The dust has finally settled after the recently concluded Umno general assembly. I am wondering how many Malay Malaysians feel emboldened by the champions of their rights? For other Malaysians, the performance of Umno's younger leaders have been less than convincing.
Umno needs to wake up. Malays are not going to be easily impressed with the delivery of fiery speeches, no matter how well-crafted. Like other Malaysians, Malays want to know the map Umno leaders have drawn to bring them to the next level of social-cultural and economic progress. Simply saying the same things albeit with more aggression is not solving the problem. All eyes are on Umno to create the blueprint for Malaysia to move forward. They now have less than one year, the deadline being Merdeka 2007.
Why such a deadline? Because Malaysians regardless of creed and conviction will be taking the opportunity to look back in order to look forward. Forget the fireworks, we now need concrete steps.
Looking back should not be too worrying. In the past 49 years, Umno has brought cable television, electricity, water, tertiary education and economic progress to Malaysians. Malays have made one of the most impressive socio-economic development, unrivaled by any other indigenous community in the post-colonial world. This is a great achievement, particularly because Malaysia did it without depriving anyone of opportunities to progress.
The real challenge for Umno is to resist looking back but to look forward instead. Umno needs to think very hard on how it will reduce the intra-ethnic economic divide. It is also high time that real businessmen, without any crutches or any link with government, emerge. Otherwise, Malay progress will be stunted and this will in turn, impinge on the progress of the country as a whole.
The brandishing of a keris, the playing of the Islamic card, the attack on so-called critics of Malay rights, will not win Umno any votes, at least not from younger and more educated Malays. All this rhetoric makes Umno feel confident but when the governing class begins to orchestrate
programmes to make themselves feel better, its days are numbered.
Played out against the backdrop of its members owning castles in the midst of urban poverty, Umno's last general election sounds more like a swan song. Younger leaders, particularly in the Youth wing, need to be bold. They need to take the party forward, away from the narrow ethnicity which was essential when we were fighting for independence and economic parity, not now when Malaysia is fighting for its survival in a global market.
It would be pitiable is this does not happen, not unlike Mukhriz Mahathir saying, '... there was nothing new'. For then, Umno has truly stagnated and Malaysia too.