Commentary Politics

Zahid beat around the bush to leave Umno still without clarity

Reactions to Zahid's rant at the last supreme council meeting from the usual Umno voices have been mainly negative.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

February 7, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

AN odd sounding enticement this one but then again, considering the main actors in the cast, not so surprising after all because it smacks of personal interests from way, way up.

Since he became prime minister the second time around after the May 2018 general elections, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has met with some senior Umno leaders a few times. Unless you are in the inner circle, you wouldn’t know for sure who wanted to see who but each time they met, Mahathir’s statement on what transpired was completely different from the claims by the Umno people but the end is always the same – it’s Mahathir who had the last say, leaving the Umno leaders with tails behind their backs.

But just as we thought things had quietened down and that Mahathir was busy administering the country, came this revelation about yet another session between the two parties, a few  days ahead of the Umno supreme council meeting last Monday.

A transcript of the brief by Umno president Zahid Hamidi to the council members that was leaked out showed it to be one that beat around the bush when a direct, simple language would have done the job better. Remember when Zahid became the butt of jokes after he was seen struggling to deliver his speech in English at the United Nations general assembly but the Umno meeting transcript shows that his Bahasa Malaysia isn’t that much better…..

Ironically, Zahid spoke as if Najib is the only one facing charges in court

Further scrutiny leads to questions regarding the salient points in the deal, one of which implies that agreeing to support Mahathir will be favourable to former party president Najib Razak who is facing multiple charges in court for corruption and other improprieties. Ironic that this should come from a Zahid who himself is facing several charges also on corruption, gratification and criminal breach of trust, which prompted someone at Umno headquarters to remark that he should have taken a look in the mirror.

The only way Najib can be helped is if charges against him are dropped but the sheer number of charges he faces would make any about-turn by the prosecutors the biggest farce in Malaysian legal history. The two cases currently already on trial have also gone too far for a U-turn to be accepted by the public with goodwill and without protestations. Of course anything decided by Man is never irreversible but it’s highly unlikely the government will agree to be so sympathetic to Najib. The worst damage of all would be the political ramifications for the Pakatan Harapan government and this is something it will not want to happen.  

Also alluded to by Zahid was the commitment expressed by PAS to support Mahathir and allow him to serve the full term as PM7, which also means the party will not support the plan for Anwar Ibrahim to take over from Mahathir mid-term, as earlier agreed to by the Pakatan Harapan presidential council. That, it must always be remembered, is not something cast in steel.

Zahid also spoke about knowing for sure that someone, if in a position of power, was ready to deregister Umno. Those at the meeting knew he was referring to Anwar.

This is always possible, the way the then Narisan Nasional government did to others, but a decision like this can always be challenged in court and once it goes to court, it’s out of the hands of the Registrar of Societies.

Organisations, companies and individuals feel uneasy about possible action by the RoS or the Registrar of Companies only because they’ve got skeletons in the closet and if Umno has never broken the rules, there is no reason it should feel jittery over the possibility of a deregistration.

Anwar insists he has majority support but from where?

The over-riding factor concerns the much talked about transition of power from Mahathir to Anwar, agreed by commentators in and out of the country as an unwelcomed distraction that is affecting negatively Malaysia’s economic performance and seen to be politically divisive.

Anwar has just insisted that he has the numbers to support his nomination in Parliament and thus has no worries, even if he has to wait six months longer than a May deadline, which it must be said again is not something Pakatan must respect and honour. But with his own PKR split almost right in the middle amongst those in the leadership groups in the Youth, Wanita (women) and main component of the party, it’s tough to agree with his claim.

Add to this, surely Anwar cannot be absolutely certain that Pakatan coalition members — Mahathir’s Pribumi Bersatu and Mat Sabu’s Amanah — will be firmly behind him. For whatever reason, the Chinese-majority DAP seems to be his best trump card but unless Umno and PAS are also with him, one just cannot see where the MPs said to be for him are coming from.

Given this situation, it also defies logic to think that Mahathir’s position as PM and head of the coalition is under threat from Anwar and if he is not under threat, why should Mahathir suddenly warm up to Umno, a party he has been slaying publicly without reservations since four or five years ago?

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About the author

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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.