The triumph of past over future in Umno polls: Sin Chew Daily columnist

In his article, the writer dwells on the reasons why newly elected Umno President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi won the recent party polls.

New Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (centre) and his deputy Mohamad Hasan (left) celebrate their winning during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on July 1, 2018.
New Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (centre) and his deputy Mohamad Hasan (left) celebrate their winning during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on July 1, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In the Umno presidential race, the embodiment of status quo Ahmad Zahid Hamidi beat the proponents of change Khairy Jamaluddin and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

I watched their debate twice.

The three contestants - Ku Li (as Tengku Razaleigh is known), Zahid and Khairy - are the respective representations of the bygone century, yesterday and tomorrow.

Ku Li seems to still live in the 20th century during Umno's heyday.

He talked about the good times under Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak, his heart full of passion for the down-to-earth Umno of yesteryear, when leaders were one with the people.

By comparison, he felt that Umno's leaders today were arrogant, some even extremist and boastful of their wealth, acts that were atypical of party leaders of those good old days.

What I was trying to say is that Ku Li tried to judge Umno's downfall today by the party's success of 1960s and 70s.

He saw the derailment of Umno leadership, its dislocation from the people and hence its well deserved punishment.


These are facts, of course, but they are only part of the reasons that have led to Umno's defeat.

The old model of success may not be applicable in today's world even if it can be duplicated.

Ahmad Zahid, meanwhile, appears to be still basking in the good days before the 14th general elections.

This "yesterday" marks the most arrogant yet vulnerable moments of the party.

Because of arrogance, the leaders are deprived of the ability to reflect on their own mistakes, and because of the emptiness within, they struggle to look even tougher outside.

It is easy to deduce from the way Zahid debated that he did not seem to believe that Umno had lost, arguing that Umno was still well supported by the Malays, and it was the thumping defeat of the other component parties (MCA and Gerakan) which contributed only three seats.

So, there is no defeat on Umno's side, and since there is no defeat, there is no need for change.

He only said Umno needed to change the voters' perception in order to win back their hearts.

In other words, there is no problem with Umno.

The problem lies with the public's "perception" of the party.

Zahid has earlier said in an Umno briefing that the party could win back Putrajaya by GE15.

By comparison, Khairy sees the real problem of Umno in its internal disintegration and its being dislodged from the reality.

He admitted his mistakes, apologised, and was prepared to change.

He wanted reforms from within Umno, and wanted to groom young generation leaders to lead the Malays towards real progress.

Does Umno want a president who still lives in the glorious years of the 20th century, or still stays in the arrogance of yesterday, or one that looks to the future?

If the debate really worked among the party members, I'm sure right-minded members would know how to choose.

Unfortunately not many belong to this category of people.

Some are still cherishing the glorious days of the last century.

They hope Ku Li will take them back to those good old days.

More of them are already acclimatised to the party's culture of arrogance, are beneficiaries of vested interests and staunch followers of party warlords.

This group of people will support Ahmad Zahid. They hope to go back to the good days without any change.

Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.