KOTA KINABALU: Khairy Jamaluddin, one of the candidates for the post of Umno president, has promised to give more political autonomy to Sabah Umno if he wins in the party polls.
Speaking to more than 1,000 Sabah Umno members as he concluded his tour of Sabah today, Khairy said this reflected his respect for Sabah’s status as an equal partner in the formation of Malaysia.
“An Umno president must understand that Sabah is not like other states in the country. As a candidate for the presidency, I know that Sabah is different and we must give the same confidence to our delegates.
“Umno must convince those who will vote that Sabah Umno is no longer under the grip of their political masters in the peninsula and an Umno president must give that power to Sabah,” he said.
Khairy, who was Umno Youth chief, said he had studied the reason for Parti Warisan Sabah’s popularity and how the two-year-old local party managed to defeat Sabah Umno in the state.
He pointed out that Warisan successfully portrayed itself as a party free from peninsular political interference and, thus, could make its own decisions without pressure from any parties.
He said the opposite can be said about Sabah Umno, with many Sabahans viewing it as nothing but a branch of a peninsula-based party.
To combat this perception, Khairy suggested that a leader from Sabah must be elected by Sabah Umno members to be made a vice-president, not just to take care of Sabah but also with a potential to become the party president one day.
“If Sabahans want autonomy, then the party liaison chief will be elected by members in Sabah, not appointed by the party’s top leadership. This will give the confidence that Sabah Umno is controlled by Sabahans,” he said.
He also proposed that this is a much better solution than simply promising development projects to Sabah as such tactics had proven to be ineffective compared with Warisan’s tactic of playing up Sabah rights issues and sentiments.
He said this was because no matter how many development projects were carried out in Sabah, in the end, Sabahans still viewed them as nothing but handouts from the federal government.
“The people’s pride is hurt. It’s like giving money to someone instead of allowing them to make their own money. Giving Sabah political autonomy will give them their pride back,” he said.
Khairy also admitted that he was part of the group which went to see Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to convince the veteran politician to contest for the president’s post.
However, he said Tengku Razaleigh’s statement that he would only be president for one term made him decide to contest for the post instead because he believed a one-term presidency would only weaken Umno.
“I thought, if it is only for one term, then after three years from now, we will have a new president. And less than two years later, we will face the 15th general election. It is impossible to manage our election machinery in time, what with the new party leadership and all that.
“Umno cannot afford to be complacent. I view myself as a wartime president and I want to bring the party forward and win back control of the government,” he said.