What Penang UMNO thinks of Pak LahPosted: May 5, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — Some of his ministers may not be on the same page but Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is not going to overhaul his Cabinet just yet. Abdullah made this point during a closed-door session with grassroots leaders with Penang Umno on Saturday.
If this session in the cavernous Putra World Trade Centre hall is any indication of what is going through the minds of the rank-and-file, Umno’s upcoming branch and divisional meetings should be interesting. This was the first time that Abdullah faced so many ordinary party members since the formbook was turned on its head at Election 2008, and Barisan Nasional suffered major reverses across the country.
There were 700 branch chiefs from Penang and they had a take on whether Abdullah should stay on, his leadership style, some of his Cabinet ministers, the succession plan and mega projects in their state including the Second Penang Bridge and the monorail.
The Malaysian Insider has put together what transpired during the three-hour session. This was what happened:
On Abdullah as the party president and the succession plan
The general view was that he should continue to lead the party and if wants to contest the number one position at the party polls in December, Penang Umno will support him. But grassroots leaders wanted to hear it from Abdullah personally whether he was keen to lead the party.
They were puzzled with the constant talk about the transfer of power and succession plan. Abdullah settled the confusion by stating that he would defend his president’s position in December.
On conflicting statements by some Umno minsters.
No names were mentioned by party members who wondered why a few Umno ministers appeared either not supportive of policies put forward by the Abdullah administration or more interested in undermining him in party circles. Should they still be retained as Cabinet ministers? Shouldn’t there be a Cabinet reshuffle? Abdullah side-stepped this question and suggested that now was not the time to tinker with the Cabinet.
On his leadership style
Party members said that Abdullah is too soft and that’s why some of his decisions are often not implemented. They urged him to add some steel to his leadership style. In short, they want him to show authority and make sure that his policies and plans are carried through.
On his challengers including Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
A few party members were dismissive of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the Kelantan prince who has offered to contest for the president’s position. They argued that he was responsible for a major split in Umno in 1987 when he challenged Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad unsuccessfully. Others pointed out Ku Li had not been able to deliver Kelantan back to the Barisan Nasional. So why should he be given the chance to lead the country? By convention, the president of Umno is the prime minister of Malaysia.
Though the branch chiefs were willing to support Abdullah, they showed little patience for Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek’s glowing and sugary introductory speech about the PM. Again, this is consistent with what the grassroots feels about Abdullah right now.
Some of them feel that he should be given an opportunity to strengthen Umno and then hand over power in an orderly fashion, but they also believe that he has to shoulder some responsibility for the results of Election 2008.
Original article here.
It almost feels like it’s been a long time since anyone from UMNO actually made some sense. And I think Penang UMNO is doing just that.
Provided that what is being reported is true, and that they were not just putting up a show, then they have got to be the most sensible people in UMNO.
I hope Pak Lah came out of that meeting with inspiration and new-found strength. Whether or not Pakatan Rakyat form the government in the near future, UMNO is still going to have to strengthen itself, to prepare to be a strong opposition. And if Pakatan decides that they are going to wait for the next general elections, then at the very least we would have a functioning government till then.
Either way, Pak Lah would do good to listen to these sensible critiques and comments, considering that they come from the grassroots.