KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday warned that the country will be in disarray if the opposition, led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, is voted into power at the next general election.
He was addressing UMNO members at the party's last general assembly, before the polls.
Mr Najib fired up the spirit of faithful party members with his address at the 66th annual congress.
He reminded them the current government's tenure would automatically lapse next April, even if parliament was not dissolved.
He called on members to be disciplined, to put aside own interests, and give their whole-hearted support to the party's chosen candidates.
Mr Najib, who is also UMNO's president, said the party is now stronger and has proven itself capable of leading the country to a better future.
He told people not to gamble their future away by voting for the opposition, which he said was only good at spreading lies and making empty promises.
"If the people are led astray by the opposition, the country will be ruined and destroyed and trust me, UMNO will never let that happen," he said.
UMNO, he promised, would be inclusive and defend not just the rights of the Malays but also the interests of non-Malays.
Both the leaders of UMNO and other component parties of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lauded his call.
But, at the same time, they acknowledged that achieving unity might be easier said than done.
Azmi Khalid, UMNO veteran, said: "If this spirit were to go all the way up to the election, I think UMNO will be solid. The problem is after this when names of the candidates are announced, that's when you see the problems."
Teng Chang Yeow, Secretary-General of Gerakan party, said: "It's not easy if everyone in BN thinks that it's critical moment for BN survival they have to do away with personal feelings."
UMNO is 66 years old. As Mr Najib rightly pointed out, change does not happen overnight. In fact transforming the party, he said, was a lot harder than transforming the economy. But having said that change is taking place on the ground. Just how quickly it transcends through the party remains to be seen.
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