KUALA LUMPUR, 11 Oct 2008: Barisan Nasional (BN) may allow direct membership into the coalition to increase its multiracial composition.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi proposed this today when launching the 37th Gerakan National Delegates Conference at Menara PGRM as an avenue for Malaysians who support the BN, but do not want to join any of its component parties.
He raised the idea in the last BN supreme council meeting on 8 Oct and in private conversations with a few BN leaders.
Abdullah said he made the proposal because he knew of people who liked the BN and wanted the opportunity to have a say, but did not find any of the component parties appealing.
Abdullah believes allowing direct membership
could help reform BN“We need a format or platform for them, and I told the BN supreme council, why not have a group for direct members who are multiracial,” Abdullah said in what will be his last speech at a Gerakan assembly as BN chairperson.
On 8 Oct, Abdullah announced that he will be stepping down as Umno president and BN chairperson in March after deciding not to contest in the party polls.
At a press conference after his speech today, Abdullah said direct, multiracial membership into the BN could be one of the ways to reform the coalition.
Opposition parties like the DAP, he said, were not multiracial despite saying they were. He also said the BN’s own Gerakan and People’s Progressive Party were not multiracial enough.
However, he said the proposal did not mean that BN’s multiracial component parties had failed in getting support from the masses.
Asked if his proposal was the first step towards making the BN a single, multiracial political entity, he said: “I can’t say what’s going to happen in the future. But if an experiment like this can go well, I’ll be very happy. What’s important is that we must try.”
In his speech, Abdullah noted how Gerakan had strayed from its founding ideals based on multiracialism.
“It was the party’s ideology but in the course of its development, it did not happen as envisioned by its founding fathers Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and his friends,” Abdullah said.
Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon welcomed the proposal for direct membership into the coalition as a way of increasing its multiracial composiiton and said it was “an endorsement of what Gerakan has been saying all the while”.
Koh said the party would now be more aggressive in recruiting members with organised programmes. In the past, he said the party relied on recruitments through friendship rather than outreach programmes.