This disease afflicts many political parties. The Congress Party of India. Golkar in Indonesia. LDP in Japan. All fell prey to this affliction. Being in power for too long. Letting our guards down. The motivations that pushed earlier leaders are blunted. They are eroded by the soft and baneful influences of power. The leadership ignores the quality of its leadership and rank and file. They are lulled into a sense of false security. They are enamoured by the large numbers of adherents to the party. They do not see a future beyond their own lifetime. Dato Najib represents the typical leader who has gone soft. He, like Tun Mahathir says, prefers the easy life.
UMNO leaders believe that the UMNO system is sufficient to ensure its longevity. That’s why UMNO leaders like Dato Najib says to voters, vote for the party. Dato Najib believes because we have the supreme council, the Perhubungan Negeri, the UMNO Bahagian, the UMNO Cawangans, we have a complete system- there will be a good party even if weak, iniquitous, or not so good men are at the helm. Actually there’s a simple explanation to Najib’s rationale. He actually does not care about UMNO. All he cares is about him becoming the next PM. I promise you, I will tell you the story of Najib sometime in the future.
Life’s actual experience has proven Dato Najib wrong. Of course he is not aware of this. He is not a keen observer of history. He likes only tradition. Oral tradition is better because there’s no reading involved. The experience at least in most Asian countries, establishes the fact that in order to get a good government , you need good men at the helm. Similarly, in order to get a good party, you need disciplined dedicated, determined leaders at the top. You need good men.
Has UMNO reached its cul-de-sac? In the end, what does UMNO in is the quality of its members. Quantity bereft of the accompanying quality will become its own agent of destruction. We do not have good men who can work the system. We will not have good men who can mould UMNO into a quality organisation. I am surprised that people, especially UMNO members had not realised the proportional relationship between a good leadership and a great country by now. We can readily compare Malaysia under Tun Mahathir and Malaysia under Dato Seri Abdullah with Najib the political invertebrate working with him. Even the most virulent critic of Tun Mahathir grudgingly admitted the greatness of the Tun.
UMNO leaders ignore this point. They feel alright as long as the number is right. Each leader thrives on unquestioning herd instincts. They know this but exploit them at the same time for their own self interests.
Whereas, it is an undisputable fact that the survival of UMNO depends on the quality of its members and leaders. As with the country so too with the party- what we need first and foremost are good men, with ability, integrity, commitment. This truth seems self evident but is relegated to insignificance by the UMNO leadership. It is important for UMNO members and leaders alike to have that commitment, determination, discipline and drive to strive for UMNO’s success.
The quality of UMNO members- their determination and commitment were already tested during the 12th GE. What can we say on the fact that only perhaps, 2 million UMNO members at the most accepted UMNO candidates while 3.7 million Malays including a large number of UMNO members did not? Therefore stop and desist the pomposity and hypocrisy.
On the 17th of July, the UMNO leader of Kampung Ubai branch shocked that nation by passing a resolution calling Dato Najib to take on Pak Lah. Dato Najib quickly doused the potentially incendiary political spark by saying that he is committed to the planned handing over between Pak Lah and him.
The reaction was hardly surprising given the proclivities of Dato Najib. It’s given to him in the traditional way- free. That is the much vaunted UMNO TRADITION piously repeated and pontificated by discredited leaders of UMNO. Dato Najib conveniently ignores the fact, that perhaps the branch leader of UMNO Kampung Ubai merely acted as a conduit for the will of the grassroots. Its only one branch, said Dato Najib. Either Dato Najib is dismissive of Ubai’s resolution or he actually wants more branches to come out in the open.
How do you reconcile the actions of a branch leader like Encik Hanapi Salleh who claims to express the will of the grassroots with the same vacuous claims made by other leaders of UMNO? When Hishamudin and Ali Rustam support the planned transition and went on to state their divisions will pass the formal resolutions, their actions were readily accepted as expressing the wishes of the grassroots. What then is the difference between a nondescript leader of a branch like Encik Hanapi and UMNO leaders such as Hishamudin, Ali Rustam and gang?
