Business Commentary Politics

You don’t need an IQ of 135 or more to take Umno forward

"Dear minister, land and housing/real estate are matters under a state's jurisdiction...."

Written by Aziz Hassan

November 16, 2018.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

THESE are not the best of times for Umno, as another one of its senior leaders gets hauled to court to face corruption charges and going by the way the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has been conducting investigations, no one would be surprised if a few more are forced to take the same route.

Travel back many years and track down one country after another and you are not likely to find another political party that has its immediate past president, the sitting president, a former state chief and treasurer facing multiple charges for bribery, criminal breach of trust and money-laundering.

Sure, it’s early days yet because the trial for even one of the many cases has not started and we are always reminded not to presume guilt until a trial is over but honestly, how many of us would be so optimistic as to think that someone who is facing 25 or 45 charges for alleged multiple offences would be able to escape punishment? If an accused in such a position manages to be set completely free, that will be the day when Malaysia’s Attorney-General’s Chambers should be disbanded.

Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, Umno’s president and a former home affairs minister known for his collection of and love for superbikes, has been slapped with 45 charges and despite a suggestion by Umno Youth that he should take leave of office in the interim, has refused to do so, alluding to a recent party supreme council meeting which decided in favour of his staying on, although it remains unclear how this decision was made.

Although three or four former senior leaders were asked by the leadership many years ago to do what Umno Youth had wanted Zahid to do, the Umno constitution is silent on such cases, which means Zahid can always insist on staying on.

Now former minister and Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz has suggested that any move to get Zahid to go on leave should now come from the ordinary members – the grassroots – but who amongst them has the resources and ability to mobilise such a move? The only way for this to happen is to petition a division or the party headquarters to hold an emergency assembly but go read through the party constitution and you will realise that while it provides an avenue to members, getting the numbers for the latter is an almost impossible task.

The other option is very simple actually and it all goes back to the leader himself, whether he wants to hang on and in the process doesn’t do the party’s tattered image any good or allow others who are not tainted to take the party forward with as light a baggage as possible.

The problems and the decision by the party’s elected representatives to abandon the party do have an adverse effect but so long as Umno’s foundation remains stable, there is no reason why the party should keep going downhill.

It is in this regard that the Umno leadership should take stock of the situation. They of all people should be aware of where Umno’s strength lies, instead of trying to take on the likes of PKR or the DAP in the urban, middle-class areas.

Umno is a party of the Malay heartland and it is there that the party should be focusing on after the debacle of the last general elections. Hold on to your strength or enhance that hold that you have. Now is a good time as any because PAS, one of the two parties also with decent influence in the villages, is friendly with Umno. The other, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s Pribumi Bersatu, is busy with governing at the federal level and doesn’t seem to be making serious efforts to form branches.

In fact the inside information is that Pribumi Bersatu leaders have been reminded behind closed doors of Umno’s influence among the rural Malays, despite the beating it suffered in GE14.

The minister who continues to grope in the dark…..

Recently Housing and Local Development Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin told Parliament that the government was reviewing the ownership quota by foreigners to be used as guidelines for property developers and state authorities.

Well and good but is she, as the minister for this sector, not aware that she’s transgressing into areas under a state’s jurisdiction? It is for this reason that the states have set different thresholds on the value of a property that can be bought by a foreigner. Even the quota for the number of units under a project that is allowed to be sold to foreigners differs from state to state. Most set it at no more than 10 per cent but the limit for Johor’s Forest City is 70 per cent and there’s nothing Putrajaya can do.

Talking about this development on the man-made islands just off the Johor coastline reminds us of the statement a few months ago about also a review on the properties allowed to be sold to foreigners.

There it was, a news report dated last September 6, also quoting Zuraida on the possibility of asking the Johor government to reduce the ownership quota for foreign buyers. Not surprisingly there has been no further progress on this.

The last reaction to this restriction on foreign ownership came from the Negri Sembilan Real Estate and Housing Developers Association which has asked the state government to review its regulation so as to encourage more buyers.

From a maximum limit of RM1 million for purchases by foreigners, Negri Sembilan raised it to RM2 million for properties in Seremban, Prot Dickson and Jempol and only for leasehold properties while elsewhere the limit remains at RM1 million.

The association’s contention is that firstly most properties in the state are below RM2 million while the other factor is most properties are freehold, which means that both conditions hardly can be applied anywhere in the state.




About the author


Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.