HE was once hailed as one of the icons of UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) but, ironically, he is now planning the downfall of Malaysia’s oldest political party.
The latest fireworks came when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, rather cheekily and belatedly, revealed that Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan and several senior party leaders had informed him of their wish to leave Umno months before the current exodus of leaders.
Photos were discreetly released to the media of him meeting the Umno leaders, and to add fuel to fire, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chairman denied Mohamad’s claim that they met him to urge him to spare their party from being disbanded.
“No, they just came to see me and told me that they were going to leave Umno. They wanted my advice; that is all,” Tun Mahathir said.
But the Umno deputy president confirmed that the pictures of him and several other party leaders meeting Tun Mahathir were genuine, amid rumours of further defections to the prime minister’s party.
However, Mohamad said the pictures – which depicted him, Tanjong Karang MP Tan Sri Noh Omar, Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, and former Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor having a meal with Tun Mahathir – were taken a few months ago, after the Prime Minister’s return from the September general assembly of the United Nations in New York.
‘PLEASE DON’T DISSOLVE UMNO’
“After the United Nations general assembly, Tun said he wanted to dissolve Umno. So we met him. We asked Tun not to dissolve Umno,” clarified Mohamad. “He said he wouldn’t do it.”
The saga of the belated photographs were spread online after Sabah Umno was routed on December 12, as nine out 10 assemblymen, four out of five MPs, and the bulk of the party’s state liaison committee announced their decision to leave the opposition party. Later, six more Umno representatives were reported to have quit the party.
Tun Mahathir makes no bones of the fact that there’s no room for a corrupted Umno. Behind the grandfatherly demeanour and soft-spoken voice was ruthless determination, and age had done little to dull his wits.
“You know I used to be the Umno president?” he was quoted as saying after a slip of the tongue where he mistakenly urged voters to back his old party instead of Pakatan Harapan during the election campaign trail, correcting himself a moment later. “Now I am trying to bring down Umno.”
But, going by the voices of the men in the street from Penang to Pahang, Sabah to Selangor and Kedah to Kelantan, Umno’s current disintegration is the result of alleged abuses under Najib Razak, who is already facing a record number of criminal charges.
Prominent DAP lawmaker Lim Kit Siang, a fierce anti-Najib critic, went on record to say that the former party president’s resignation may be the only way to salvage the dying political giant.
Seizing on Najib’s attempt to defend Umno’s leadership over the exodus of lawmakers from the party, Lim, the Iskandar Puteri MP, noted that those leaving have complained that there were no efforts to reform the party since its general election defeat.
“Najib is shedding crocodile’s tears as he has single-handedly destroyed Umno by his kleptocratic rule and the monstrous 1MDB corruption and money-laundering scandal as well as the other 1MDB-like scandals in Tabung Haji, Felda, Felcra, MARA, Lim said in a statement.
“The expulsion of Najib from Umno may be the only step to save Umno from total extinction although even this step may be too late.
‘PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP NEEDED’
But Mahathir is candid, if not straightforward, to acknowledge that Umno needs principled and moral leadership in its efforts to rebuild the party. He said Umno would continue to be weak if its leaders did not have these traits.
“It will only recover if we can find leaders who believe that the real fight is the fight to hold on to our principles. The time has come to find those who still believe in Umno’s ideology, that is to champion centrist politics that will benefit Malays without neglecting the interests of other Malaysians.
“Only those who have faith in this ideology and embrace this thinking will be able to provide an authoritative leadership for a progressive Malay race and Malaysia,” he said,
He knows the exodus of more prominent UMNO politicians are on the cards in the coming weeks, certainly to Tun Mahathir’s rather mischievous behind-the-scenes promptings, and he described their action as “very sad”.
“This is politics…each has his own considerations and plans and we must respect them. There can be no coercion in any struggle and loyalty is not something we can demand from anyone,” he admitted.
“But one thing which we must have in our struggle is principles. A struggle without principles is one that is fragile and definitely not sustainable.”
For Tun Mahathir, the money-politics must end and he has vowed that he will go all out to ensure that the Pakatan Harapan administration is corruption-free. He reiterated his government and members of the Cabinet must set the best example in the fight against corruption.
Finishing Umno may not be a personal thriller but in his books, the party which ruled Malaysia for more than half-century, was non-existent as its sole aim now was to protect the disgraced Najib.
He claimed that the party he once helmed had always provided for the people but it has diverted from the objectives it was set up for. Some senior Umno members, flagging themselves as “warlords”, were blinded by loyalty and still believed that Najib did not commit any wrongdoing.
Going by Tun Mahathir’s no-nonsense books, the long-going corruption-trail at UMNO has to end, by hook or crook.