PETALING JAYA - Umno's 69th anniversary on Monday will be a low-key affair but all eyes - and ears - will be on Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his address to the party leaders.
Many expect the Umno president's speech to be yet another reminder on party unity, but what members are also anticipating and keen to hear is how he intends to deal with criticisms against his leadership.
Najib has come under fire from former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over several issues, including BR1M and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Umno celebrates its anniversary on May 11 and this year, the event at the Putra World Trade Centre will start with a tahlil (special prayers) followed by dinner and the presidential speech.
The guest list includes the party's state and divisional leaders and Umno's partners in Barisan Nasional.
Vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the president's message of unity was not only expected but "a must, especially at a time when Umno is facing challenges from outside and from within".
"The president is also expected to tell us that it is time to move forward together so that Umno can resolve all problems that it encounters," he said.
While members were eager to know how Najib planned to tackle criticisms, Dr Ahmad Zahid said the president might not want to bare his plans just yet, pointing out that what was important was for all to remain loyal to the party.
Cheras Umno chief Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshee said that while the president's reminder on unity and Umno's causes and struggles were important, equally crucial was for the party to clear itself of problems.
"Whatever the problems are, Umno needs to solve them right now so that we can be strong to weather any challenges that come our way," he said.
Syed Ali, who would be attending the anniversary gathering, brushed off talk of a low turnout for the event, adding that members must respect, support and be loyal to the party.
"We must not abandon Umno. No matter what happens, we must never leave or forsake the party. Umno must come first," he stressed.
A day prior to the anniversary celebration, the Prime Minister will be in Sabah where he is expected to perform a ground-breaking for a people's housing project in Kampung Pirasan in Kota Belud.
He will then go to Tawau to attend a gathering with Sabah folks in the east coast.
The "Sabahans Solidarity Gathering with the Prime Minister" programme is expected to also draw crowds from nearby districts, including Sandakan, Semporna and Lahad Datu.
The gathering is jointly organised by Kalabakan MP Datuk Seri Ghapur Salleh and Sabah Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Tawfiq Abu Bakar Titingan.
Tawfiq said the event was meant to allow the people in the east coast of the state to meet the Prime Minister and personally listen to what he has planned for Sabah.
"It is also to show appreciation and support for the PM who has done so much for the people of Sabah," he said.