KUALA LUMPUR: Wanita Gerakan Rakyat chairman Datuk Tan Lian Hoe said UMNO leaders should not bank on racial issues and act like heroes, as this is a very outdated political trick.
She said a lot of progressive Malays have stopped talking about racial issues. They are instead more concerned about how their leaders would promote the country's development and improve the education quality of the people, so that they can compete on an equal footing in the international arena.
"It is now time to formulate policies that will spur the economic growth for the country instead of talking about racial issues. Why have some Malays, especially professionals, ceased to support UMNO? Because they've got sick of such acts. They are unhappy that UMNO has not brought about the changes."
She said during an exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily that the UMNO-dominated BN government has been playing up the land reserve and scholarship issues, and is not aware that these are actually obsolete ideas.
"Many new generation Malays have relinquished their demands for lands. They don't want to go back to the countryside and work in the farms. To them the most important thing is national progress and a stable life."
She said even the government's scholarships have become a kind of "mental clutch." The policy has not only given rise to a host of problems, but has also infuriated many people.
She said the government should instead replace scholarships with study loans, allowing the students to slowly repay their loans after graduation. However, the crucial thing is that we have to establish a proper collection system to ensure continued disbursement of loans so that the treasury will not be drained off.
"Now children from every family want to get the scholarships, even those from well-to-do families. This has created a big fuss. We should re-evaluate whether this policy is still timely."
Tan Lian Hoe said many BN leaders, especially those from UMNO, have clung onto their old attitudes after the March elections. They refuse to change, and this has put Gerakan in a very difficult position.
She said other than Gerakan, other BN component parties have also wanted to see changes in UMNO, so that BN could recoup its strength and reputation, or it would be defeated very badly in the next elections.
On whether UMNO itself is aware of this problem, she said, "They are very arrogant, but things are different now: people have 'woke up,' and it is now the young people's time. Prior to 2004, parents influenced how their children should vote, but in the latest elections, it was the children who taught their parents how to vote!"
Among the factors that could have contributed to BN's humiliating defeat in the last general elections was rampant corruption in the enforcement units, she added.
She said corruption must be nipped in the bud, and this to a very large extent depends on the leaders of the relevant departments. If the leaders are incorrupt, their subordinates would also change.
"This change is possible, but we need some time as well as political will and resolution."
On whether Gerakan would stay in BN, Tan Lian Hoe stressed that even if the party were to leave BN, it would never join Pakatan Rakyat, but will exist as a third force instead.
"Malaysians voted against the government in the March elections not because they liked Pakatan, but because they were not happy with the existing government. As a matter of fact, Pakatan is not any different from BN, as even during the initial stages, they have already shown their inability to achieve accord in a number of issues." (Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Sin Chew Daily)