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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

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