AUGUST 11 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 31 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK
How Much Change?: 'To win back voters, UMNO has started tackling some of their concerns and taking more independent-minded people into the top ranks. But the jury is still out on its reform commitment.' July 14
UMNO's success means that it must be doing something right ["Thinking Hard About Reform: Can the New Faces Change UMNO?" THE NATIONS, July 14]. The United Malays National Organization helped Malaysia achieve over 8% GDP growth continuously for 10 years before the onset of the Crisis, to be among the world's top 20 trading nations and arguably the most advanced Islamic country today. UMNO has also dealt successfully with political extremism and religious fanaticism. Its recent handling of the threat posed by the Al-Ma'unah terrorists is one example. UMNO will continue to fight fanaticism and extremism, including that espoused by a large section of supporters of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (Pas).
Of course, we may not be right all the time. But we are willing to listen and learn from mistakes. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (pictured), who is UMNO president, is a particularly good listener. He has an ear close to the ground and is not bogged down by protocol in order to be nearer to the people. In fact, he is spending more time for the party now than ever before. Taking his cue, UMNO is becoming very open and we are reaching out to the young, the professionals, the NGOs and religious leaders as well.
We have inducted fresh faces, critics among them, into UMNO's main bodies, including the governing supreme council. People with ideas and those fired by idealism are being courted and accommodated. We have once again positioned the party at the forefront of debate. We have assigned party leaders to take part in debates in the local campuses and the media and meet students abroad.
Asiaweek calls all these, rather luxuriously, UMNO's own reformasi. We shall settle for plain "adjustment." Sure, we were somewhat disappointed with the results of the last general election, but we have since taken concrete actions and are making serious efforts to appeal to the electorate. It might take a while for UMNO to recover lost ground, but let no one underestimate our capacity and capability. Change are slowly but surely taking place. There is a new spirit and vigor among UMNO's 2.8 million members as we face new challenges.
We are a party of moderates and will remain so. The majority of Malaysians still place their trust in UMNO and hope the party will continue its realistic, progressive policies.
UMNO Information Chief
You quoted Mahathir as saying: "UMNO's members have forgotten the Malay national spirit. They have become greedy." The PM, in a closed-door dialogue with bumiputra (sons of the soil) businessmen, has also been reported as expressing his disappointment with the low level of bumiputra participation in the retail trade and that they prefer to obtain contracts, projects and approved permits from the government.
This should not be a great mystery. As long as the government continues to dish out contracts on a negotiated basis, government assets/projects are privatized behind closed doors, and approved permits given to a privileged few, can we blame the bumiputras for being greedy and aspiring entrepreneurs among them shunning the cut-throat world of retail? The government's policy is a double-edged sword. Such contracts, projects and permits, by their nature limited in number, can only be divided among a few and this inevitably causes resentment both among the majority of bumiputras as well as the non-bumiputras. Is it any wonder Malaysians are bosan (sick and tired) of all the talk about good governance and transparency? Cannot a more equitable way be found to assist our poorer bumiputra countrymen?
I am a Muslim and I take exception to the call by Salamat Hashim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), for a jihad, if the term means taking up arms against Christians as the media's connotation would have us believe [LETTERS & COMMENT, July 28]. The fall of Camp Abubakar could be a blessing in disguise as it gives a much-needed respite from bloodshed for all. It had become apparent this last couple of months that Filipinos were being maimed or dying senselessly. Both sides have suffered enough casualties. But it is the civilians, Muslims and Christians alike, who have borne the brunt of this war.
While the government has to do a lot more in meeting our socio-economic development needs, further bloody confrontations will only aggravate the situation. Waging a jihad can never be the solution, nor can it be justified since Islam or its propagation is not being put in peril by the government's military victory. Let us be reminded of the words of the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia: "Jihad is not taking up the gun or raising the sword. Jihad is to invite to the Book of God and the example of the Prophet, to hold fast to them despite difficulties, distresses and afflictions of all kinds."
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