March 24 (Bloomberg) — Malaysian Prime Minister-designate Najib Razak, one year after the government’s smallest-ever election victory, said the party will die unless members eradicate corruption and reconnect with the public.
The United Malays National Organisation, the largest party in the coalition, must stop buying and selling votes for leadership positions, said Najib, who is standing unopposed this week for the top post. Members must recognize why the party lost support and emerge from a perceived state of denial, he said.
Najib, 55, currently the deputy prime minister, has pledged to bring change after last year’s election, when a revitalized opposition won support by promising to end graft and better represent ethnic minorities. Najib said his party’s goals had become distant from those of the electorate.
“We must resolve to eradicate money politics right down to the roots,” he said in a speech at the annual assembly of UMNO, as his party is known. “There is now a perception that the aspirations of UMNO are far removed from the aspirations of the masses. Weaknesses must be addressed whereas strengths should be further amplified. If we do not undertake this process, UMNO will continue to be seen as a party still in denial.”
Najib’s coalition, which gives preferential treatment to the majority Malays, lost support last year after Anwar’s opposition campaigned to end the 37-year-old program. Still, Najib said that scrapping the program would trigger unrest.
“Without any assistance or aid, then surely this is a formula for instability,” he said. “At the end of the day, the policies of the government will always be anchored on the principle of fairness for all.”
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Malaysian Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar yesterday banned two newspapers run by parties in the opposition alliance, raising concern that the incoming administration might crack down on dissent. Still, Najib said today the government needs to embrace online media.
“We cannot regard the new media as our enemy,” said Najib, who started his own Internet blog after last year’s election.
To make it harder for UMNO leadership candidates to resort to corruption, Najib proposed increasing the number of members who can cast votes.
He also suggested members be sent on training courses at sea or in the jungle to “toughen up” candidates who might be standing for top positions, and to create “honorable leaders.”
–Editors: Angus Whitley, Tony Jordan
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Source : Bloomberg