Seminar: UMNO: Neither Yesterday, Nor Tomorrow
About the Seminar
UMNO today is very different from what it was before, and is not suited for the future. In the past, the party’s grassroot leaders were ordinary folks and Malay teachers who were very committed and call themselves ‘Orang UMNO’ (UMNO people) rather than ‘Ahli UMNO’ (UMNO members). Today, they are replaced by businessmen, staff of the Ministry of Rural Development and people looking for opportunities. Volunteerism in UMNO has declined while patronage or money politics, which emerged in 1980s, has deepened further. The 1MDB scandal shows how money politics has corrupted the party to the core. The scandal has badly hurt UMNO and the whole country in terms of leadership, corruption, freedom, rule of law and the economy. The original UMNO is ‘UMNO Berjuang’ (the fighting UMNO). Today, it is ‘UMNO Berwang’ (UMNO with money).
But, why is UMNO (and BN) still in power? Because of four major factors, i.e. unfair election system (e.g. malapportionment and gerrymandering), politics of race (plus religion), patronage and culture of fear. Can these four factors continue to help UMNO/BN win the 14th General Election (GE)? How have the various financial scandals and intra-party conflict in UMNO affected the young, middle class and urban Malays’ support? Will the Felda Global Ventures’ scandal erode UMNO’s staunch support from the Felda settlers? After denying UMNO/BN the two third majority in Parliament in the 12th General Election (GE) in 2008 and 13th GE in 2013, and UMNO/BN lost the popular vote in the 13th GE, can Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) win the 14th GE expected to be held in 2017?
About the Speaker
Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah is Chief Secretary of Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) – Malaysia’s biggest opposition coalition, and Director (Strategic and Social Development) of Institut Darul Ehsan. Previously, he was Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Member of Parliament for Temerloh and Member of UMNO Supreme Council. In October 2015, he left UMNO, mainly because of the 1MDB scandal, to join Keadilan.
He is a progressive politician who advocates the idea of New Politics, youth empowerment and social economy. When he was Deputy Minister of Higher Education, he re-launched the Speakers Corner and amended the University and University College Act to allow students to be actively involved in politics – both items banned since 1975; and was critical of the government’s suppressive ways on freedom, human rights and racism.
Before joining politics, Saifuddin was President of the Malaysian Youth Council, Member of the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Youth Employment and a student activist. He has published seven books, including New Politics/Politik Baru (bi-lingual) (2008) and ASEAN Peoples’ Agenda (2015); and is columnist at Sinar Harian, The Edge Malaysia and Sin Chew Daily.