KUALA LUMPUR: Umno marked its 71st anniversary with a show of strength and solidarity, as Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak declared the party ready for the 14th General Election.
Addressing thousands of party members dressed in red at a gathering at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, the Umno president put paid to claims that the party was now weak and disunited.
Najib emphasised that Umno would remain inclusive and always work with its partners in Barisan Nasional to ensure that the rights of all Malaysians were protected.
"I want to ask you - are we strong enough, ready enough? Can I dissolve Parliament tomorrow?" Najib asked the audience to rousing cheers.
"Who says Umno is not strong? If you say that we are not strong, then just witness this gathering," the Barisan chairman said.
Colourful banners were hung inside the stadium with messages such as "No retreat no surrender" and "Islam develops with a United Umno".
Also present were former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other Umno veterans.
Addressing claims that Umno had become too focused on wooing the Malays at the expense of other races, Najib reiterated that Umno was neither racist nor extremist.
"We are willing to work together, to share power with our partners in Barisan Nasional," said Najib.
He paid tribute to Barisan leaders, many of whom attended the gathering, including MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong and leaders of component parties from Sabah and Sarawak. He called out each leader by name and saluted them.
In his 38-minute speech, Najib also went into full attack mode, not only against the Opposition but also against Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
With a picture of the former prime minister displayed on the giant video screen behind him, Najib said it was sad and unexpected that a leader who had led the party and country for so long was now willing to work with Umno's enemies to bring the party down.
Najib then expressed his gratitude to Abdullah for setting a good example of a former Umno leader continuing to be loyal to the party.
He also praised PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who described his Islamist party's co-operation with Umno on common issues of interest as a sign of mature politics.
Flanked by vice-presidents Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and other party leaders as he delivered his speech, a fired up Najib said: "I am not lonely because I am surrounded by Umno leaders who are all united and loyal to the party and the country.
"Because of that we don't feel afraid and whatever the Opposition tries to throw at us, we will face with all our strength."