SERI KEMBANGAN, Aug 18 — PAS is nabbing the young and the talented who are being driven away by Umno veterans, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today, ahead of the grand old Malay party’s polls.
The former prime minister had earlier today beseeched Malays to stay with Umno, arguing that the party was the only one that could safeguard the race’s continued political and economic supremacy, despite a growing schism in the wake of the divisive May 5 general election.
“Umno members do not like people who are more capable than their leaders... afraid that they will lose their positions.
“So people with calibre do not get to enter Umno, now they are joining PAS,” the 88-year-old told reporters during his Hari Raya Aidifitri celebration at his home here.
The plain-speaking doctor, who is also a former Umno president, said Umno members are intimidated by talented people.
“Previously, PAS only has religious leaders, now we find that PAS has doctors, lawyers, engineers, all of them entered PAS because they can’t enter Umno,” he said, and added, “Even retirees who are cable, don’t get to enter Umno.”
“We noticed a lot of retired generals joining opposition parties,” he continued.
The opposition Islamist party appeared to have made inroads in the last general election after it partnered the urban-centric PKR and DAP to form the Pakatan Rakyat to counter the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s chokehold on power.
The three-party opposition bloc trumped the 13-member BN to win nearly 52 per cent of the popular vote although it failed to take federal power.
Still an influential figure within the party, Dr Mahathir made a pitch today in an open letter to its three million strong members, saying that Malays must stay with Umno as it is the only party that can ensure the race profits.
He acknowledged that the country’s biggest political party is plagued by corruption down to its roots, namely the rampant money politics that have buoyed the careers and pockets of certain individuals.
“Umno’s image has deteriorated because there are a lot of corruption allegations, and some had joined the party for personal interests.
“When they are not nominated, they will try to make the chosen candidate lose.
“So the loyalty is not to the party but to individuals,” he said, adding that it will be a challenge to “fix something that is broken”.
But he added that he believed that the problem was not beyond repair.
“I think the party itself is not the problem. The problem is the people who run it.
“If you don’t know how to run something, then the best-organised organisation also will not hold.
“They should re-examine themselves because the party has become old and a lot of the leaders have been there for quite a long time and young people don’t find it attractive,” Dr Mahathir told reporters.
Dr Mahathir noted that there has been increased pressure on party leaders to reach out to people at the grassroots level following the BN’s worst showing at the polls.
In a bid to appear more democratic, Umno changed its constitution to allow 150,000 delegates to directly vote in members to its influential supreme council at the October 19 polls./www.themalaymailonline.com