Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak has said Umno will continue to strengthen the economic interests of the Malays and other bumiputeras, returning to a familiar theme of going back to the party's roots after being largely abandoned by Chinese voters at the May general election.
In a closely watched speech at his party's annual meeting, he also took swipes at the opposition, including accusing them of scaring away RM40 billion (S$15.6 million) in investments by Taiwanese companies in Johor.
Datuk Seri Najib, as Umno's president, was speaking at the opening of the party's assembly before 3,000 party leaders who were dressed in Malay baju, with most of the men wearing black songkoks and the women in red tudungs.
The delegates earlier sang the Umno anthem heartily while waving Malaysian and party flags, setting off a festive mood in the cavernous hall at the Putra World Trade Centre where the party has its headquarters.
The Malays form about 60 per cent of Malaysia's population of 29 million, while Muslim and non-Muslim bumiputeras from Sabah and Sarawak add nearly 8 per cent more.
"Considering the fact that 67.9 per cent of the nation's population is made up of them, enhancing their economy should be the primary agenda of the nation as it is pointless to have a developed nation where the majority are neglected.
"With that in mind, the Barisan Nasional and Umno have worked in creating multiple mediums to serve as an instrument to defend the rights of the Malays," he said.
His speech echoes another in September when he launched a bumiputera economic empowerment programme to ensure that the bumiputeras are given plum projects and easy loans by government agencies.
This is despite protests from the opposition and a section of the Malays that the time has come for the Barisan Nasional (BN) government led by Umno to do away with race-based policies.
As political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said: "At the end of the day, he has to decide on whether he wants to be leader of the Malays or of Malaysians."