Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday rallied his Umno troops to prepare for the "father of all elections" against former premier Mahathir Mohamad's opposition pact, warning that the country's pro-Malay and Islamic policies would be in tatters if his ruling party is ousted at an election due by August.
The Umno president's opening speech resumed the theme outlined by the youth, women and young women's wings a day earlier at their own annual meetings.
"If the nation falls to the wrong and irresponsible party, everything that we and our fathers have built tirelessly will crash and be destroyed before our own eyes," he said in his policy address.
Sticking to a well-worn line that the Chinese-led Democratic Action Party (DAP) wants to wipe out Malay and Islamic rights, Datuk Seri Najib spoke about protecting the special position of Malays.
He accused Tun Dr Mahathir of claiming to "fight for Malays and Islam, but he is allied to and is being used by DAP, which is clearly anti-Malay and Islam".
Mr Najib warned that "this noble and free race (the Malays) will have their dignity crushed, and lose their primacy" if the opposition took power. "Worse, they will be cast aside, disgraced and left destitute in their own land," he said.
APPEAL TO VOTERS
If the nation falls to the wrong and irresponsible party, everything that we and our fathers have built tirelessly will crash and be destroyed before our own eyes.
MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK
The general election is due by August next year, but is expected to be called within months.
For the first time, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition will be arrayed against an opposition headed by a former prime minister and two former deputy prime ministers, Anwar Ibrahim and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Mr Najib scoffed at the relevance of Dr Mahathir, who is 92, likening him to former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, 93, who was ousted from power last month. Mr Najib said: "It is strange that there are those that are still willing to be led by someone in his twilight years, when former president Mugabe in Zimbabwe who is the same age has been rejected by his own people."
The 13-party BN holds a comfortable majority in Parliament but lost the popular vote for the first time at the last polls. However, the opposition has since fractured with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) going its own way and even cooperating with Umno on Islamic issues.
Dr Mahathir, who was in power for 22 years until 2003, has spent the past three years criticising the Najib administration, and called for the Prime Minister to step down over graft allegations.
Dr Mahathir formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia last year, and joined the Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance. The four-party pact believes his entry will shore up support among the Malay Muslim majority.
Mr Najib proclaimed himself the Prime Minister to "32 million Malaysians of all races", insisting that Umno "is not a racist party".
"Otherwise, how could we have been accepted to lead a multiracial coalition for decades," he said. "I stress that Umno is not anti-Chinese. But what is clear is that Chinese and some Indians have been trapped as victims of perception by opposition lies."
PM Najib said its growing cooperation with PAS is "based on the interest of the Muslim ummah (community), even though our political views differ".