“We have to look forward. We have to do changes and reforms, re-build the party and the wing. And if the Youth is still in a situation where they don’t know what my plans are come December, that becomes a barrier for us to move forward.“I feel today might be the right time for me to tell them about my plans after 10 years of building the Youth from the time when it was split to where it is now," he said today.
His announcement not to defend his post has paved the way for Jerlun MP Mukhriz Mahathir and former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Khir Toyo to offer themselves as candidates for the post.
Both had said that they would offer themselves if Hishammuddin decided not to defend the post.
Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin had no comment when the Press contacted him after Hishammuddin's announcement.
Asked whether he wants Khairy to contest for the post, Hishammuddin said it was not for him to decide.
Hishammuddin did not endorse any candidate as his successor although he confessed that he had a personal favourite but would prefer to keep it to himself.
"I have only one vote", he remarked.
(sources: The Sun, Bernama)
So, it's been 10 years, huh? Two years, from 1998 as acting Umno Youth chief and the remaining, after winning the post uncontested in the party elections.
Oh yes, I remember Hishammuddin when he was first elected to the Umno Supreme Council. I had positive thoughts of him, that he'd do good because he seemed "decent and clean".
You know, well-educated, well brought-up. Good family.
A naive thought on my part, perhaps.
But, he seemed a nice guy. Now, how was I to know then that, really, nice guys don't win wars?
This will indeed be exciting. We'll see what the Pemuda is made of. We'll see if the wing is serious about wanting to reform, to shake off so much baggage.
After the Lunas by-election in 2000 (in which the BN lost, causing it to lose its two-thirds majority in Kedah) Umno Youth leaders were so worried about their battered image that they decided to go full gear to repair and rebuild it.
How bad was their image? Being seen in the Pemuda's "white" attire was never a good idea. It was that bad.
In May 2002, I wrote an article in the NST about "Umno's Renewed Sense of Confidence". I interviewed Azalina Othman Said who was then pro-tem chief of Puteri Umno and Hishammuddin. Here is an excerpt:
It was not too long ago that Hishammuddin faced criticism targeted atAah yes. The "Pemuda Masuk Kampung" programme. You see, if your intentions are sincere, you have at least to be seen to be sincere because you cannot fool everyone every time. Not even the "simple" kampung folk.
Umno Youth, especially "since Lunas" (State by-election).
(The movement was criticised for a serious faux pas that many believed
cost the BN many crucial votes. Parti Keadilan Nasional's Saifuddin
Nasution Ismail wrested the seat from BN's S. Anthonysamy. The seat was
left vacant following the death of its Assemblyman, MIC's Dr Joe Fernandez
The lesson learnt in Lunas was costly but valuable for Hishammuddin and
his Exco. There was a time when even the uniform attire worn by Umno Youth
members was "wrong" and fodder for critics.
In fact, even the noblest of causes drew flak. It was so easy to
criticise anything that had an Umno Youth label. Its Pemuda Masuk Kampung
programme - an attempt to be close to the people - was touted as
pretentious and insincere when it was first carried out.
In short, everything was wrong about the movement. It was not difficult
to discredit it
On hindsight, it did not quite matter whether Umno Youth succeeded in reforming itself. The BN did well in the 2004 general election.
In the ensuing years, we can assume that the wing returned to its "bad old ways" -- it got overly confident, too smug and too arrogant and completely detached from the people.
Will Hishammuddin's departure and his successor bring the desired transformation and reformation in Umno Youth?
Will his successor be effective and successful in leading Umno Youth to rebuild itself to help in the bigger scheme of things -- to rebuild Umno.
Will it rest on who are contesting and who wins? Will this all be an exercise in futility as Umno is doomed, never to rise again? Ever.
We know that nothing is ever certain. Remember how many of us were stunned by the overwhelming victory of the opposition parties?
After the fact and on hindsight -- yeah, everyone was a self-proclaimed clairvoyant.
Which means if Umno Youth gets it right, who knows? We know that nobody or nothing can really be ever written off.
Meanwhile, although Hishammuddin made it clear that he's still the boss, I dare say -- let the games begin, if they have not already.