IN the face of accusations that it is a racist party, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants members to help him prove that it is not just a party for the Malays or bumiputra, but for all Malaysians.
The party, he reiterated, is neither racist nor anti-Chinese, but often has to deal with this kind of political perception.
“If we are (racist), how can we be accepted by and be able to lead component parties that represent many races for decades?
“Let me repeat: Umno is not anti-Chinese. But it is obvious that the Chinese, as well as some Indians, have fallen (for) the deceit and lies of the Opposition.
“That is why I am calling on all members to help me prove that Umno is not just a party for the Malays and bumiputra, nor is it just a leader of Barisan Nasional.
“Let us prove that Umno is truly a party for all Malaysians,” he said in his presidential address at the opening of this year’s Umno general assembly, the last before the 14th general election.
Speaking before an audience comprising 2,718 delegates, Najib said he was overwhelmed by the overall turnout of members, observers and supporters, estimated to total around 30,000.
“I sense an extraordinary aura. The vast sea of red, the colour of our fighting spirit, that is before me gives me confidence that the party leadership and I are not alone in our struggles and cause,” he said to cheers from the floor.
Najib took the opportunity to speak on a spread of issues.
His address this time took slightly over 90 minutes and interestingly, his speech contained 222 points, the same number of parliamentary constituencies in the country.
Najib admitted that it was not easy for him to draw up his key message for this year’s presidential address – his ninth to date – and he had to keep in mind that “today, I speak not only in the interest of my duty as Umno president nor as chairman of Barisan”.
“Above all, my utmost and paramount responsibility at this very important juncture is as the leader tasked to look after the welfare and interests of 32 million Malaysians irrespective of race, ethnic background, ideology or religion.”
Repeating his point that Umno was a party for all, Najib, who is also Prime Minister, said the Barisan government led by his party cared about the needs and interests of all Malaysians.
For the Chinese, the Government had channelled allocations for education, business loans and grants as well as tax reductions, among others, he said.
For the Indians, he cited the recently launched blueprint outlining efforts to boost the community’s socio-economic standing.
He also used the stage to debunk Opposition claims and present the Government’s achievements since he took office in 2009, pointing out that while some quarters claimed Malaysia is a failed state on the verge of bankruptcy, its gross domestic product growth recorded for the third quarter of this year was among the world’s highest.
The country’s foreign reserves currently stand at RM429bil, compared to only RM59.1bil during the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, he added.
“With reserves as low as RM59.1bil and without taking into account the RM31bil that was lost, the country wasn’t accused of being bankrupt then,” he said, referring to Bank Negara’s losses from foreign exchange dealings in the 1990s.
The Government, he said, not only provided free education from preschool to secondary level, but also shouldered more than 90% of the cost for tertiary education.
Furthermore, he added, the allocation since 2010 for health services has been more than RM192bil.
The setting up of Urban Transformation Centres has been a game changer and acknowledged as the best model for government services, he said.
The RM25mil spent on BR1M has also benefited seven million recipients, Najib pointed out.
“Our successes are not merely empty talk but are very real.
“We are proud and grateful to be able to serve this country and the people, and it is the Barisan government led by Umno that can offer our kind of services,” he said.