Saturday, April 25, 2009

Does Umno care what Malaysians think?

APRIL 24 — Come on Malaysia, stop feigning surprise and indignation.

Umno has always had a different value system from the rest of the country.

This is a party which has celebrated chauvinists, defended the corrupt and provided refuge for individuals with question marks draped over themselves.

So, why should it surprise Malaysians that Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor (V K Lingam video clip fame) was re-appointed as the secretary-general of the ruling party and Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ali Rustam (corruption) and Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (Approved Permits) were appointed to the supreme council by Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Their appointments merely confirm what many suspected — the bar is much lower for Umno. It also suggests that despite all the flowery talk of change, the new prime minister cannot toss out realpolitik considerations when making decisions on the country or party.

There was a major spin campaign by the Najib camp after he unveiled his Cabinet line-up several weeks ago.

They noted how several individuals touched by scandal were dropped from the line-up of ministers and how this signaled a desire by the PM to start with a clean slate.

Much of that spiel was puff and fluff.

More than eighty per cent of those appointed ministers were old faces and a sprinkling of them had dodgy records.

The fact is that Najib had to fall in line and follow the old BN formula of picking the Cabinet.

He had to reward component parties and loyalists, and make sure all states had representatives as ministers.

That is why the slim line Cabinet was jettisoned for a bloated one.

Similar considerations were at play today when he appointed Ku Nan, Ali and Rafidah.

Najib wants to be inclusive and cast his dragnet as wide as possible. He wanted Tengku Adnan Mansor because this chap is an operator, a true party warlord who can organise the troops and get his hands dirty if the need arises. He is also fiercely loyal to the party president.

So what if the Putrajaya MP was censured by the Royal Commission on the VK Lingam video clip for being one of the main actors who fixed the appointment and promotion of judges.

So what if the commission recommended that authorities investigate him and others for a slew of offences?

The commission in its report last year said that “having regard to the totality of the evidence and for the reasons stated, we are of the view that there was, conceivably, an insidious movement by Lingam with the covert assistance of his close friends, Vincent Tan and Tengku Adnan

Tengku Mansor, to involve themselves actively in the appointment of judges, in particular, the appointment of Tun Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim as the Chief Judge of Malaya and subsequently as Court of Appeal president.’’

The Attorney-General has since said that no further action will be taken against some of the individuals implicated.

But truth be told, Ku Nan’s involvement in this sorry episode was never a problem with Umno members.

They could not understand what the fuss of judge fixing was all about.

Indeed, they were upset that the Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration made public the commission’s report.

In Ali’s case, he was probably co-opted into the supreme council to assuage his supporters who remain upset that he was barred from contesting the number two spot in the party after being found guilty of money politics by the Umno Disciplinary Board.

The Chief Minister who upset the Chinese community with some pointed barbs has played the role of loyal party man since being prevented from taking part in the party polls.

While chief ministers and mentris besar are usually appointed to the supreme council, if Najib wanted to make a statement about the importance integrity in Umno he could have overlooked Ali.


Rafidah’s inclusion is not surprising.

Najib wants to close ranks in Wanita Umno and send a message that winners don’t gain everything, and losers don’t lose everything.

Despite being backed by Najib’s supporters, the former Minister of International Trade and Industry was thumped by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil for the top position in the women’s wing.

She was one of the Umno officials who played a critical role in convincing Abdullah that he would not be able to obtain 58 nominations from the divisions to defend the party president’s position.

Rafidah was a minister in Abdullah’s first term as PM but had to live with a big cloud over her head after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad questioned her over the distribution of Approved Permits.

She denied any wrongdoing but the former prime minister has never retracted his allegations that there was abuse in the AP scheme. More recently, the Opposition has alleged that APs were given to a company owned by her relatives.

Still, these allegations and question marks over her character may not matter much in Umno. So there is little downside for Najib to have appointed her to the supreme council.

What lesson should Malaysians take from this exercise?

Simple, that there is one set of standard for the men and women of Umno and a higher set for

the rest of the country.

It has been that way for a long time.

Does the party care what the rest of the country thinks? Apparently not.

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