Just replacing Najib won’t cure Umno, says Umno Youth hopeful

Shahril Hamdan says many Umno members still could not accept the reality that their party has been rejected by a large majority of Malaysians.

PETALING JAYA: An Umno Youth official has warned his party that it may fail to regain its glory if it attributes its recent electoral defeat solely to problems associated with former prime minister Najib Razak.

Shahril Hamdan, the Umno Youth information chief, said such a conclusion would be simplistic and might make Umno ignore the many problems that were threatening to render it irrelevant to Malaysians.

Speaking to FMT, he voiced a fear that those problems would remain unresolved if members were led to believe that the mere replacement of Najib was the solution.

He said the main task ahead for Umno was to find a strategic path to win back the people’s trust.

The reality that Umno was rejected by a large majority of Malaysians had yet to sink into the consciousness of its members, including some leaders, he added.

“It wasn’t a Chinese or Indian tsunami, or a Malay, Kadazan or Iban tsunami,” he said. “It was a tsunami of the people. If we really want to have a chance to return to power, we have to first accept that fact. So far, I don’t think all leaders have accepted it.”

Shahril is seeking election as Umno Youth vice-chief at the June 30 party polls.

He said one attitude that Umno needed to abandon was the self-satisfaction apparent in the cheers and applause given to leaders at party programmes, regardless of the quality of their speeches.

He alleged that “nearly 80%” of such programmes were “a waste of time and money” and were held “only to make us feel good about ourselves”.

“We have to stop doing such programmes,” he said. “We didn’t carry out enough programmes to engage the people’s hearts and minds.

“It’s better for us to focus on planning social media strategies and preparing ourselves for debates with other parties.”

He said “one-way engagements” were obsolete and people nowadays were interested only in hearing representatives of all parties explain their ideas and visions.

“This is the reality that Umno and BN have to get used to,” he said.

He urged delegates to Umno’s coming assembly to elect leaders capable of taking the party to victory in the next general election.

He complained that Umno leaders and members used to give unquestioning support to anything the prime minister or his administration decided.

“Umno never went back to the grassroots to get feedback on matters like taxes, foreign policy and economic development,” he said.

He also said Umno must make the themes of its struggle clear to the people so as to be effective in playing its role as an opposition party.

“The people don’t want to see Umno and BN simply opposing everything done by the government. We shouldn’t oppose what doesn’t need to be opposed. Perhaps we can give ideas for improvement.

“But if there is something for us to oppose, such as a decision to cut down on affirmative action, perhaps we must oppose and we have to give the reasons why.”