However, I did follow the progress - reading reports in newspapers, watching TV, the internet and pouring calls and text messages from friends like journalists, bloggers and some delegates who attended it.
So, I am not totally lost. (My blog was also hacked for 2 days. I am so naive about IT but luckily I got a journo-blogger who helped revived it).
I am still an Umno member. Since joining it in 1981, I never turned my back on it although there were times I felt flabbergasted, frustrated and annoyed with some of its leaders and at the manner in which it was and being led.
Having attended 31 of the GA thus far, I really didn't mind skipping the one just concluded. To me (I don't care what others think), its the same old story - rhetoric, showcase of power and popularity, shooting at the opposition, etc... etc - but none to admitting our own weakness and mistake.
I had written a series of articles during the previous general assembly...here... here... and here... mostly on how a grassroot member like me wanted the party to change, revitalise and listen to voices on the ground.
Excerpts from Chapter 3:
So, what does the party general assembly means to us, the grass root members? Almost nothing, except for the calls to strengthen the party, stand united behind the leaders and continue voting for BN in the next general election. While most of the members get old in providing undivided support to the leaders and the party they adore and love, upholding the Malay supremacy in politics and keeping up with 'ketuanan Melayu', this getting-old and hard-working members can only watch and listen to glamorous stories of how their young leaders got rich and richer.The only different from this year's GA as compared to the previous one is that, 2012 is the last GA before the 13th general election. That made it so heated up and very arousing.
Umno is a perfect party for the Malays but the leadership must revise its approach in dealing with the grass root members. Is there any tangible explanation to their assumption and perception that those who go all out to grab any party portfolios are actually going after the money and luxury in-store for them, and not really after the responsibility? It's difficult because the facts stand very loud and clear.
The grass root members do not need a luxury car or a new better house. They want to feel being close to the top leaders. As such, they need their respective division or branch heads to channel their woes to the top leaders. They want to be heard. Solving their problems is not everything about keeping close rapport with them. What's most important is the ears lent.
The level of confidence was high, and that each and every member who attended it believed the party is at its strongest level, and nobody could deny the fact that Umno is the right party for all Malays and Bumiputras in the country... that the party will remain relevant, especially in the spirit of Barisan Nasional.
However, I personally believe 2012 is where Umno has reached a crossroad. Faced with some boiling issues such as scandals involving its ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs), its handling of some chronic and sensitive cases (politically and socially) and also fractions within the party, Umno needs more than just the strongest support ever.
It needs dynamism to the leadership, dynamic in the sense that they must be willing to listen to the ground and make changes wanted by the majority. As the party grows and gets older, the grassroot members find it more difficult to have their voice heard at the top. The gap gets wider and wider.
The attitude of some leaders have to change. They must stop listening to liars whom they themselves invented, created and encourage. As leaders, they consider themselves as 'Mr Right', that other should only listen and abide by their words.
Worse still is those who just cannot accept criticism. I know an Umno vice president who stops communicating with me just because I criticised his ministry's failure in implementing a policy. He also refuses listening to good advice because he thinks he is already perfect, as a senior leader and a minister.
Among his ministry's staff, most have to lie about many things, including the progress of certain policies. They simply lied to avoid being called 'failures' and inefficient. Each time a meeting is called with the minister, they have to lie since the minister does not like bad news!
It applies to Umno. Lying is the best avenue of cover up. So much so, many problems at branch and division levels were ignored because the top leaders were all this while fed with wrong information about the actual situation of the party.
This has yet to change. Those who attend a GA will usually feel his or spirit having flown over speeches by the leaders and dcelegates. However, that spirit fizzles out once the general assembly is 1 week or a month behind them.
Of course I would love to see Umno (and BN) retains its power in the next general election. Being the pillar of BN, Umno's strength must come with wisdom and trust. If top leaders can't take criticism and advise, members should throw them out in the next party election!