Academic: Dominant Umno has lost its bearings


PETALING JAYA: As Umno has fallen from grace, Malaysia is in need of new heroes to protect and serve the nation, academic Bridget Welsh said.

“At 70, Umno has fallen from grace. It is a fallen hero. It no longer is the party it once was,” she said in her political essay “Malaysia’s Fallen Hero: Umno’s Weakening Political Legitimacy”.

Her research paper was on the four articles compiled in a book titled, “The End of Umno?” which was launched by the party’s former vice-president Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on Monday.

Welsh, who is a Senior Research Associate of the Centre for East Asia Democratic Studies at the National Taiwan University, said Umno needs to reverse its decline to assuage a healthy future for the party.

“Admittedly, they are difficult to implement but they are important steps to alleviate the internal problems,” she said.

Firstly, she said, was a call for a new leadership inside Umno, especially at the centre.

“New leadership is needed to win a new mandate and to move the party in a new direction,” said Welsh.

Second, was the need to introduce measures that reversed the centralisation of power inside Umno, and nationally in the hands of the executive.

“Public accountability needs to be strengthened, particularlly internally in Umno,” she said.

Thirdly, she said contemporary crises surrounding the party involving money politics called for meaningful campaign finance reforms and tougher enforcement against corruption and abuses of power.

Finally, she said Umno needs to identify new sources of political legitimacy, with a crucial component of this being greater outreach to society, especially the Malays.

“Umno will continue to play an important role in Malaysia’s political future even if it is elected out of office,” she said.

As such, she said the search for heroism must continue and it could not come from loyalty but from serving the interest of the nation.

“Heroism came from working with the people rather than treating them as docile subjects to be bought, manipulated or dismissed.

“Heroism is expressed in the actions of the people at large, rather than the actions of a single person,” she added.