HANA NAZ HARUN KUALA LUMPUR email@example.com
UMNO veteran Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, in an hourlong interview, spoke about Umno’s growth throughout its 71 years, touching on the importance of addressing the needs of the youth as well as the ageing society.
Tengku Razaleigh, fondly known as Ku Li, also highlighted the need for party members to work towards preserving the “Umno spirit” by focusing on the party’s original struggles of safeguarding the welfare of the people, Malays, in particular.
Ku Li, who is also Gua Musang member of parliament, reminded Umno members that positions were temporary and that service to the people should be the main agenda of all leaders.
Question: How has Umno grown since the day it was formed in 1946?
Answer: Not many parties have survived this long and, naturally, the situations and environments would influence change in an organisation.
These changes would “force” leaders to listen to people’s demands and requests. We have to change because the generation changes.
From the time Umno was formed until today, a lot has changed — from the time of Datuk Sir Onn Jaafar, when he was not supported by members of a party he himself formed, until Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj’s time and his road to independence.
Malaysia has developed since then, even though there were people who said that we would fail as it was impossible for us to unite the three main races in the country. But God is great and has guided our leaders.
Unlike what some may say, we are a wealthy country.
Alhamdulillah, we had leaders who were all sincere.
The opposition at the time said that our leaders were incapable and could be easily bought, but they were good leaders.
Because the leaders listened to the people, the mandate was given to them in every general election, especially during the days of Parti Perikatan.
Only in the 1959 general election did we lose our hold on
Kelantan and Terengganu.
Q: The youth make up a majority of Malaysia’s population and it is imperative that Umno does something to attract youth to the party and its struggles. Do you feel that the younger generation no longer care about this?
A: I don’t know how true that opinion is because I feel that the younger generation now differ from the younger generation back then.
Now, the youth are educated and have a wider view of the world. Before, someone from Kota Baru would not even reach Kuala Lumpur. Now, if you can’t go to London, you can see it on television or through your mobile phone.
The younger generation now can differentiate right from wrong and have a conscience. We cannot say that the younger generation today have closed their minds and do not accept other views because they have their own opinions, too.
I am very confident in them. They are educated and knowledgeable. I don’t think that they will let anything bad happen.
The future is good for us. The younger generation make up the majority in our country and this good energy can change and grow the nation further.
Q: What do you have to say about disunity or camps within the party?
A: Umno is now 71 years old. It has undergone so much change. The Umno then is not the Umno now.
While this “new” Umno can retain support and has a lot of members, it has its fair share of problems.
This is common for a big party, especially when the focus is more on personal agendas.
They want positions and material benefits for their personal gain. There is “your gang” and “my gang”, and the struggles are no longer clear.
These things cause polemics among us, which make the party weaker, and some are being left out.
Q: How do you preserve that old Umno spirit?
A: You need to go back to the original struggle.
If there is too much vested interest, then we forget about the ultimate struggle — the income of the people, the Malays and the Malays’ position in society in terms of knowledge, culture and others.
In weekly (Umno) meetings, they should discuss how Malays can move forward economically or in entrepreneurship, or if our people are doing enough research.
If other countries can be more developed, why not us? Some people have said our income is stagnant and our management is not good. Q: A party that can last as long as 71 years must have members who are faithful to its tenets and ideals. In your view, why is loyalty important to an organisation?
A: Every organisation demands every member to be loyal. Otherwise, you cannot maintain the core members that will uphold the struggle.
You must have loyalty to the cause that you are fighting for. Not loyalty to the people, but loyalty to the party.
Q: Any advice for Umno members in conjunction with Umno’s 71st anniversary?
A: We must realise that we are only here temporarily. So, we must fight not for ourselves but for our followers. We must have that spirit of sacrifice.
It is like saving money for a rainy day. In our struggles, whatever we do is for our future. We cannot consume everything we have right now, today. If everyone practises the same concept, then I think Umno will be safe.
We must do it wholeheartedly, because we have a responsibility to all.
Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah