Youth level by Hishammuddin, who has stated that the party remained relevant to the 12 million youth in the country.

Another issue likely to raise eyebrows is the use of English to teach Mathematics and Science in schools.

Some 2,500 delegates from 190 Umno divisions from throughout the country will attend the assembly while representatives from 33 political parties from locally and abroad have been invited to be observers.


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