PR’s take on Umno reform: Sweet, but time will tell
By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 — Most of Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) leaders are impressed with the string of reform promises and lack of race rhetoric at the ongoing Umno general assembly.
They also admitted that Umno’s sudden shift from its extreme right wing ways of the past to its current approach may be a threat to the PR’s popularity with the people.
Such a consequence, they however added, would merely give way to healthy competition between the PR and Barisan Nasional (BN) as well as bring benefit to the people.
“If they bring about such reforms, then I congratulate them and most importantly, I congratulate the people.
“On a wider perspective, although this would create heavier competition between us, it is okay, because what we (the PR) have always been fighting for is for the good of the country.
[People win from the changes says Lee.]
People win from the changes says Lee.
“So if someone else can come up with a better system, then let them do it. We want the people to emerge as winners, after all, not us,” PKR vice-president Dr Lee Boon Chye told The Malaysian Insider today.
He added that the BN should at least promise to provide the PR with a level playing field so that the coalition with the best policies can helm the nation.
Perak PKR deputy chairman Chang Lih Kang agreed and said that if Umno leaders fulfill their promises, and reform their current corrupt practices, then it would be the “people’s victory.”
“PR would be faced with a more fierce competition but this is good. It is a good development of Malaysian politics and we are not afraid. We are ready to face it,” he said.
Meanwhile, PR leaders also agreed that the speeches of both Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the party’s Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin during the opening of the assembly were “romantic” but would hold more water if they were actually put into practise.
“There seems to be an opening of sorts; a move away from the fearful and provocative statements of the past and this is commendable but as they said themselves — one swallow does not make a summer.
“We need to see how seriously committed they are to living out their own promises,” DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said when contacted.
Najib, he added, needed to deliver and not dish out sweet-sounding speeches.
[Pua: I’ll watch out for the changes.]
Pua: I’ll watch out for the changes.
As DAP central committee member and chief economist Tony Pua said, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
“We welcome their statements but this is not the first time we have heard them. They have been repeating their words since the March 2008 elections.
“It is good that some of them are talking rational stuff but we need to see whether or not these speeches are reflected in their actions in the coming months,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Otherwise, he added, it was clear that Umno leaders were just playing to the gallery by saying things that they knew the public would be impressed with.
“I want to see Khairy in Parliament, arguing for a merit-based scholarship. I want to see him doing this and give better context to his words,” said Pua.
Khairy said yesterday that he wished to see more Malays in educational institutions not because of the quota system but because of merit.
His speech was apparently not that well received by delegates in the radical wing.
PR leaders believe that this was mostly because the Umno grassroots are not ready to accept their leadership’s sudden change.
“I do not think the Umno people, especially those who have benefitted from their strict policies in the past, are going to forgo what they had.
“They will cling on to it,” said Lee.
Chang said he was not surprised by the lack of enthusiasm from the Umno delegates for it was not easy to accept such a sweeping change in party policies.
“In one year, the leaders are giving them contradicting statements. They will need some time to adjust to these changes and Khairy has an uphill task ahead of him,” he said.
PAS leaders, however, scoffed Umno’s “rhetoric of reform” and said that the party leaders were just attempting to rebrand themselves by using different words.
[Nizar: Hopefully it is not just a repackage.]
Nizar: Hopefully it is not just a repackage.
PAS central committee member and former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin said that Umno’s newborn mantras like “1 Malaysia” and “kepimpinan Melayu” were just the party’s way of putting “old wine into a new bottle.”
“Even with their bid to amend the constitutions of the party, Umno is still a racist party with deep-seated corruption problems.
“Najib never addressed corruption much – he even called it a technical problem. He never spoke of cronyism, which they are so guilty of,” he said.
PAS National Unity Chairman Mujahid Yusof Rawa said that he was not sure how effective the amendments in Umno’s constitution would be in getting rid of corruption and money politics within the party.
“Because the problem in Umno is not the constitution but the culture. The amendments are great but it will not change the culture of corruption which is deep-rooted,” he said.
He added that Umno was still full of race rhetoric and still practising double standards.
“On the ground, nothing has changed — the Malays have not changed. The problem here is that Malay is a race and not a political party but they are spreading the ideology that Malay equals Umno and Umno equals Malay. This is wrong,” he said.