SOME of the most heated discussions in the Malay dailies in the week of 11 to 18 Sept 2008 revolved around 16 Sept and the tussle for power within Umno.
On 11 Sept, the dailies reported on the dramatic flight to Taiwan of 49 Barisan Nasional (BN) Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Backbencher’s Club (BNBBC), to study the agricultural sector there on an eight-day tour.
In Rombongan BNBBC Dapat Ilmu Pertanian on 11 Sept, Sinar Harian quoted BNBBC deputy chairperson Datuk Bung Moktar Radin as saying: “We have learnt many things about agriculture and animal farming in Taiwan for the nation’s benefit.”
On the same day, the daily also ran 16 September Akan Jadi Satu Realiti: Anwar, which quoted opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as saying he was prepared to head to Taiwan himself to meet and discuss with the MPs who are said to be ready to join the Pakatan Rakyat.
“I will ‘fly’ there if needed, if push comes to shove,” Anwar was reported to have said. But instead, Anwar tasked five Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) members with meeting the MPs.
As 16 Sept drew closer, more column space was used to refute or question Anwar’s statement that the Pakatan Rakyat was ready to topple the BN and form a new government.
In Menangani Debaran 16 September in Sinar Harian’s 15 Sept edition, Abdul Aziz Bari did not feel that the actual date of 16 Sept was of particular significance.
“For me, this is because the two sides appear to be getting either stronger or weaker. The BN appears to be fighting tooth-and-nail to retain power, to the point that they have to send 49 MPs to Taiwan. Whether expenses are handled personally or paid for, the BN’s resources would surely be further depleted.
“The same goes for the Pakatan Rakyat. Their credibility will be reduced if all they have been clamouring about does not take place, even if they can say that the BN is doing all it can to delay their plans.”
Abdul Aziz then questioned Umno’s stance on the immorality of party crossovers, saying that the party had encouraged it before for its own benefit.
He also observed that should a new government be formed, “Malays need not worry and imagine the worst, because their position cannot be so easily eroded without the Council of Rulers’ agreement.
“Of course, Umno will make all sorts of accusations and speculations, but that is their right, and we should give them the chance to dream with their speculations and political analyses.”
Berita Harian on 17 Sept published Ghairah Anwar Cetus Ketidaktentuan by Kalimullah Hassan, which asserted that Anwar’s antics have “slowly but surely caused foreign investors to leave the market, including Bursa Malaysia, because of the uncertainties.”
Referring to the Pakatan Rakyat’s bid to take over government, Kalimullah wrote: “First [Anwar] said June, then July, then no later than 16 September. Each time he fails to fulfill a date, he will provide a new one with 1,001 excuses. And what happens because of this?
“The best that Anwar can do — if his claims about the BN MPs being ready to join him are true — is to end these uncertainties, make an announcement, and form a new government,” Kalimullah concluded.
Uncertainties in Umno
While Anwar and the Pakatan Rakyat mount a bid to take over government, Umno continues to face internal uncertainties, partly due to the December party elections.
In Sinar Harian on 11 Sept, A Aziz Deraman in Umno Gelabah Kerana Tsunami wrote: “Who would have guessed the party’s strength would be split because of coveting the president’s post?
“The Malaysian political situation after the 2008 general election has been shaky… [Even though] the BN won and continues to govern, it is seen to be weak. A statesperson such as Tun Dr Mahathir has come out and unequivocally stated that the BN’s quagmire can be resolved if the prime minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, relinquishes his posts as head of government and party president.
“The people’s trust in Umno as the principal party [in the BN] is fading. Umno is the leader of the BN component parties. If the leader is no longer trusted, what would the new political scenario be like? If Umno is weak, how can BN be strong?” Aziz questioned.
Utusan Malaysia in its editorial on 18 Sept titled Usah Bangkitkan Lagi Soal Peralihan Kuasa said that the power transfer between Abdullah and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak should not be questioned any further.
The editorial said: “Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi must be given the space to complete all that he set out to do so that he will not be questioned by the people later. Firm support must be given to the prime minister to ensure that he is not alone in successfully completing these objectives.”
The editorial argued that with the current unstable political environment, and with the opposition’s attempts to take control of federal government, support for Umno, particularly from within, must not waver.
“Because the two leaders are committed to the power transition plans, including holding no contests at the party elections this December, it is therefore the grassroots’ responsibility not to question the power transition plans any further.”