Umno is not a one-man show or a dictatorship, party president Najib Razak said today, calling for loyalty from members so that he could hand over a strong party to his successor when he eventually leaves.
Taking a jab at his harshest critic, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he said he could “easily be prime minister for more than 22 years” if he had retained an old Umno rule requiring challengers to the president to first obtain 56 nominations from divisions before they could qualify.
His remark was a reference to a rule instituted during the tenure of Dr Mahathir which critics had said made it impossible for the Umno president to be challenged at party elections. Dr Mahathir was Umno president and prime minister from 1981-2003.
Speaking at the opening of Tangga Batu Umno division’s assembly in Bandar Hilir, Malacca, today, he turned to history and asked members to remember the actions of the Bendara Tun Perak at the time of the Portuguese invasion of 1411.
“Because he believed in the agitation, he had provided information to the Portuguese to destroy Malacca. This is the lesson from our history,” Najib said.
Umno members must protect national sovereignty against foreign interests, “that is our right, our national leadership will decide and not other people”, he said in another oblique reference to Dr Mahatir.
The Federal Government has accused supporters of Dr Mahathir of providing information to foreign countries regarding the affairs of 1Malaysia Development Berhad in order to bring down the Najib government.
He reminded members of his great respect for the late Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba, a former Malacca chief minister and later deputy prime minister under Dr Mahathir for his loyalty to the party.
“For him, position was not important but what was important was the party’s struggle because if the party was safe, everyone would be safe,” Najib said, according to Bernama.
“One day, I will hand over (Umno) to my successor, at that time, if you want to come to me or otherwise, it is immaterial. But I will not betray Umno. We want to hand over a strong party,” he said.
He said that as a responsible leader, all decisions for Umno and more importantly, for the nation, would be made collectively or by consensus or ‘syura’.
Najib said that as a leader chosen via a very democratic system in Umno, he did not practice a ‘one man show’ or even worse, dictatorship.
There were people who said he was stupid for having amended the party constitution to allow 160,000 Umno members to elect their president, but this had to be done to strengthen the party’s struggle for the sake of the nation.
“I want to be a president who is elected by the members, previously there must be 56 nominations for a contest. Getting one (nomination) was difficult, 56 (nominations) would be impossible. If I had retained the constitution, I could easily be PM (Prime Minister) for more than 22 years,” he said.
He said that “no matter what slanderous accusations are hurled at us, for as long as Umno members and the people are with me, I will continue to struggle because we have a mission,” he said, Bernama reported.
He urged everyone to learn from the history of Malacca which had collapsed because of foreign intervention.