KUALA LUMPUR: There was a time when Sabah Umno members were regarded as lackeys of Peninsular Malaysians. There was also a time when they could not even rent halls to hold gatherings and had to plead for support from the people in the eastern state.
Pioneer Sabah Umno member Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who is now party vice-president, said they have come a long way from when the party first set foot in the state in 1990.
"Now the party has grown to become a formidable force in the state and has helped bridge Malaysians throughout the country," he said in his winding-up speech.
Shafie said Sabah Umno rose to the occasion when it helped Barisan Nasional remain as administrators of the country by winning big in the 12th general election last year.
"I think this was translated into votes for leaders from Sabah in the party elections, and for that we are grateful."
But he said unfavourable results of the last general election in other states had served as a wake-up call for the party -- that it needs changes and reforms, he said.
"Umno must reach out to the people and serve them.
"We should not be issue-oriented, but service-oriented for the sake of the party's survival.
"To remain relevant, we must become the Number One choice party of the country and changes and reforms must be made without delay."