Friday, May 30, 2008

Team A, Team B: Umno’s ten-year itch

Raja Petra Kamarudin

I have said this before and I will say it again. Married men suffer from the seven-year itch; Umno suffers the ten-year itch. And every ten years Umno breaks into Team A and Team B, which invariably results in new political parties being born and which, each time, erodes Umno’s political domination slightly more. Yes, every ten years Umno breaks into two and each break weakens Umno further.

The first was in 1988 soon after the ‘1987 Challenge’ -- which resulted in Umno getting deregistered and two new parties, Umno Baru and Semangat 46, emerging in its place. The second was in 1998 when Parti Keadilan Nasional was born out of the ‘ashes’ of Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking and jailing. Both Semangat 46 and Parti Keadilan Nasional are what the critics call an Umno splinter-party (parti serpihan Umno). And all these breaks happened with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hands somehow in the pie.

Of course, earlier, around the Merdeka era, Umno suffered another split when those in the religious wing left the party to form the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party or PMIP -- which, today, is known as PAS. In that sense PAS too can be considered an Umno splinter-party. And Mahathir was not the first party President to leave the party, though it is not sure yet whether he will also be amongst those who will die outside Umno, as all the early Presidents did.

Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Hussein Onn all died outside Umno. Tun Razak Hussein died in office so it will never be known if, had he lived, he too would have left Umno and would have died outside the party.The Tunku and Hussein Onn both tried to form Umno Malaysia and when they failed they aligned themselves to Semangat 46. Onn Jaafar formed Parti Negara though it did not really go very far and eventually died a natural death. In short, every Umno President who retires without dying in office eventually joins or forms an opposition party that will oppose Umno. And they will all die and be buried without rejoining Umno. That is the fate of the past-Presidents of Umno unless they have the good fortune of dying in office.

Looking at Umno’s track record, or rather the track record of its Presidents, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has to die in office unless he too wants to retire and eventually leave Umno and die outside the party. And the only way this can happen would be if he were to die very soon, maybe before Christmas, or else he has to make sure he stays on as the party President for some time to come if he has no plans to die this year. That is the way of Umno and its past-Presidents.

The situation of Umno Baru and Mahathir is slightly different though. Umno Baru was formed by Mahathir in 1988 and he is Member Number One while his wife is Member Number Two. In that sense Umno is Mahathir’s party and the song, ‘It’s My Party’ by Chaka Khan, best describes it all:

Everybody's having a real good time

the man you're talking to is not your
she's mine.

Better chill out
hear what I'm saying before I stop the music playin'.

It's my party
I start it
I'll end it baby
it's my party
I'm upset and offended.

While I'm all alone
and the party's goin' strongit's a celebration
to better our relation.

It's my party
I start it
I'll end it
it's my party
I'm upset and offended.

Yes, they appear to have forgotten whose party Umno is. And that has upset Mahathir to no end. And his handpicked successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, appears to have forgotten this as well. Any wonder that Mahathir is upset and offended? But Mahathir is going to put right the wrong decision he made in appointing Abdullah as Number One and Najib Tun Razak as Number Two. Mahathir is going to remove Abdullah as Number One and replace him with Najib. And to ensure that Najib will not suffer the syndrome of having a mind of his own, Mahathir is going to set up a Presidential Council, which will ‘guide’ the party President, and with himself as the head of this Presidential Council.

No longer will the Umno President run the party like his personal domain. The Presidential Council will run Umno and it will decide what the President can and cannot do.Will that be the end of an independent-minded party President or will this be the beginning of Mahathir getting back control of Umno and again becoming the power behind the throne? Time will tell but chances are Abdullah’s days are numbered and Umno will see a new President and Malaysia will, in turn, see a new Prime Minister.

Mahathir, however, is not too keen on seeing Rosmah Mansor become the actual party President and Prime Minister of Malaysia, which will happen if Najib takes over as Number One. He feels Najib would have a better future if he divorces Rosmah and marries a new wife. Mahathir knows that Rosmah is going to drag Najib down. But it is not so much whether Najib is prepared to divorce Rosmah. It is more whether Rosmah is prepared to let Najib go. And why should she when she went through all that trouble of hooking him in the first place.

