Two veterans who witnessed the birth of Umno were on hand to witness proceedings on the second day of the Umno General Assembly 2014.
One of them showed up at Dewan Merdeka and her presence prompted Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and other leaders to leave their seats in Dewan Merdeka to greet her.
They shook her frail hand and some even hugged her affectionately. Umno veteran Datuk Siti Rahmah Kassim, 89, was the first Malay woman who donated her gold bangle so that first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman could make the trip to London to obtain the country’s independence from the British.
Siti Rahmah’s presence was announced by Umno permanent chairman Tan Sri Badruddin Amiruldin, who also left his seat to greet and hug her.
Najib bent down to listen attentively to what the Umno veteran had to say for more than a minute and the rest huddled around her to listen in as well.
After she had said what she wanted to share with the top leaders, Siti Rahmah, clad in red baju kurung and a scarf to match, slowly exited the main stage.
Siti Rahmah was thrown into politics at the early age of 19 and was the first woman to contest in the general election in 1959, and won the Terentang state constituency seat in Negri Sembilan which she held for two terms before retiring as an assemblyman in 1964.
Siti Rahmah was not the only Umno veteran who had donated her jewellery for political struggles.
Puteh Mat Kah, 74, did the same when she was young.
A daughter of a staunch Umno member has never missed a single party assembly since she became a member in 1963.
Puteh recalled the time when her late mother had to pawn the familyâ€™s jewellery, including her gold necklace to fund for her mother’s expenses to campaign for Umno and fight for independence.
â€œI was a young girl at that time and loved my necklace very much. But my mother told me that our countryâ€™s freedom and her people are far more valuable than a necklace.
â€œI was taught from young to make sacrifices for the sake of the nation. That has always been my mother’s principle and the same basis has kept my passion for Umno burning bright all these years.
â€œMy mother was an inspirational nationalist who had served the party with fierce passion. We have followed her through rough terrains and taking boat rides for hours just to reach a village to campaign for the party because we truly believe in the spirit of our struggles,â€ she said.
Puteh, who was seen walking around in Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) on her own, said, after she moved from Kemaman, Terengganu to Kuala Lumpur to live with her children, she would make it a point to come to the party assembly every year.
She would take the public transport from her house in Selayang.
â€œI donâ€™t mind the walking. It is part of my exercise routine and an old woman like me should not be sitting around the whole day.
â€œHaving the chance to look at the sea of red has made me reminisce about the old times and I find comfort in the memories of my familyâ€™s involvement, no matter how small, in building a legacy such as Umno,â€ she said.
Puteh added she could not help but ponder about the newer and younger members of Umno.
â€œBack home, I realised that the younger ones are a bit uptight and refused to mingle with the veterans. Perhaps, because they belong to different generation they do things differently.
“But there were times in Umno where everyone feels like family; everyone feels like they belong,â€ she said.-NST