Today begins the process of change for Umno. Transition, transformation. Clean-up even. Call it what you like.
When leaders and delegates of Umno wings -- Wanita, Pemuda and Puteri -- gather for their joint opening ceremony at the PWTC this evening, they will listen to what Umno deputy president and the country's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has to say in his opening address, because as is customary, his speech will set the tone for their election and (respective) assembly.
They will go home tonight and mull over the future of not just their wings, but the party, and yes...the country.
This year's assembly during which the party's election of all top posts is being held is most defining because it is a test for the party, after the Barisan Nasional's devastating/dismal performance in the March 8 general election last year.
It is a test - for the rest of the country to witness - whether Umno is prepared to change or to make that change. To transform, from whatever "diseased" and rotten state it had shamelessly been in.
(We all know that Umno, being the backbone of the BN government has to take the blame for the poor performance, although overall in the general election, Umno won more seats than its coalition partners.)
We all know why Umno must change -- or be changed as Najib had warned.
There is no luxury or privilege of option here. It's now or never. Do or die.
Umno has been too complacent, in denial and resistant to the urgent need to transform and reform, to be relevant -- for far too long. Umno is what its members want it to be. It's a two-way process. You want a clean party, you elect clean leaders, or those seen to be clean.
Umno must also remember that its leaders are also leaders of the country. You elect corrupt leaders, the country gets corrupt ministers.
I have no say in the choice of Umno leaders. If and when Umno decides that Umno members can (directly) elect the party's top leaders, I'd be the first to sign up as a party member.
(By virtue of the existing practice in the country in which the Umno president is, by convention the Prime Minister and the deputy president is Deputy Prime Minister. Also, Umno vice-presidents and some of its supreme council members are appointed ministers and/or deputy ministers.)
Tomorrow, Wanita, Pemuda and Puteri Umno delegates go to the ballot box to choose their top leaders -- chief, deputy chief and exco members.
For the Wanita top post, the bitter and intense fight is between incumbent Rafidah Aziz and her deputy, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. (There is no contest for the deputy chief post as exco member Kamilia Ibrahim won the post uncontested.)
Both are going for broke.
The contest is three-cornered for the Pemuda chief's post -- exco member Mukhriz Mahathir, Khir Toyo and deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
There are six aspirants for the Puteri Umno chief post. They are deputy chief Rosnah Abdul Rashid, Shahaniza Shamsuddin, Ismalina Ismail, Bibi Sharliza Mohd Khalid, Saarah Ali Basha and Ida Rahayu Mohd Noor.
Azalina Othman Said, Puteri Umno's pioneer/founder member and erstwhile chief, has been a hard act to follow. Her successor Noraini Ahmad is a disappointment, so pale in comparison. She failed to pick up where Azalina left. Azalina is contesting for one of the 25 elected supreme council seats.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the party's most crucial elections, emerging so badly bruised after the general election.
When delegates choose their *deputy president, **three vice-presidents and 25 supreme council members, they have not only Umno's future in their hands but the nation's.
I fear. I quiver just thinking about this.
Will they break the cycle (of all that's bad in Umno)? Are they capable of doing that? Will they have the nation's interest at heart when they cross the ballot papers because we, the people will have to live with their bad and wrong choices.
Will they do the right thing?
Ultimately, Umno delegates deserve the leaders they choose.
But do we?
*Two contenders for the deputy presidency -- Muhyiddin Yassin and Muhamad Muhd Taib.
** Eight contenders for the 3 VP posts -- Zahid Hamidi, Hishammuddin Hussein, Rais Yatim, Khaled Nordin, Syed Hamid Albar, Shafie Afdal, former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Isa Samad and former Malacca Chief Minister Rahim Thamby Chik.