You see, the leadership quality of Kampung Ubai’s Ketua Cawangan is the same like the other UMNO leaders. Encik Hanapi Salleh has unflinchingly articulated the voice of the grassroots. Except on his part, that articulation came from a person gaining his 5 minutes shot of fame, while the others deceptively claim legitimacy for speaking on behalf of UMNO grassroots. Just as Encik Hanapi may have penned down his branch’s resolutions while having a plate of roti canai, Hishamudin may have thought about his resolution while driving in his Hummer and Ali Rustam while having his asam pedas.
The quality, determination and commitment of UMNO members are now under scrutiny. Especially during the branch elections that are going on now. Everyone knows, UMNO members are reluctant to attend meetings unless they are paid. We also know, the divisional representatives visit branches during UMNO elections time only. So much for the UMNO tradition of selfless sacrifice, determination and commitment.
We have already talked about the confusing directions from UMNO HQ about the requirements of a meeting quorum. The confusion suggests widespread duplicity and fraudulent practices among UMNO branch leaders. Leaders determined to keep their posts will only pay fees for their supporters. This practice which is prohibited by UMNO HQ is quite rampant. The rule is that each member pays for his own membership fee. As is commonly practised, the local leader will pay for his supporters thus ensuring his perpetuity as the branch leader.
Notices which should be displayed and sent within a specific time frame are often manipulated to prevent members opposed to branch leaders from attending branch meetings. Unscrupulous elements and branch leaders often contrived meetings ensuring only 18 people attend that meeting. It is also not uncommon to hold meetings at clandestine places at night when the division leaders are not even aware such meetings are held.
A case in point in a branch of Pekan UMNO known as Sri Damai. Its fee paying members on paper number more than 600. Most of these are phantom members who are not residents in that area. But the typical bully boy of the branch included these names into the membership roster. He has never been able to muster all these invisible members yet insisted on keeping them on the roster. Reason? Each member is allocated money for meeting. Thus having a large membership enables him to receive expenditure outlay which he ultimately used up. Also, having a large membership entitles him to send a the maximum number of delegates.
The idiots who run UMNO HQ must be consistent with its ruling on what constitutes a legitimate quorum. For goodness sake, fix it at 25% of the membership roster. Do not change this as and when it suits you. The 25% requirement will prevent branches like the notorious Sri Damai branch in Pekan from manipulating its attendance quorum. In the case of the Sri Damai branch, failing to muster the required quorum led to the postponement of the meeting. One can imagine the farce of accepting as legitimate, a quorum of only 18 sycophantic and possibly paid supporters when the branch boasts of having more than 600 members. The branch should be struck off the roster. But then Dato Najib has imbeciles running his division in Pekan. They can be as duplicitous and scheming like he too.
What happens in Seri Damai is typical of the shenanigans in UMNO Pekan. But these are never exposed because it will bring shame to Dato Najib. We can understand the attempts to protect the sanctity of Dato Najib because perhaps the same things are happening all over the country. On the other hand, farcical meetings like that typified by a branch like Sri Damai conceal the fact that UMNO leaders arrogantly dismissed the issue of the quality of its members.
The quality of division representatives is another anomaly. They are only interested to have their names nominated either as divisional committee members or as delegates to the UMNO convention in December. The prospects of milking money from Majlis Tertinggi candidates are too enticing to resist. In order to have their names nominated they will conspire with branch leaders to validate meetings. Sometimes, meetings are conducted on paper only. Divisional representatives and branch leaders connived to falsely verify that a meeting has been held. Other underhand tactics that are common include the devious acts of making nominations and immediately closing nominations. These have the effect of effectively neutralising other contenders for whatever posts that are contested at branch levels. These acts, are opprobriously winked away.
Sadly, this is another of the hallowed tradition that is so cherished by Dato Najib. God help UMNO.