His party men clamoured for contracts and projects and continued to see everything through the prism of the Malay race.
From demands for government-linked companies to award public contracts to more Bumiputera firms to the re-examining of the BR1M cash handouts and calls for a 1Melayu slogan, the attitude at the Umno general assembly makes a mockery of the 1Malaysia slogan and talks of national reconciliation.
There was also nothing about inclusiveness in the debates. Nor was there any mention about corruption in the country, wastages, leakages or wrongdoings by those in power – concerns that are shared by other Malaysians.
“The tone of the debates reflected the sentiments of members on the ground and it is a sad situation,” said Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan.
“While the country wants to move towards the direction mooted by Najib (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak) on 1Malaysia and national unity and reconciliation, it is sad to see the members not following suit.”
He pointed out that in light of Barisan Nasional’s poor performance in the 13th general election, many would have thought that Umno would be concerned about winning back the support of the non-Malays by showing the commitment that they are ready for change.
In the May national polls, the ruling BN pact won 133 of the 222 parliamentary seats, ceding an additional seven seats to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition when compared with the 2008 national polls.
It also lost the popular vote, securing only 47% compared with the opposition’s 51%.
However, Umno won 88 seats, up from the 79 it had secured previously, due to support from rural Malays and Bumiputeras.
It is against this backdrop that Umno is still championing Malay supremacy and the Malay agenda, noted Institute of Southeast Asian Studies visiting fellow Dr James Chin, who was not surprised by the tone of the debates.
“They are angry with the non-Malays for not voting for BN. And because they did slightly better in the general election, they feel more powerful now because they are not beholden to the other component parties.
“They don’t really care that their speeches are putting off other Malaysians because this is not about the general election. It is about the party’s internal politics rather than Malaysians as a whole,” he said.
Respected Merdeka Centre pollster Ibrahim Suffian pointed out that Umno is not acting like a national party and failed to look at the bigger picture that the country is made up of various races.
He also noted that there seemed to be a lack of political will to institute reforms needed to steer the party and country to meet future challenges.
Citing the affirmative action programme as an example, Ibrahim said the socio-economic problem still exists among the Malays after 40 years despite the fact that the economy has grown.
“Umno dynamics had reached a point where leaders need to continually give something back in order to remain on top and hence, a lack of political will to address larger issues to win back support from other races,” he said.
Wan Saiful said Najib needed to take note of the points raised at the assembly and judge whether he had been successful in transforming his own party.
"This is on the heels of Najib's talk about change, renewal and transformation for the party.
“Ironically, the spirit of 1Malaysia is better represented in the opposition now,” added Wan Saiful. - December 8, 2013.