MARCH 18 — Here’s the thing. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Take Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam’s status for instance. The Umno disciplinary panel found him unfit to contest the party elections but the party elders feel he is more than qualified to remain Melaka Chief Minister.
It makes you wonder at the double standards. He is not good enough to be a senior leader within the party because his agents breached campaign rules. But he is good enough to be chief executive of a state.
Veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said as much in his Facebook status line this morning, “ WHAT?? Not fit to contest as Umno Deputy President but fit to continue as Malacca CM??”
For others, it smacks of a compromise to keep the popular Umno vice-president and his followers happy.
“This is a grand design, something like a bargain,” Datuk Kadar Shah Sulaiman said yesterday about the Umno action against Ali, adding the decision was made in fear that his supporters may walk out of the party.
Former party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had no such compunction when he cut short Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s meteoric rise and challenge to him by sacking the deputy president in 1998 on corruption and sodomy charges.
Ali’s only consolation is that he is left with his party and government posts. And not further than that although the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has selectively investigated money politics within the dominant Malay nationalist party.
The bigger question is incoming Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s willingness to take on the Herculean task of cleaning Umno’s Stygian stables.
He has said as much to clean up Umno and Dr Mahathir has also put in his two sens’ worth but the disciplinary panel’s actions have shown to be just a sop to the baying calls to rid the party of corruption.
The action yesterday to bar Ali, warn Khairy Jamaluddin and clear Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo speak volumes about Najib’s ability to be an agent of change. Particularly his statement that Ali remains the Melaka chief minister.
It shows that he and others believe that Umno is a law unto itself, scripting its succession plans and leadership in a cabal rather than allowing democracy to flourish within the party and in the country.
Then again, Malaysia has had that since independence.