RESIGNED to the power of social media, Umno has decided to live telecast the debates at its annual general assembly this week, a party source said.
The live telecast will be on screens around its headquarters at the Putra World Trade Centre and in the press room.
This will be a departure from the practice at its general assemblies in recent years since 2016, when the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal made news headlines.
Debates by Umno delegates that questioned or criticised then Umno president and prime minister Najib Razak or 1MDB were edited and then telecast a few minutes later to other party members milling around the building outside the meeting hall.
The live telecast will also be a shift from last year’s general assembly, when the Malay nationalist party and Barisan Nasional had just lost federal power in the last general election.
“Last year’s debates were delayed.
“Previously, we were worried about airing sensitive speeches or that racial and religious issues would be raised.
“But these days, even if we don’t show it live, there would be some delegate who could decide to record it or show it live on Facebook,” said the source, who is an Umno Supreme Council member.
He declined to be named as he is not one of the annual general meeting’s organisers.
But he said the Umno Supreme Council had agreed that live telecasts should be done this year to benefit party members coming in from the other states for the assembly, which runs from Wednesday to Saturday.
“We can’t close everything in this day and age and everything should be open.
“Members from other states will want to know what is happening inside. Live telecast is good,” he said.
Najib is currently facing multiple charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of power in relation to funds allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
But thanks to a political pact with former arch-rival PAS, Umno appears to be in revival mode, more than a year since losing federal power for the first time in six decades.
The Umno-PAS cooperation, called Muafakat Nasional (National Consensus), ensures that the two parties no longer compete for the Malay-Muslim vote as they did in the past, but work together with the goal of toppling the Pakatan Harapan government in the next general election.
Umno is also buoyed by the recent Tg Piai by-election, which although won by its BN partner, MCA, showed that together with PAS, it can enlarge its share of the Malay vote.
Umno, however, will not follow MCA and open up its membership to non-Malays, said the Supreme Council member.
“It’s up to MCA to do what they want, but for Umno, we are still a Malay party.
“We feel that BN is already a multiracial platform as it has MIC and MCA, and there is no need for Umno to do that now,” he said, referring to MCA’s move to allow non-Chinese Malaysians to join the party as affiliate members at its annual general meeting last weekend.