The Bagan Pinang by election in Negeri Sembilan will mark the watershed in UMNO’s efforts at redeeming the party’s badly-battered image and reforming itself.

In the run-up to the general assembly in October the party seems to be in first gear for change. Big pronouncements have been made by party leaders to reform the party electoral system which will see major changes in the constitution. Malaysians await with bated breath to see how much change will occur at the policy level.

More importantly, we want to see how these reforms will translate themselves in the day-to-day decisions of the party hierarchy – from the top leadership right down to the grassroots. This will decide whether UMNO will regain the support that is crucial for its survival. 

If eradicating money politics is UMNO’s  most serious reform agenda, the actions and decisions of its leaders must show and do just this! If the party is really serious about cleaning up its image and regaining its flailing dignity, the calls by the party President and Deputy President must be echoed by the branch and division heads to reverberate among their grassroots supporters. 

There’s no point talking about eradicating corruption at the Supreme Council level when members revert to the status quo as soon as the meetings are over. There will be no change if branch and division leaders continue to promote their selfish, parochial agendas and pass on the same outmoded ideas on the excuse that they are promoting the Malay cause; that they are sincere in helping the people.

 There is no room for even the smallest margin of stuttering in UMNO’s discourse and stumbling in its steps. Not only are the Opposition parties on the lookout for the party’s errors and the leaders’ failings in order to slander them, ordinary Malaysians honestly want to see the changes that are promised. Those still loyal to the party’s original cause want to be able to hold their heads high in speaking up for it even at the expense of being branded archaic.

The choice of candidate for the Bagan Pinang by election is important not only for the integrity of the Negeri Sembilan UMNO leadership but for the party as a whole.  To put up a candidate who is certain of getting the majority votes is undoubtedly the main consideration in any elections. To have a popular figure as candidate will stave off some of the incursions made by the Opposition. Granted UMNO and Barisan Nasional cannot afford to lose another by election having lost all but one recently.

However, the choice of a candidate who was suspended for party misdeeds  is hardly the way to go if you want to restore your credibility. Besides confirming the public perception that UMNO is all talk and no walk, it will provide bitter ammunition for character attacks which will tarnish the private and public image further.


Of course Tan Sri Isa Samad has nothing to lose. He is a veteran politician whose prowess has been tested as the state Menteri Besar for more than twenty years and as a Federal Minister later. His loyalty to the Negeri Sembilan UMNO and to the Malay cause they represent is indisputable. Indeed he has done more than his share of good work!

However, if the greater good of UMNO and the Malays constitutes part of his political vision he must surely be humble enough to step aside and support a less controversial candidate.

For UMNO’s sake sacrifices must be made. So what if it looses another by election! At least it would have tried to maintain party honour and Malay dignity!


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September 2009
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