Umno members need to decide to choose freely

It is apparent that Umno members are playing a political game by rejecting the ruling Pakatan Harapan government in the last five by-elections. According to former Umno vice-president, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Umno members are disappointed with Pakatan’s performance.

In a recent article in The Star, Hishammuddin said that he had spoken to many individuals and had heart-to-heart conversations with them and his conclusion was that they were disappointed with the ruling government. He suggested in the same article that the government focussed “on economic policies that directly provide benefits to those who need it the most”. He went on to say that in the past year or so there had not been many policy decisions that have directly benefitted the people.

The former defence minister’s comments are a little surprising. As a former minister, he should know that the economic slowdown is not caused by the Pakatan government but due to past practices and a slackening world economy. As an opposition MP, he would no doubt highlight these trends as Pakatan’s failings as they are happening under its watch.

Of course, Pakatan can’t keep blaming the past and the world economy. They have to keep on coming up with good, practical and creative ways of helping the people and especially those in the B40 group through these financially trying times. Pakatan is doing its best although it has made some mistakes, but they are correcting themselves. Besides, many of the policies that have been introduced will take time before the people begin to receive the benefits directly.

By “direct benefits”, I am sure Hishammuddin meant jobs, projects and adequate bank financing. As the government strives to reduce its debt dependency, funds are being channelled according to procedures — which is a good thing — to cut down on wastage and unlawful diversion of funds. Hence, it will take time before the people actually see benefits in their hands.

Most of the people can see this but apparently not Umno members. They are clamouring for direct benefits from the government. While Hishammuddin did not spell out what he meant by “direct benefits”, I hope he did not mean it includes giving easy cash to Umno members.

If the trend in the five by-elections is anything to go by, it seems as if Umno members are telling the Pakatan government that it won’t get their votes unless they get “direct benefits”.

So, what “direct benefits” are Umno members not getting now? Just easy money. But because they realise that Malay-based parties are wooing them for their votes, they are playing this game of demanding something in return. Well and good, except for the fact that apart from the government-instituted policies which will take time to show results, Umno members will get nothing. The Pakatan government is resolved that it won’t continue the practice of the previous administration by putting easy money in their hands.

Umno members need to wise up to this fact. If they don’t they are going to be left behind because the financial difficulties they are facing are the same everyone else is facing. But, the rest of the country is not griping and whining about government help. As always, without easy money, they have been working hard and finding ways to make ends meet, acquiring the skills and resources necessary in the process to succeed in time.

But Umno members, pampered by six decades of easy money, will not learn those traits of success, and, eventually, others will overtake them. They will be left behind. This is the greatest fear of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the reason why he is making overtures to get the majority of Malays to switch sides. Instead, Umno Malays have spitefully rebuffed his good intentions.

Umno members seem to have bought into the spin that the Pakatan government has money but it does not make it available to the people, in particular, them and that the withdrawal of funds is all a politically-motivated vendetta in which Umno members and its leaders are being victimized. It’s a spin perpetrated by its leaders and Umno members can’t see through it.

The PH government has correctly identified the delivery of easy cash into the hands of Umno members as the source of rampant corruption in the country and has rightfully put an end to it. Umno members need to accept it as good governance and support the government’s efforts to root out corruption.

They need to take an honest look at themselves and their leaders and ask if what they are doing is the right thing. Do their leaders have their best interests at heart or simply perpetuating a spin that justifies their actions? Is supporting such leaders in their best interests?

Surely, there are people in Umno who can see through the spin of their leaders and be able to choose what is best for them? It is time for these Umno members to take control of their destinies. They should do one of two things: 1) Change your leaders to those who will take care of your interests, or, 2) Change your party to another which will put your interests first.

It’s time for Umno members to decide whether to join the rest of the nation and move forward together to progress or be left behind, trapped in a spin they can’t get out of.

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