She did not trap Najib into marriage just to be discarded one step short of becoming the First Lady of Malaysia -- as what she mistakenly believes the wife of the Prime Minister should be called when the Federal Constitution of Malaysia places the Raja Permaisuri Agong as the First Lady and the Prime Minister’s wife as the 19th Lady.

Mahathir, with the financing of Daim, is placing Najib as the next Number One and Muhyiddin Yassin as Number Two, followed by Ali Rustam, Shafiee Afdal and Rahim Thambi Chik as the three Vice-Presidents. In the event that Muhyiddin fails to secure the required number of nominations then Ali Rustam will become Number Two while Shahidan Kassim will take one of the Number Three slots and Mukhriz will go for the Umno Youth Leader’s post.

Abdullah is not sitting quiet while all this plotting and scheming is going on though. Muhammad son of Muhammad is Abdullah’s choice of Number Two while Ezam Mohd Nor, who has just rejoined Umno, wants to be the new Umno Youth Leader. Khairy Jamaluddin will not waste his time as Youth Leader. He will go for one of the Vice-Presidents posts, which he can easily win hands down.

The Team B of Mahathir, Daim, Najib, Muhyiddin, Ali, Shafiee, Rahim, Shahidan and Mukhriz outguns Abdullah ten to one though. They can easily raise billions of Ringgit to swamp Abdullah’s meagre RM500 million that he has put together to finance the coming Battle Royale. Money versus money, Abdullah will lose. And, from the looks of it, it is going to be all about money.But Abdullah has a secret weapon to make up for this lack of money. And this secret weapon goes by the name of Ezam Mohd Nor who was paid RM2 million to return to Umno. Ezam will head the revamped Anti-Corruption Agency, which will emerge an independent commission with powers to prosecute. And his first task is to open files on Mahathir, Daim, Najib, Muhyiddin, Ali, Shafiee, Rahim, Shahidan and all those others aligned to Team B who are plotting the downfall of Team A.

Yes, many are soon going to see the inside of the Sungai Buloh Prison. Soon there will no longer be any space in the Sungai Buloh Prison for the likes of Raja Petra Kamarudin and his fellow Bloggers.

Nevertheless, while Team A and Team B prepare for battle, another contender is hovering over the horizon. And this is the Lone Ranger Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. But he is not spending billions. He is not even spending RM500 million though he has more than that to his name. He is just using his good name to appeal to the members to do the right thing for the future of Malaysia, Umno, and the Malays.Tengku Razaleigh is not prepared to spend money. Money politics or political corruption is exactly what he wants to eradicate. How, therefore, can he buy the Umno Presidency when money politics is the first thing he wants to abolish?

Instead, Tengku Razaleigh is quietly meeting the Umno members at branch level to explain to them that changes are necessary and that he is the one offering to bring about these changes.Yes, while Team A and Team B are buying their way into power, Tengku Razaleigh is moving on the reform platform. He is offering the members a reform agenda. And this reform starts with how Umno chooses its leaders to how the Judiciary, Elections Commission, Police, Parliament, the Anti-Corruption Agency, and so on, are going to function.

Is Tengku Razaleigh being idealistic? Does idealism have any place in Umno politics? Will, instead, money do all the talking? Or have the Umno members had enough of all the crap and now want a reformed Umno? Time will tell. But if Umno chooses to continue in the present rut it is in, which will eventually see it disappear into political oblivion, then either team A or Team B will win. But If Umno wants to ensure it will survive through the next general election, then Tengku Razaleigh might just make it. Time will tell.

For sure, though, if Team B wins, Umno will go from bad to worse. If Team A wins then we can just expect more of the same. Tengku Razaleigh, the Lone Ranger, offers uncertainties, although one thing is certain, and that thing is Tengku Razaleigh has big plans for Umno and Malaysia -- which will not just save Umno but most likely the country as well.

And where does Anwar Ibrahim fit into all this? Hey, today’s article is about Umno, not about PKR or Pakatan Rakyat. Sure Anwar has a role in all this. But let us talk about all that when we talk about PKR and Pakatan Rakyat. Meanwhile I will sign of here. Have a good weekend and stay tuned for more next week. Ooooo…..I just love the suspense of Malaysian politics.

No comments: