DURING the week from 8 to 14 Nov, the ongoing tussle in Wanita Umno, the question of a non-Malay becoming prime minister, and concerns over money politics in Umno received extensive coverage in the Malay press.
On 10 Nov, Wanita Umno deputy chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil asked current chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz to reconsider the timing of the transition plan for the wing and move it to March instead of June 2009.
In a Berita Harian report titled Rafidah diminta pertimbang selaras peralihan kuasa, Shahrizat said the suggestion was made after considering the latest developments in Umno. Shahrizat added that she would bring up the suggestion to the Wanita exco meeting later that day.
On 11 Nov, Berita Harian reported the result of the Wanita exco meeting. In Keputusan demi perpaduan, kekuatan Umno: Rafidah, the Wanita chief announced in a press conference that the power transition plan in June 2009 will remain, while the chief and deputy posts will not be contested in the party polls next March.
But on 12 Nov, Utusan Malaysia frontpaged the tussle brewing in the Wanita wing. Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim, contender for the post of Wanita deputy chief, refuses to back down from contesting.
In Pelan Rafidah ditolak, Kamilia said she purposely boycotted the Umno wing’s exco meeting on 11 Nov because she disagreed with the power transition plan suggested by Rafidah.
“I would like to state again that I disagree with and would not recognise the transition plan because it is not part of the party’s practice,” she said.
In another report on the same day, Rafidah menaruh harapan kembali ke Kabinet?, former Wanita chief Tan Sri Aishah Ghani said she does not see any concrete reason for delaying the transition, unless Rafidah is hoping to get back into cabinet.
“During Pak Lah (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi)’s era, Rafidah was dropped from cabinet. Who knows, when Datuk Seri Najib Razak takes over, maybe she’ll be back in,” Aishah said.
On the same day, Berita Harian reported Shahrizat as saying she wants to stick to her initial suggestion to standardise the transition plan with the parent party’s polls in March.
In its report, Shahrizat mahu pelan diselaras, the Wanita deputy chief, who has received 73 nominations for the wing’s top post, said sticking to Rafidah’s plan would mean a loss to Wanita’s leadership.
“If we continue with the plan, it would mean the Umno Wanita chief’s post is filled for only three months after the polls,” she said.
“After that, the post will be filled by an acting chief for three years, while the deputy chief’s post will be vacant. This could be a loss to the Wanita Umno leadership in today’s political scenario,” Shahrizat said.
Dr M’s statement
On 13 Nov, Utusan Malaysia frontpaged a report on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad slamming certain groups for questioning the need for a non-Malay prime minister so that the country wouldn’t be seen as exercising racism.
In Jawatan PM atas sokongan majoriti, he said raising such a question in itself contained a racist element. “The question of whether or not the prime minister is a Malay should not arise. If that person is accepted by the Malaysian people, then he’s eligible to be prime minister,” he said after delivering his keynote address at the Perdana Discourse Series on Bangsa Malaysia.
The former prime minister said the provisions in the constitution allow for any citizen, regardless of race, to be prime minister. There is no condition that the country must be led by a Malay.
“But whoever wants to be PM must be the leader of the majority party, so don’t ask whether he’s a Malay, Chinese or Indian,” Mahathir said.
He added that race-based parties are still relevant to ensure national stability.
On 14 Nov, Sinar Harian reported Negeri Sembilan PAS Commissioner Zulkifly Mohamad Omar as saying that Mahathir’s comments on non-Malays becoming PM was a political gimmick.
In Hanya gimik politik: PAS, Zulkifly said the statement might have been geared to regain the Malays’ confidence in Umno, and could possibly have a hidden agenda.
In another report in Sinar Harian on the same day, Kenyataan Tun amaran kepada Melayu, Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Mahathir’s statement is a warning to the Malays.
He called upon the Malays to unite with one voice so that they are strong enough to lead this multiracial country.
He also said Mahathir’s statement should not be taken lightly because of late, the Malays are openly clashing and are not united in facing certain issues that concern their interests.
“If this continues, it’s not impossible that we will see other races becoming the country’s leaders. We must unite,” Muhyiddin warned.
Utusan Malaysia on 8 Nov reported on the Umno disciplinary board’s readiness to take a look at the United States’ presidential campaign-funding methods to evaluate the effectiveness in curbing money politics in the party.
In Politik wang: Lembaga Disiplin sedia kaji dana Presiden AS, its chairperson Tengku Tan Sri Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail said, “I’m not sure on the method because we haven’t done any research, but if it’s beneficial in curbing money politics, we could try it.”
He said this when asked to comment on proposals to emulate the fund management method used in the US presidential election to curb lobbying and money politics.
Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen, who said the disciplinary panel has received 900 complaints on money politics so far, also urged Umno leaders to act now and curb money politics, or else see the party destroyed.
Stop questioning Malay rights
In an Utusan Malaysia interview with Zulkiflee Bakar on 8 Nov, Pasir Mas MP Datuk Ibrahim Ali expressed his discontent towards several parties that constantly questioned Malay rights.
In Jangan bermain api, Ibrahim said the matter, if not contained, could result in a repeat of the 13 May 1969 tragedy.
“Of course we don’t want the dark incident to repeat itself, but I’m talking about the reality because of the overzealous attempts to questions issues that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution,” he said.
“These include matters such as Islam as the official religion, the position of the Malay language, the Rulers’ supremacy, Malay rights and the rights of other races. Such constant questioning may invite danger.”