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UMNO will reform controversial voting process, incoming PM says

By Wednesday March 25th, 2009 No Comments

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Malaysia’s next prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak, on Tuesday laid out the reforms his ruling party has to undertake or risk being relegated “to the annals of history.”

Najib, who is set to take over the helm of the United Malays National Organization on Thursday, said UMNO will review the party’s electoral system, which is currently rife with corruption.

“UMNO,” Najib said in his speech at the joint opening of the party’s youth and women’s wings late Tuesday, “will be destroyed if its leaders are enshrouded in the evils of money politics. Leaders of good standing who do not indulge in corruption will be sidelined in favor of those who bribe.”

The party’s corrupt image cost it votes in last year’s general election even among ethnic Malays, the party’s core bank of supporters.

Najib proposed that the party reexamine the current practice of letting the 2,600-odd delegates to the annual meeting elect the party office-bearers.

“We must give the right to choose the leaders to a greater number of members. As it stands, the deciders are a delegation of some 2,600 delegates from 191 divisions. Clearly the choice of these delegates cannot correctly reflect the preferences of more than 3 million grassroots members from across the nation,” he said.

The wings’ meeting preceded the main UMNO meeting from Thursday to Saturday. This year, the 2,500 delegates who will be attending the Thursday meeting will also be electing new party leaders.

The stakes are high for those in the running, since being the biggest party in the 14-party ruling National Front coalition means winners also stand a chance of holding office in the government.

Therefore, the 2,500 delegates are often treated like kingmakers and wooed with gifts and money.

But the stake is equally high for UMNO to change its way as Najib warned.

“What is at stake is nothing less than the very fate of UMNO. The decision we collectively make at this assembly will determine the future of our party, whether we continue to shape and mould history or just become an entry in the annals of history,” he said.

In his speech, Najib also tackled the controversial adoption of English in the teaching of science and mathematics in schools, a move that has raised the ire of Malay nationalists.

“Learning another language does not diminish who we are as Malays. Instead it will make us stronger and increase our self confidence in facing the challenges of a globalized world,” he said.

Najib also urged UMNO to reach out to the young through the Internet. He noted that UMNO has lost the cyber war to the opposition. The latter, hamstrung by lack of access to the tightly controlled mainstream media, has taken to the Internet to spread their message.

“Like it or not, we cannot regard the new media as our enemy. The new generation of UMNO leaders must be active participants in this important development,” he said.

Ironically, UMNO has just barred six online news media from covering its meeting because of their “irresponsible reporting,” said party secretary general Tengku Adnan Mansor.

“The way they report about our leaders, our party, it is sickening,” he told reporters.

Source : Kyodo News

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