UALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — The old leaders of an aging Umno should let young blood take their place, the party’s former president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today, warning that the decades-old party would die if it is not rejuvenated.
The former prime minister said the founding leaders of Umno and their successors are now old, with the level of their contributions dwindling even as those around them repeat stories of their capability and prowess as leaders.
“But they have to realise how important it is not to exceed their time. Sooner or later people will feel bored, even get disgusted of leaders that are outdated but still don’t want to accept the truth,” the country’s longest-serving prime minister wrote in his column in Utusan Malaysia today, referring to the party’s old guard.
The 88-year-old politician said the leaders of Umno are ready to engage in money politics just to stay in power.
“For this they are willing to do anything. Without taking into account the effects on their race’s culture, they are willing to hand over money to get support, to retain themselves as members of the Supreme Council or other posts,” he said, warning Umno members that the election of corrupt leaders who give out bribes would lead to abuse of power.
“Unfortunately, many are so easily seduced by bribery. Not much. RM200 is enough to change the thoughts of some Umno members,” the 88-year-old politician said, adding sternly that these actions by party members is not mere vote-buying but amounts to selling their dignity.
The still-influential leader noted that many Malays no longer trust Umno, pointing to the mushrooming of hundreds of non-government organisations (NGOs), before warning Umno to watch its conduct in order to secure votes in future national polls.
“If Umno is led by those who bribe, the opposition party will look even better,” he said.
In his column today, Dr Mahathir fended off accusations that he was trying to help his son, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, out, insisting that he was merely trying to fix an ailing Umno.
“Unfortunately, there are quarters who think that my writings have a certain agenda, purportedly because I want to maintain my leadership through my son.
“Maybe this will happen coincidentally. But if because of this accusation, I don’t strive for Umno’s good, this means that I prioritise my image more than my responsibility to the party. If I wanted to help my son, I should have done so when I was the prime minister,” he said, having served the country as a prime minister for 22 years.
“I am not important. Umno and the Malays are still more important than me, or my son,” Dr Mahathir said.
Muhkriz, who was recently appointed the Kedah Mentri Besar, had previously lost to Khairy Jamaluddin in the contest for the Umno youth chief position.
Amid speculation over whether he would once again challenge Khairy for the party post, Mukhriz remains non-committal about the Umno polls.
“I’m running out of time before nomination day. I must admit that I’m still in two minds about this matter. I know I am going to contest but in which position, I haven’t decided,” Mukhriz told the New Straits Times in an interview published today.
Nominations for the Umno Youth, Puteri and Wanita wings go on until September 21, with elections for posts contested to take place during their annual meeting on October 12.
Nominations for supreme council posts are open until September 28 and the election will be held on October 19.