THE 59th Umno general assembly began on the morning of 26 March 2009 with the customary flag-raising ceremony and parade inspection at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in Kuala Lumpur.
According to Bernama, Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi arrived at the assembly venue at 9am in Malay attire and was greeted by his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak and other Umno leaders.
He was then ushered onstage by Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, and later inspected the guard of honour mounted by 150 members from the Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings.
Abdullah, accompanied by Najib, was then ushered onto a special platform for the raising of the Umno flag, the Sang Saka Bangsa, with Umno members singing the party’s anthem Bersatu, Bersetia dan Berkhidmat (Unity, Loyalty and of Service).
At the outset of the general assembly, Najib was declared the new Umno president.
Abdullah gave his final policy speech as president, where he called on Umno delegates to change for the sake of the party’s survival.
Reactions to Abdullah’s speech were mixed. Umno vice-president aspirant Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal disagreed that a maximum term be imposed on party office bearers, saying, “If these leaders want to serve the people, they should be allowed to serve.”
Shafie is a favourite in the race for Umno’s three vice-presidents. Delivering him the post will quash allegations of the party ignoring its East Malaysian compatriots.
Supreme council member Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said Abdullah’s suggestion was something for Umno to consider. He added, however, that party election reform was “more pressing, from a priority perspective”, and lent support to the idea of reviewing the quota system for members to be nominated for party leadership positions.
According to Bernama, voting for the Umno elections began at 12.45pm today for a total of 2,519 delegates.
The delegates cast their votes to elect the deputy president, three vice-presidents, 25 supreme council members and the Umno permanent chairperson. The election results will be known by midnight.
Upko president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok styled Abdullah’s address as “a speech that he had to make”, and said incoming president and prime minister Najib would have his work cut out for him.
Dompok was one of many Barisan Nasional component party leaders who were present at the opening of the general assembly.
A total of 45 political parties from 42 countries were also invited to the event, while representatives of 63 Umno clubs overseas confirmed their attendance, Bernama reported.