Con­sis­tency has kept Umno on track for the past seven decades to re­main the best choice for Malaysians, Umno vice-pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Hisham­mud­din Hus­sein tells ADRIAN LAI in a spe­cial in­ter­view in con­junc­tion with Umno's 71st an­niver­sary

New Straits Times - - News -

Ques­tion: What is the sig­nif­i­cance of Umno’s 71st an­niver­sary and does it have any spe­cial mean­ing for you?

An­swer: This an­niver­sary is es­pe­cially sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the party’s jour­ney has not been a short one. At 71, we are still rel­e­vant and strong. Per­son­ally, as the grand­son of Umno’s founder Datuk Onn Jaa­far, I am very thank­ful, for it has not been an easy road for Umno these past seven decades.

We have over­come many chal­lenges in re­cent years, just as how Umno in the past, un­der Onn’s lead­er­ship, over­came nu­mer­ous tests. But this will give us the strength to face even big­ger chal­lenges in the fu­ture. I am very happy be­cause Umno has re­alised that it is not only about its party mem­bers.

We are lead­ing the Malay com­mu­nity, the ummah and the govern­ment. This is a re­spon­si­bil­ity that we can­not take for granted. If we be­come com­pla­cent, we will not sur­vive for long. Now that the 14th Gen­eral Elec­tion (GE14) is fast ap­proach­ing, we must reach out to the peo­ple.

Umno mem­bers alone will not de­ter­mine the party’s sur­vival. It is the peo­ple who will de­cide whether we sur­vive or not. So, we must re­dou­ble our ef­forts to make Umno in­clu­sive. I am happy be­cause the peo­ple’s sup­port for us shows that we are on the right track.

What is the main mes­sage Umno wants to de­liver to the public dur­ing its 71st an­niver­sary on Thurs­day?

A: We want to tell them that Umno is a re­spon­si­ble party. We want them to know that Umno’s lead­ers are trust­wor­thy and plan not only for the Malays, but all Malaysians. We want to show the true im­age of Is­lam. And, de­spite the global eco­nomic un­cer­tainty, we have per­se­vered.

All these things re­quire lead­ers who take ac­tion for the sake of the peo­ple, and not po­lit­i­cal div­i­dends. Some of the things we do may not be pop­u­lar, but we will not com­pro­mise the coun­try’s fu­ture, se­cu­rity and unity.

I ad­mit that we are not per­fect and we have many weak­nesses,

Q: Be­sides Umno, other par­ties, in­clud­ing Parti Pribumi Ber­satu Malaysia, claim to de­fend the rights of the Malays. What sets Umno apart from its op­po­nents?

A: Con­sis­tency. We have been con­sis­tent in our stance since Onn’s era.

We have never shifted the goal­post and I think it’s brave to main­tain our prin­ci­ples in to­day’s pop­ulist world. Onn knew that Umno would not be able to rule if we did not prac­tise in­clu­siv­ity, or if we were just af­ter the Malay votes. To some ex­tent, Onn’s vi­sion was re­alised through the cre­ation of Barisan Na­sional.

This is what the op­po­si­tion has been try­ing to copy, but failed. I hope the peo­ple can judge for them­selves whether BN’s and Umno’s con­sis­tency can be trans­lated into sup­port for us in GE14. There lies the real chal­lenge.

Q: Could you elab­o­rate on Umno’s weak­nesses and what needs to be done to cor­rect them?

A: No party in this world is per­fect. Many par­ties that were founded in the same year as Umno have ceased to ex­ist. Umno fought for the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence and we are still fight­ing for the peo­ple to­day.

For ex­am­ple, in­clu­siv­ity. It’s im­por­tant to make sure that the peo­ple give us a chance to serve them, and not cer­tain “tribes” in Umno. If Umno mem­bers do not re­alise this, then we will be left be­hind. We must also lis­ten more to the as­pi­ra­tions of the youth. They will shape the coun­try’s fu­ture and what we do to­day must be based on their needs.

Q: Can you re­spond to claims that your re­cent ap­point­ment as spe­cial func­tions min­is­ter will drive a wedge be­tween you and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi?

A: First of all, I want to thank Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak for en­trust­ing me with this great re­spon­si­bil­ity. But peo­ple must re­alise that my ap­point­ment was dis­cussed by the three of us — Na­jib, Zahid and my­self.

We have been dis­cussing this for a long time. The tasks in the party and the govern­ment are get­ting heav­ier and they must be del­e­gated.

If there are is­sues that can­not be re­solved at the state level or at the Umno Supreme Coun­cil, it will be up to us three to re­solve them. I don’t see this be­ing a prob­lem for any of us, ex­cept per­haps the peo­ple be­low us. If there is no ten­sion, they can­not cari makan (sur­vive). They like it when their lead­ers fight among them­selves.

The three of us are sin­cere in what we do and we are se­ri­ous about our jobs in the party. In the end, these peo­ple will give up try­ing to pit us against each other. I want to state, once and for all, that I am on good terms with Zahid.

It was Zahid who rec­om­mended me for the post of spe­cial func­tions min­is­ter.

Q: Sev­eral top Umno mem­bers have re­cently left the party to form their own par­ties. Do you think this will af­fect Umno’s strength and fu­ture?

A: It was the same in the past. My grand­fa­ther, who founded Umno, left the party to form Parti Ne­gara.

There were top Umno Jo­hor lead­ers who left the party, but be­cause of the state chap­ter’s ma­tu­rity, the party’s in­ter­ests were placed first. Even Onn was side­lined be­cause Umno mem­bers at the time could not ac­cept his ideas.

Datuk Seri Hisham­mud­din Hus­sein

but we will be able to cor­rect these weak­nesses to­gether with the peo­ple. Af­ter at­tend­ing Umno’s lead­er­ship re­treat re­cently, I see that our lead­ers have re­alised that what we are fight­ing for is much larger than our­selves.

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