Umno leaves PN: Winners and losers

JULY 8 — The die is cast. Match point to Umno, Zahid Hamidi steadies to serve as a bunch of Umno MPs try to make up their minds which side of the net to stand, while the match umpire holds up play for the PM’s bathroom break.

This year Wimbledon tours Putrajaya. Results will be delayed, though.

To those away from it, here’s the biggest news in a time of many big news.

Umno withdrew from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government less than 12 hours after the coalition appointed Umno’s point man in the administration as deputy prime minister.

Ismail Sabri is on the cusp of being the shortest serving DPM if the PN government loses its parliamentary majority.

Decisions are going to emerge hard and fast in the days to come.

What does Muhyiddin Yassin — it was conspicuous Umno president Zahid referred to him as Mahiaddin in his PC early this morning — do next?

Obviously, Ismail’s promotion and Hishammuddin Hussein’s redesignation as senior minister were decided with an eye for an Umno rebuke. Though they may have thought Zahid to either lose out in the supreme council meeting last night or to be forced to a conciliatory tone seeing a rebellion is brewing inside Umno. Neither happened.

Zahid got his wish. The contents of that zoom meeting should be stuffed in the National Archives. And the supreme council members should be stuffed — sorry, personal view.

The outright denunciation of the Muhyiddin administration leaves every Umno MP — in EMCO zones, MCO zones and greater Paris — to reconsider their future.

To stay with Umno and Zahid, or to bolt to Bersatu like how PKR’s rebels did during 2020’s Sheraton Move.

The five days of parliamentary sitting slated for late July intensify in meaning.

Democrats worldwide continue to admire Malaysia, if that’s the word. Despite 15 months of lockdowns, medical hysteria and economic pain, our politicians still conjure up the strength to put partisanship and pursuit of power way above the needs to contain Covid-19.

It’s a special thing they possess.

How we got here

The Umno logo is pictured at Menara Dato’ Onn in Kuala Lumpur October 26, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
The Umno logo is pictured at Menara Dato’ Onn in Kuala Lumpur October 26, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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For those disinterested with the PN debate inside Umno the past year. Frankly, no one blames you. It's a headless chicken drama with only unintended comic relief.

Here’s the short version.

Discomforted by Perikatan Nasional’s tone for year one, Umno President Zahid Hamidi at the party’s general assembly declared an unequivocal break with Bersatu in March. Difficult to deny the connection to Zahid’s courtroom setbacks. The eagerness to prosecute him did not screech to a halt with a change of administration. The same for ex-president Najib Razak.

Unsurprisingly, the Umno men inside Muhyiddin’s government were less upset.

For them, it was easy to compare one year of Pakatan without Umno with one year of Perikatan co-opting Umno. 

Therefore, the months after the Umno general assembly went uneventful.

In the last fortnight, meetings, discussions and approaches escalated when Umno decided to postpone party polls till after the general election. With his party position secure, Zahid had space to manoeuvre.

His opponents were aware the clock was on.

Concurrent efforts at both ends, one to displace Zahid even without party polls, and another for Umno to finally quit Perikatan, sped along.

The appointments yesterday were intended to send Zahid tail-spinning.

Instead, Zahid hands a dilemma to perceived rebels.

Should I stay or should I go now

What about Ismail, new senior minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Khairy Jamaluddin, Adham Baba, Annuar Musa and the rest. Do they resign?

They must have thought about this often since the scenario has been threatened to materialise for months.

Ismail was a middling national politician till PN came along. Now, he is one of the most recognisable persons in the country. Deputy prime minister is a tragedy away from the highest office in the land. Is this the time to be his own man? Cometh the hour, cometh the man?

He risks burning his bridges with Pahang, his home state, being opposed to Najib might be doubly troubling.

Hishammuddin knows too well how things worked out for his grandfather, the man he says ended a bitter old man, Onn Jaffar. Back then, being in Umno no matter how weak the person, meant power and being out of Umno, no matter what the person’s pedigree or qualifications, meant no future. It was a time before satellites and the space race to be fair, not the least the Internet.

Khairy must remember how his father-in-law Ahmad Abdullah Badawi unsuccessfully fought Mahathir Mohamad in the 1980s but when it came to leaving Umno or not, stayed with Umno. And was rewarded later.

It is clear many have made up their minds, but it is not as clear how many will have a wait and see attitude. The percentage shot in Malaysian government is passivity and sticking to populism, no reason for the opportunistic to change spurs so late in the game in order to have a seat at the circle of honour.

While all these transpire, two more expected things occur. One, Mahathir — happy birthday, yo! —  moans about the state of affairs, recollects his glory days and lack of mistakes, and intimates maybe in this mayhem, he is the saviour.

Two, Tengku Razaleigh makes a guest appearance to the show, expresses how he too holds the party above other considerations, is blueblood and should be the compromise Umno PM that all factions inside and outside Malaysia can accept.

Personally, this column is convinced Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh are better suited to star in their own buddy-adventure movie. It would have a Nusantara audience.

To the others, good luck. Outsider tip, show some class.

What’s in a name?

“Umno is an idea, not merely a party.”

An avid party member surmised once to this columnist. The memory is rekindled by current developments. Presages a bitter end for the organisation of a national nature to unite Constitutional Malays?

It can if the majority choice is to abandon ship and form a new coalition to govern Malaysia.

Or, this stand by Zahid might rejuvenate Umno and force stragglers back to the cause of racial supremacy vindicated by a world increasingly multicultural, filled with race-mixers and agitators.

Either way, surely Malay nationalism can use a shell other than Umno. Bersatu perhaps, even Pejuang perhaps.

The best course, victory or defeat, is to go hard, and yes, risk disappearing into the night.

The worst, for the party to meander and therefore the ideology to meander to nothingness.

Unless the ideology was nothing to begin with, then Umno, Bersatu or Pejuang, they mean as much as the lack of ideas they espouse.

Anyways, the umpire is ready to call play to resume. Service, Zahid.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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