Malaysia Now and Then: Don't mess with the ladies, they're UMNO's backbone

7 May 2019 / Karim Raslan

Whether in or out of government, Umno’s Wanita wing is the backbone of the party.

Their door-to-door canvassing operation is second to none and is one of the main reasons why the party was so dominant over the decades.

It ensured Umno was always connected with the ground. While it couldn’t stop the defeat of 2018, the Wanita operation’s enduring strength was apparent during the party’s recent by-election wins over Pakatan Harapan.

The women who work in its ranks are the hardcore: they pour their heart and soul into the party.

They were physically flattened by the end of the 2018 campaign and after the results were announced, emotionally shattered as well.

The loss reverberated throughout the party. Even the Wanita wing was shaken.

A year ago, Wanita members were very fired up in the lead-up to the 14th General Election (GE14). Now, they still are, but for different reasons.

It seems as if a divide has manifested itself in its ranks. One group wants the party to be rebuilt, while another is still obsessing with blaming external forces for the defeat.

Team Ceritalah sat down with 56-year-old Kak Yeni, who is one of two treasurers for the Telok Datok Umno branch. She has now been part of the team for three elections.

“I still want (to uphold) that (ideology): Malay, Islam and the monarchy.”

Like most Umno members, she feels that when Barisan Nasional lost, her “identity” slipped away.

However, she believes that Umno needs to strengthen itself internally. If that means shaking up senior positions with some new blood, so be it.

“They have the brains and should be at the top. We will support. They have great ideas.

“However, not all ‘older’ politicians should be removed – just the ones who are negative and guilty.”

When asked of her thoughts on our former prime minister, she hesitates.

“I like him but at the same time, I don’t. I am still waiting (on the final court decision).”

This is in contrast to the slightly more embattled members of Wanita Umno, who feel that they were targets of a campaign of defamation by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan.

“They succeeded in influencing perceptions (of the party) among Malaysian citizens, especially the youths.

“Our party has no wrongdoings, because Umno fights for three things; Agama (religion), Bangsa (race) and Tanah Air (country).”

These sentiments were expressed by Cik Noor Bee, a 67-year-old retired teacher who has been an Umno committee member for almost 40 years.

She also claims that only a handful of people have left the party post-GE14 and that recruitment has been progressing.

“I have just recently recruited two people,” she says proudly.

Despite their differences, one thing both factions can agree on is that an Umno– PAS alliance significantly strengthens the former ruling party and that it is in line with its religious ideals.

“That’s what I want – I have no issue with it,” says Kak Yeni.

Moreover, the pair has not lost hope. They both seek to better it and do all they can to ensure Umno, together with MCA, MIC and now PAS, blow Pakatan out of the water in the next election.

If I were one of Pakatan’s leaders, I wouldn’t want to mess with these ladies.