October 27, 2018.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary
UMNO, once Malaysia’s most dominant political party, is not known to always say the smartest things but one very recent call by a senior party leader takes the cake.
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad — twice prime minister, chairman of his own Pribumi Bersatu party and the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition – led Umno for 22 years but many know that he also quit the party twice.
Since the last few years especially, Mahathir’s contempt for Umno is widely known and may have helped Pakatan win some votes in the May general elections which gave his coalition victory. His stance hasn’t changed and has in recent days made clear again what he thinks of Umno.
Yet despite all this, Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa saw it fit to invite Mahathir and his Pribumi Bersatu brigade back into Umno!
Not surprisingly, Datuk Seri Mukhriz, Mahathir’s son and Kedah mentri besar who was sacked from Umno in mid-2016, responded immediately to remind Annuar that he simply was too late and that the invite didn’t make any sense since Pribumi Bersatu is now a part of the federal ruling coalition, whereas Umno is now on the other side of the fence. The news report didn’t specify if Mukhriz had more unsavoury things to say about Umno.
Given the route Mahathir has taken since joining the then opposition a few years ago, not surprisingly no senior leader in Umno has expressed open agreement with Annuar but it goes to show how unsettled Umno remains since being defeated on May 9. Unsettled in the sense that it appears to be rudderless and it is not just because party president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi was recently charged with offences of money-laundering, bribery and criminal breach of trust amounting to RM114 million.
Opinions on Zahid’s party position are divided and to make it murkier, the party constitution is silent on what it can do to a member facing this situation.
But Umno Youth would like Zahid to take leave of absence, with the door kept open for a comeback if the court sets him free.
Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, one of Umno’s most senior citizens, alluded to the constitution but also spoke about convention in that a few former leaders vacated their public office the moment they faced charges in court or were embroiled in one damning controversy or another.
The ones who were taken to court included the late Datuk Seri Harun Idris (found guilty and later pardoned), Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib (freed by an Australian court but could not find his way back into office) and Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik (freed but also found the door to his former office shut and his position filled by another man). The late Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar was asked to relinquish his position as Selangor mentri besar which he held from June 1997 to August 2000 over something about his personal life but which never reached the court.
Not surprisingly Zahid doesn’t appear willing to let go of his position and many people think that his court case will distract him from focusing on an Umno that needs to dig deep to find ways to transform if it is to remain relevant.
The best avenue to decide on his position would be the party’s supreme council.
PKR may be lead party in Pakatan but its current problems do not speak well of its image
Despite being in Pakatan and having the most number of MPs among its coalition members, PKR is going through one messy period, with members arrested to be investigated for alleged bribery in the ongoing party election and other members alleging improprieties in the membership list and also the conduct of the election.
The most shocking stories are about how membership numbers more than tripled just before voting and that these new members, even if genuine, were eligible to vote. What an unflattering revelation, because this is unheard of in any party in the country.
And of course who can ignore the ruckus here and there, which further reminds us of the goings-on previously notorious within the MIC.