Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki gave his first speech as Umno Youth chief in the recent general assembly, and as a member of Umno Youth, I believe he is an iconic leader who can serve up new recipes for the party’s survival.
To me, the recent Umno general assembly was historic. It was the first assembly with the party in the opposition. And of course, being in the opposition tempts me to delve more into the speeches at the assembly, especially the one delivered by the Umno Youth chief.
Asyraf, who was in the academia before being called to deputise a portfolio in the previous government, has clearly set aspirations for the youth wing. He demanded that the party members readopt the original philosophy of the party to understand the crucial needs of the Malays.
In his speech, he said: “The party has to be stabilised, and we, the members, have to be devoted to redeveloping the party. Our focus is clear, that we want to return to the origin of Umno’s raison d’être – the members should not be apologetic about resuming Umno’s struggles.”
Umno should not be perceived as a right-wing conservative party. Umno, in fact, is a party that should be driven by “wasatiyyah”. Umno should remain as a political empire that can be respected for its moderation. Being moderate is what makes a political party loveable.
Asyraf denied that Umno is a party that tolerates racism to buy votes. Umno’s struggles are in fact mirrored in the basic doctrine of the Federal Constitution.
Traditionally, the Umno Youth wing’s assembly is celebrated as a “political festival” that stages orators with their “inspiring” words. Like other previous youth chiefs, Asyraf beautifully delivered his words by inserting a poem by Usman Awang.
Primarily, his speech listed five main agendas for party members to adopt:
Firstly, the Youth wing must champion the people’s cause. The party must be a credible opposition.
Secondly, the Youth wing must engage with the young people from every segment. This includes urbanising the minds of the youth in rural regions. The public’s perception of Umno as being for “the elites” should also be addressed. Umno should now be made a mutual stage for all.
Thirdly, the Youth wing must ensure inclusivity. Affiliations with other political parties and civil societies are essential to redefine Umno’s journey.
Asyraf also said the reform agenda must be emphasised. The Youth chief initiated “halaqah” to discuss ideas. It is also one of the religious practices of connecting the “ukhwah” (brotherhood).
Lastly, Umno needs to relieve its deficit of trust. The party is now in urgent need of rebranding as a “zero-corruption” party.
Asyraf stressed that leaders with no integrity should not be tolerated.
The maiden speech of Umno’s Youth chief, to me, has perfectly ignited the embers of the party’s struggle.
The journey to regain the rakyat’s trust begins now.
Mohd Fasha Musthafa was a special observer at the Umno general assembly 2018.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.