AS POLLS LOOM, BREAD AND BUT­TER IS­SUES ARE KEY

Umno’s strength re­lies on abil­ity to un­der­stand the needs of the peo­ple

New Straits Times - - News -

DATUK Seri Na­jib Razak had cleared his diary one or two days be­fore Thurs­day’s 71st Umno an­niver­sary just to fo­cus on his all-im­por­tant speech.

The Umno pres­i­dent’s ad­dress was the only speech of the night and he knew that he had to de­liver the right mes­sage to party mem­bers and vot­ers, given that this will be the last such do be­fore the next gen­eral elec­tion.

It will be a ma­jor elec­toral test for Na­jib, who will be lead­ing Umno and Barisan Na­sional for the se­cond time into the GE, widely ex­pected to be called by the end of this year.

To the credit of the or­gan­is­ers, the turnout on Thurs­day was over­whelm­ing with the en­tire Bukit Jalil Na­tional Sta­dium turned into a sea of red.

Na­jib got rous­ing cheers as soon as he stepped into the sta­dium and was driven around the 400-me­tre track in a golf buggy as the au­di­ence re­cited

and sang patriotic songs.

Top Umno lead­ers gath­ered around him as he de­liv­ered a pow­er­ful 40-minute ad­dress to rally his party and launch scathing at­tacks on the op­po­si­tion and for­mer Umno strong­man Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad.

The mood was elec­tri­fy­ing. “He re­ally got the crowd go­ing,” said one com­men­ta­tor.

Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Ab­dul Jalil noted that more than half the crowd were women.

Umno mem­bers had come from far and near and some del­e­gates said there were not enough buses to ferry more peo­ple.

Umno had can­celled the 70th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion last year as a mark of re­spect for the two Umno MPs who were killed in a he­li­copter crash in Sarawak.

Na­jib left for China the same night for a se­ries of meet­ings with Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and busi­ness lead­ers and to at­tend the China-led Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion in Bei­jing.

Next weekend, he will be in Saudi Ara­bia as a guest of Saudi ruler, King Sal­man bin Ab­du­laziz Al Saud, for the Arab-Is­lamic-US sum­mit on May 21.

The sum­mit will be at­tended by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and key Arab and Mus­lim lead­ers.

They in­clude Bahraini King Ha­mad bin Isa Al Khal­ifa, King of Jor­dan Ab­dul­lah II bin al-Hus­sein, King of Morocco Mohammed VI, Ye­meni Pres­i­dent Abd-Rabbu Man­sour Hadi and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

Other at­ten­dees are Al­ge­rian Pres­i­dent Ab­de­laziz Boute­flika, Pres­i­dent of Niger Ma­hamadou Is­soufou, In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo, Iraqi Pres­i­dent Dr Fuad Ma­sum, Tu­nisian Pres­i­dent Beji Caid Essebsi and Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif.

Be­yond the pomp and pageantry, Na­jib’s mes­sage that night was sim­ple and clear: Umno must con­tinue to be rel­e­vant to the Malays and Malaysians in gen­eral and that it must adapt to the chang­ing times.

As Na­jib once said: “Umno’s strength as a po­lit­i­cal party re­lies greatly on its abil­ity to un­der­stand the needs of its mem­bers. Its rel­e­vance rests on cap­tur­ing the imag­i­na­tion of the Malays and Malaysian so­ci­ety as a whole.”

Umno pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak with Supreme Coun­cil mem­bers and other lead­ers at the 71st Umno an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion at Bukit Jalil Na­tional Sta­dium on Thurs­day.

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