Friday, February 26, 2016

Question remains if Muhyiddin’s suspension makes Umno stronger

Datuk Seri Najib Razak has cemented his grip on Umno after his estranged deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is suspended, but it remains to be seen whether this will help the Malay party revive flagging public support. Analysts said the Umno Supreme Council's move to sanction Muhyiddin was a sign that Najib had managed to rally party top leaders to his side despite being under siege by allegations of graft. What is unclear is whether its more than three million ordinary members will accept the council's decision, given how Muhyiddin has lately become a poster boy for a slow-brewing rebellion by some rank-and-file members against Najib. The uprising, led by a group calling itself Coalition of Branch Chiefs Malaysia (GKCM), is steadily building pressure on the party to oust Najib by way of party polls. "It all depends on the justification for his suspension," said Datuk Seri Prof Dr Mohamad Mustafa Ishak of the National Professors' Council (MPN). "Initially, there will be some dissatisfaction. But if the reasons are concrete and reasonable, they will accept it," said Mustafa, who heads MPN's politics, security and internal relations cluster. Some Umno Supreme Council members, who supported the suspension, were upbeat when asked about its impact on the grassroots. "It's a question of whether we want the party to be torn by internal conflict or to be united to face future challenges," said Supreme Council member Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (pic). Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa echoed this, saying that the decision would strengthen the party as it prepared to face the 14th general election. GKCM leader Kamarul Azman Habibur Rahman, however, rejected this rationale and said the suspension showed that Umno was now beyond salvation. "It means that there is no more democracy in Umno and the right to express your views. The decision was a self-serving one for the Supreme Council," said Kamarul Azman, a branch chief in the Teluk Kemang division in Negri Sembilan. GKCM has been trying to oust Najib due to his scandal-tainted image after he was at the centre of graft allegations involving debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the RM2.6 billion political donation fiasco. What the Supreme Council failed to see, Kamarul Azman (pic) said, was that the decision ran counter to some of the values that voters these days place a premium on, such as the right to express views and a leader's credibility. This point was echoed by another analyst, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who said that at its core, the decision was about which side Umno was on. It was about whether Umno sided with a president – who had lost credibility due to 1MDB and RM2.6 billion donation scandals – or whether the party would back the deputy president who questioned and criticised the president's role in those issues. "There is something very wrong in Umno when even the top leaders do not question how their president can get RM2.6 billion in political donations that was meant for the party into his personal accounts. "And the guy who questions him is the guy who gets suspended," said Wan Saiful, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs executive director. Although the Attorney-General's Chambers had decided not to press charges against Najib due to insufficient evidence, this had been met with widespread disbelief. Anti-graft campaigners and opposition politicians had also argued that Najib was still liable.  While Najib looked secure at Umno's helm, it was only self-survival, said GKCM's Kamarul Azman. "This is a decision that will destroy the party's image among ordinary members and the Malay community." – February 27, 2016.]]>

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