Tuesday, March 24, 2009



A RECENT Merdeka Centre survey showed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as being among the leading contenders for one of the Umno vice-presidencies. He is praying that the survey is on the mark as he has not gone all out to campaign in the last few weeks, believing that the delegates have made up their minds.
Below is an excerpt of the interview with Zahid.


What made you decide to go for a vice-presidency seat?
It was the wishes of my friends who said I had been in the Umno Youth exco for 11 years, as Youth chief for two years and supreme council member for seven years. They said I should help strengthen the presidential institution as I was Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s political secretary for three years and Youth information chief when he was the Youth chief.

What do you mean when you say the party should dominate the government?
It means that the party should determine government policies and directives not government officials.

A strong political party must dominate the government.

What about the contest for deputy presidency? You withdrew from contesting the number two post.

I didn’t withdraw ... At that time, there was no nomination. The news that I wanted to contest for the deputy president post appeared on the Malaysian Insider news portal but I only made it known after I had received Pak Lah’s (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s) advice.

Later when I consulted Najib, he advised me to go for the vice-presidency instead because the deputy president’s post should be given to those with more experience in the party and the Government.

What kind of changes do you aim to bring to Umno if you win?
First, we need to rebrand Umno to ensure it remains relevant. There are two million young people who will start voting in the 13th general election. They should be brought closer to Umno.
We must ensure that Umno continues to serve as the backbone of Barisan Nasional and that it continues its struggle for the Malays while at the same time preserving the rights of all races.
We also should not be at odds with any ulama or Islamic organisations. This is because Umno has proven itself to be a defender of Islam while recognising the importance of other religions.

How important are the elections this time around?
Umno faces challenges all the time and for me it is a positive challenge whereby certain quarters are asking the delegates to avoid money politics. We should not only look at this in the legal context but also at the intention because I think the intention (to avoid money politics) is good. Therefore, to avoid the problem from being brought to court, candidates must stay away from this element.

What is your view on money politics in Umno?
Why is Umno the only party being blamed? I am sure other parties face this problem, too, but it is not highlighted in the media. It seems that the people are judging the Umno leadership.
To me this is not a crucial problem and I think other parties which govern states and who are in control of local governments also have the same problem. In Umno, the problem is exposed because Umno members themselves want to expose it.

Eight candidates have offered themselves for the veep posts. Will this cause a split in votes during the party elections?

I am lucky to be the sole candidate from the northern and central zone because no one from Perlis to Selangor is contesting for the post. However, I want to be accepted by all and if elected, I will lead all and not only represent certain areas.

How do you view the importance of this election for the survival of Umno?
It is not for the survival of Umno but the survival of the Malays and Malaysians in general. This is because Umno has a good track record and this can be improved on with the election of new leaders.

What is your advice for the delegates?
I hope the delegates are consistent with their aim of finding a good leader. I hope they continue to support Najib as the new party president as well as respecting Pak Lah and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as former presidents because there will be no new leaders without the old ones.

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