AS POLLS LOOM, BREAD AND BUTTER ISSUES ARE KEY
Umno’s strength relies on ability to understand the needs of the people
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.