Zahid Hamidi, the former Deputy Prime minister, was the only serious contender for the post of Umno-Baru president, until a businessman-and-blogger, Rahmat Azim Abdul Aziz, who tweets under the handle @MatUmno, challenged him. On 16 June, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, announced his candidacy in the Umno-Baru polls.
What about another presidential hopeful, the former Umno-Baru Youth leader. Younger Umno-Baru members, claim that Khairy Jamaluddin, the former Youth and Sports Minister, has a good chance to win, and would make a more viable presidential candidate.
Would you have faith in their “leadership”?
Let us focus on the three whom we know.
If Umno-Baru was a young maiden, looking for a suitor, do you think she should entertain any of these: the “ever dependable” Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the polo-playing pin-up boy, Khairy Jamaluddin, or the man of few English words, Zahid Hamidi?
The 81-year-old Tengku Razaleigh often known as Ku Li, is the MP for Gua Musang and is parliament’s longest-serving MP. He once served in Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first premiership, as its finance minister.
Ku Li’s unsuccessful challenge against Dr Mahathir for the Umno presidency, in 1987, led to this sequence of events “the suspension and eventual removal of the Lord President of the Supreme Court, Salleh Abas, the formation of Umno-Baru, and the birth of a new party, founded by Ku Li, called Semangat 46.
When Ku Li’s party failed to win any support from the public, he returned to Umno-Baru.
Despite allegations of corruption, vote rigging and other wrong doings, Ku Li has remained steadfastly loyal to Umno-Baru and refused to leave the party. His oft repeated phrase was to tell the public not to worry, because he would “change the party from the inside”. That too was a lot of hot air.
Ku Li can be trusted to do nothing of any importance. Would his leadership be able to change the direction of Umno-Baru, after PRU-14? Some of the Umno-Baru youth want new ideas and an inspiring leader, not a recycled dinosaur.
At the other end of the spectrum is the relatively youthful Khairy Jamaluddin, affectionately called KJ, who is a wannabe Brigadier General of the Territorial Army and the idol of polo fans.
KJ was seen in a video clip with disgraced former PM, Najib Abdul Razak, in an empty mamak stall, a few days before GE-14. Mamak stalls are never empty unless the food is truly abominable. This showed that his praise of Najib, lacked judgement and was pure propaganda. Umno-Baru’s loss, made him the laughing stock of the rakyat.
His critics said that an Oxford man, should have known that being a politician was not compatible with being a celebrity pin-up boy. He should choose his profession and focus, because his party will not thrive if it is filled with celebrity seeking politicians.
Zahid is a divisive figure, whose dislike of the press, like most Umno-Baru politicians, is legendary.
A reporter’s job is to probe, ask questions and scrutinise, but Zahid would threaten members of the press who demanded answers. He would say that he was watching them and would close down their publications. It was not unusual for Umno-Baru ministers to ban some newspaper journalists from their press conference or briefings.
Zahid’s infamy is his close ties with the Malay criminal underworld, the Tiga Line gangsters, whom he once said, were his friends. His defence of the controversial extremist preacher, Zamihan Zin was shocking. His inability to converse intelligently, in English, on the international scene is embarrassing. His time at the Home Ministry, when he was in charge of the police, was bad. With rising crime, his response to the public was that it was only their perception.
Same old, tired faces
Umno-Baru appears to be short of ideas and lacks capable men or women to lead the party.
The top echelons appear to want to keep the out-dated race-based policies. Patronage is rampant and meritocracy is non-existent. They ignore corruption at all levels in the party.
The grassroots supporters need to impress upon the top, that they want major changes in Umno-Baru. or perhaps install fresh leaders, who will try to end money politics, which has been the lifeline and lifeblood of Umno-Baru for decades. Will they succeed?
If Umno-Baru wants to choose its president from the same pot of recycled ministers, then expect more of the “same-old, same-old” from them.
The internal mechanism of “The Three Stooges” films, is based on the simple premise that all of them are stupid, but some are more stupid than others. It might be better to call upon Moe, Larry or Curly to lead Umno-Baru.