KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — New blood must replace the old when Umno goes to polls this October, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today, warning the present leadership that if their entire team returns uncontested, Malaysians will remain "disgusted" at the party.
Dr Mahathir, who himself led Umno for over two decades during his tenure as prime minister, said Umno needs to shed its image as a corrupt party and the best way to do this is by removing the older, entrenched leaders in favour of the unpolluted youths.
"Today, many think that Umno is very corrupt. It is even assumed that Umno leaders at all levels had not joined the party to fight for race, religion and the country, but to enrich themselves," he said in his column in Mingguan Malaysia, the weekend edition of Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia.
"Only by handing over the Umno leadership to the young and unpolluted can this cleansing of Umno become reality, and will be accepted by the community," Dr Mahathir (picture) added.
The still-influential Umno veteran disagreed with calls to retain all present members in the Umno supreme council, saying this would render it even more difficult for Malaysians to believe that the party is sincere in its plan to change its image.
"They will continue to be disgusted with Umno," he said.
Dr Mahathir said while he supports the plan to allow the party's top two posts go uncontested for the sake of unity, all other positions should face challenges during the coming polls.
He stressed the need to prevent money politics, saying equal punishment must be meted on all those found guilty of such an offence, regardless who they are.
All party members, including those from the Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings should be accepted as candidates, he said.
Only declared bankrupts and those with criminal records should be prohibited from contesting, he added.
"Only when many new and young faces are seen will the public believe that Umno has changed and has been cleansed," Dr Mahathir said.
But despite rooting for a fresh, young Umno leadership, the senior politician said the new breed of leaders must be given a course to understand Umno's past struggle and the foundation of the party's struggle to protect their race, reigion and the country.
He lamented that the youth of today have forgotten the past and were more concerned with adopting the liberal policies of the western world and replicating them here.
He argued the irony of this, saying today's youths believe that the struggle to protect the Malay race was outdated and no longer relevant even though it had been this very struggle that they had managed to better their lives.
"I have met with and discussed politics with some of them. Political knowledge is low among them.
"The ones who have been to western nations have had their minds infused with western values on the concept of equality, human rights and the western justice system," he said.
Should these youths join and take over the future of Umno, Dr Mahathir warned that it was very likely that the party would no longer be one that fights for race, religion and the country.
"Therefore, if we want to accept them, they should be told the truth of the positions of the Malays here," he said, suggesting that these youths be made to undergo courses on the history of the Malay race and Umno's founding struggles.
Ahead of the party elections due this year, senior Umno leaders had called for party posts - particularly the president and deputy president position - to be left uncontested, which could lead to potential candidates feeling reluctant to rock the boat by declaring their intentions.
Incumbent Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has, however, appeared in the past to be playing down the issue, having repeatedly reminded party members that those in all levels can now apply directly for the contest.
The outcome of the Umno polls would be closely watched, with Najib's success in defending his presidency said to be closely tied to his position as the country's leader.