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The main theme of this year's Umno assembly

  • Jerusalem is like a chorus that is suddenly inserted into the body of a song to resonate with the listeners but will never take the place of the main theme which is Mahathir/DAP.

Sin Chew Daily

There has been a minor last-minute amendment to Najib's address at this year's Umno general assembly, inserting a strongly worded criticism against President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his intention of relocating the US Embassy to the divided city.

Diplomatic and international issues have hardly become the mainstay of Umno's assemblies, but this time Washington has emerged the focus of the party president's two-hour speech while triggering incensed responses from the audience.

The delegates rose and chanted slogans, their wrath targeted clearly at Washington and Israel.

This could be attributed to Najib's powerful political acuity. He is well aware of the world view of the Malay society as well as party members' herd instinct.

Although he is in no way an anti-American politician, he has only two agendas around which the entire general assembly is revolved.

Firstly, to unite party members and fire up the Malay masses outside the PWTC auditorium.

Secondly, to create common enemies and set the mood of the masses in fighting alongside him against these rivals.

Trump's rash decision on Jerusalem has ignited the wrath of Muslims worldwide, and as a party that practices Malay nationalism and upholds religious faith, Umno cannot wash its hands of this whole matter.

Najib has attempted to strike a chord with the Muslim community by highlighting the Jerusalem issue at the Umno assembly not only to consolidate his leadership but also to fight for the approval of the Malay society.

This also sets the direction of the debates that will soon follow.

PAS has initiated protests and Umno must not be outdone this time. It will be the second time the two parties have worked together for a common cause after the Rohingya refugee issue.

To Umno and PAS, Jerusalem is going to be a project the two parties will work on, in collaboration and in competition as well.

Jerusalem is like a chorus that is suddenly inserted into the body of a song to resonate with the listeners but will never take the place of the main theme which is Mahathir/DAP.

Everything still needs to go according to the original theme, Mahathir and DAP being Umno's ultimate enemies and Anwar a convenient target of ridicule.

In last year's event, the delegates held back at their criticisms of Mahathir, but with the former PM now in official duel with Umno and heading the opposition pact, Najib will no longer need to worry about possible backlash from party grassroots.

The collaboration between Mahathir and DAP has allowed Umno to construct a logic, that Mahathir is out to bulldoze Najib's agenda and Malay dominance by colluding with DAP, arguing that once this gets its way, Najib and Umno will be brought down instantly and the Malay dominance will end officially.

Whether the logic holds water is highly subjective. Indeed non-Malays have dismissed it as a joke while urban Malays may not necessarily buy the idea.

But, to the rural Malays, this argument definitely has a ready market, and the Malay swing voters may lean towards Umno due to religious or racial concerns and their worry of an increasingly powerful DAP.

This strategy can both cement the Malay fundamental support base and woo the middle voters, including some of Pakatan Harapan's sympathizers.

This, is the theme of this year's Umno general assembly, and will very well become the theme of the next general election.



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