Umno strongman draws youth with political ‘school’

AN Umno strongman in Selangor has long believed in political education for the young and has started a initiative providing such programmes.

Budiman Mohd Zohdi, the Barisan Nasional Sungai Panjang assemblyman, even hopes non-Umno-affiliated youth will enrol in the programmes at Sekolah Komunikasi Politik (SKOP) which he launched last August.

SKOP provides political communication training and engages young people in politics – strategies he believes are vital for political parties.

“The cadre training (proses pengkaderan) is central to the engagement of political machinery by its party or political leaders.

“That’s why we see the opposition has its Sekolah Demokrasi. For SKOP, we are giving value-added knowledge in terms of political communication,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Sekolah Demokrasi is run by DAP and offers courses on politics and social democracy in Malaysia.

Budiman’s SKOP, however, is more focused on political communication skills and analyses of current issues, trends and sentiments. The world of politics is always dynamic, he said, and there are constantly new challenges. 

“What more with the use of social media today.”

SKOP runs weekly classes and 40 people have “graduated” from the first batch after undergoing training from August to December.

The next course will begin in February, with classes held every Wednesday evening at the Harapan Budi Foundation in Kuala Lumpur.

“The participants are mostly the young. I choose to offer the lessons for free,” he said, adding that some participants have joined Umno after completing the course.

Budiman, however, said SKOP is not part of any agenda to recruit Umno members when asked how many have joined the party through the programme. 

And while it also meant to instil a patriotic spirit in youth, he denies that it is similar to Putrajaya’s controversial Biro Tata Negara or National Civics Bureau (BTN).

“It’s not restricted to Umno only. It is open to any youth interested to learn about political communication. It is meant to teach young people to think rationally with the facts they have.”

While the first batch has no non-Malay students, he hopes other races will join the programme in the future.

Books by Sungai Besar MP Budiman Mohd Zohdi on display in his office in Kuala Lumpur. The Umno leader is interested to train youth in political communication skills and analyses of current issues. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Najjua Zulkefli, February 14, 2018.

Budiman, who is also Sungai Besar MP, was inspired to train young people as he himself benefited from political training and leadership courses from the Institute for Policy Research (IKD) as a university student.

The think-tank was founded by jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was deputy prime minister then.

A SKOP graduate Fairuz Jamaluddin said the programme taught him what mature politics should be like. 

“I also learnt to identify the issues that are truly important and which deserve attention,” said the 38-year-old who works in the real estate sector.

Fairuz said the SKOP classes did not promote any particular party over others. He did join a party after completing the course but declined to disclose which one.

Consultant trainer Rafidah Mohd Ariffin said political communication is a relevant topic for all times as politics is dynamic and with constant changes. She said she benefited from the interaction with other professionals and politicians.

“A party like Umno, for example, may be a mature organisation but political communication is still relevant as each era is unique,” said Rafidah, a former Puteri Umno division chief.

Budiman has been recognised for his work through such initiatives like SKOP and for his outreach to voters and was recently identified by Selangor BN chairman Noh Omar as one of the coalition’s strongest candidates in Selangor.

He became Sungai Besar MP through a by-election in 2016 after the death of its representative, Noriah Kasnon, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Sarawak.

He defeated Amanah’s Azhar Abdul Shukor and PAS’s Abdul Rani Osman, winning by 9,191 votes.

In December, The Malaysian Insight reported that he is one of three candidates Umno is considering for the position of Selangor menteri besar in the party’s bid to recapture the country’s richest state from Pakatan Harapan, which has governed Selangor since 2008.

Sungai Besar voters recently said they preferred Budiman as their parliamentarian even against former minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who is rumoured to be contesting the seat which until Noriah’s death, had traditionally been a Wanita Umno seat. – February 14, 2018.