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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Umno’s missed opportunity

By Awang Abdillah | FMT

Issues of national concern were not discussed at the recent Umno general assembly. Delegates also failed to call on Najib to step down for Umno to rise again.

Frankly, the recent Umno general assembly was the best venue and probably the last chance for Umno leaders to show their sincerity in addressing party and national concerns.

Instead of adopting the Mahathir doctrine or rather its despotic policy, Umno president and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak should have discussed with the party leaders on how best to tackle the party and national problems.

Disgruntled members should have urged Najib to step down as one of the solutions for Umno to rise again. Personal leadership, party strength and national issues and problems are all inter-related.

Glaringly missing at the Umno general assembly were discussions on issues of national concerns.

Allow me to list it all out here.

(1) The national debt

The most prominent of the major national issues is the growing national debt which now stands at RM437 billion, dwarfing the expected revenue of RM186.9 billion for 2012.

A massive national debt is one of the main factors that can destabilise the economy of the country.

Such a gigantic problem can be seen from afar by financial institutions and fund managers, the Employees Provident Fund board, foreign investors, dealers and speculators in the Malaysian foreign exchange market, investors in Bursa Malaysia, trading partners and our neighbouring countries.

If this problem remains unsolved, a number of fallouts are expected: banks will hold on to credit outflow leading to higher lending rates; flight of capital out of Malaysia; panic selling of the ringgit leading to a free-fall of the currency; panic selling of stocks in Bursa Malaysia; foreign direct investment will be neglible; unemployment will rise; delays in public funding of development projects, and so on.

There is no reason for a country like Malaysia – blessed with natural resources, high exports of primary commodities and other goods valued at RM639.4 billion for 2010 – to become a net borrower for development funds.

We believe as much as 30 to 40 percent of the development allocations in the yearly national budget goes indirectly to Umno politicians and Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), too, and its companies.

For 2012 , a sum of RM51.2 billion is allocated for development. As much as 30 to 40 percent of the amount may be siphoned away through marked-up prices of government contracts, maintenance of public projects and supplies to government ministries, departments and agencies.

Some of such practices are partly revealed by the Auditor-General Report 2010. Unfortunately, the Auditor-General made false reports on the Sarawak government’s public accounts for the last nine years, for reasons best known to him.

If Umno cares about the welfare of the rakyat, then Najib and his top party leaders should discuss ways during the party general assembly to reduce this serious national problem instead of pushing it aside.

For any country, if its national debt keeps on growing, it would mean that government development funds in the past years have not been properly utilised for productive economic projects, which can give good returns to the government. Instead, a big portion of it goes to the personal accounts of Umno politicians.

(2) Weed out corruption among the Umno and BN leaders

Under an undemocratic-despotic government where gross abuse of power is the hallmark of the regime, it is of no surprise then that no concerted efforts have been made by the government to tackle such malpractices let alone remove corrupt federal ministers, chief ministers and menteris besar.

Thus, we see these ministers and heads of state governments plundering and looting the wealth of their respective ministries and states without fear of being caught.

After all, they share the loot together. Our stepbrother, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), has been trained to be obedient to his master but ready to pounce on and attack those who are perceived to be his master’s “attackers”.

(3) Umno should rebuild good qualities of leadership

Right now, the leaders and delegates are shifting blame on the opposition, especially PKR and DAP, for Umno’s ill-fortune and the state of affairs of the country.

In fact, the Umno and national problems are the work of the Mahathir undemocratic-dictatorial government and the Najib undemocratic-despotic rule. Since 1981, Umno has wielded so much political power that it has become the de facto federal government.

In such circumstances, how can the opposition be the root cause of Umno’s woes? Umno leaders should instead rebuild the party through the good value system and abandon the Mahathir or Najib political doctrine. Umno is a failed party that cannot anymore protect the Malay interests, let alone the national interests.

The party should be rejected outright and the rakyat should look to Pakatan Rakyat, with other minority parties from the Barisan Nasional (BN) or the opposition, as the future federal government.

Awang Abdillah is a political analyst, writer and FMT columnist.

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