Tuesday 18 September 2012

‘Big surprise awaits divided Umno’ - Teoh El Sen

Loyalists are dismissing speculation that cracks are showing between Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin amid warnings of a ‘bigger tsunami’.

PETALING JAYA: Several BN leaders dismissed speculations of a rift between Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, but a former Umno-minister warned that the ruling coalition is “in for a bigger surprise” come general election.

Earlier this month, FMT reported that Umno had been put on “high alert” with the friction between the party’s top two leaders reaching a “worrying level”.

Though both leaders dismissed such talks as fabrications by their rivals, sources claimed otherwise: that allies close to both Najib and Muhyiddin were reportedly scrambling to manage the situation.

Speculations were fuelled by the recent distribution of posters calling for Muhyiddin to succeed Najib as prime minister in the former’s home state of Johor. The party’s Johor chapter had denied publishing the posters.

Further “proof” of disunity was seen in the contradicting stands on several key policies like the expansion of vernacular education and a review of the amendment to the Evidence Act (Section 114A).

There were also allegations made by the opposition that the leaked official documents on the RM1.8 billion Ampang LRT line extension project scandal involving a company allegedly linked to Najib were provided by Muhyiddin’s men to incriminate the prime minister.

Yesterday, PAS leader Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin claimed that the infighting in Umno had gotten worse, with not only Muhyiddin, but Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah all eyeing to take over Najib’s position as Umno president before the 13th general election.

He said the three Umno leaders feared that the party might disintegrate and BN would lose the coming general election if Najib continued to lead.

‘All is not well in Umno’

Commenting on this, veteran Umno leader Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzil refused to be drawn into the debate over the alleged tiff, claiming ignorance over the matter.

But he predicted that in next general election, “Umno would be in greater danger than in 2008… they are in for a big shock, a greater surprise.”

“Eventhough the mainstream media is giving such a bright picture, my own experience shows that all is not well,” he said.

Abdul Kadir said that Umno was a “very tired party” and Najib could keep harping about how members should work harder, but it won’t work.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people who have joined the party in the last few years, have joined it because that is the place for them to make money.

“This is the place to find business opportunities and so on. That is the number one criterion. Unlike in the good old days, where Umno was a place to give, not a place to ask,” he said.

“The values are gone. No one would do anything unless if they are paid. Everything moves with money,” he added.

Kadir said that the deterioration, which began around the last 10 years, was now “at its peak”.

Asked if he had anything to back his view, he replied: “This is based on personal experience. I’ve been there 56 years, I could see the changing of values. I’ve had a first-hand experience, watching things change.”

Another former Cabinet minister, Zainuddin Maidin, dismissed the alleged rift.

Before cutting the line, the former information minister and editor said: “I’m not going to comment on this nonsense thing. You all are creating something out of nothing. Nonsense… nonsene…”

Former Selangor menteri besar Mohamed Khir Toyo said that he personally knew that Najib and Muhyiddin were on good terms.

“I know them very well, and I contact them regularly; as far as I’m concerned, there is definitely no such thing as a rift, as they are working along fine together,” said the Sungai Panjang assemblyman.

“This is opposition propaganda to weaken Umno. I think they know their priorities is to win the next general election and to strengthen Umno and BN. They’ve learnt a lot since the last election, and I don’t think they’ll make the same mistakes,” he said.

An insider told FMT that Najib and Muhyiddin’s apparent contradictory statements were not as bad as reports painted them to be.

“So far, there is no indication that they are going after each other. Now, this so-called contradictory statements on the Evidence Act… Najib didn’t tell Muhyiddin what they wanted to talk about but if you look at it, seriously, they were of the same mind,” said the source.

“People were talking about it. And Najib, as a statesman, he had to put up something rational, telling people they are working on it,” he said.

The source added that Muhyiddin stating that the election date should be this year also did not signify anything.

“That is normal, people say what they want about the dates, but the final say is with Najib. You ask anybody [in BN] now, they want the election sooner, but the prime minister has to bear accountability for the results,” he said.

Jostling for seats

Meanwhile, former Umno man Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz, who joined DAP recently, said that he was not sure if there was an actual rift between the two.

“But the indication on the ground is that Najib and Muhyiddin are always at odds – Najib is showing an all inclusiveness image while Muhyiddin is trying to appear more Malay. He resonates with Umno grassroots better than Najib,” he said.

The popular blogger, however, said that there was a seriou case of jostling for seats in Umno.

“The rift is getting bigger and of course it will affect Umno’s performance. Umno will face its enemy as a house divided,” he added.

The former Pulau Manis state assemblyman and former information chief of the Pekan Umno division said that behind the scenes, Muhyiddin was “probably aligning himself to Mahathir”.

“They are trying to put up a front, but behind the scenes, they are doing the horse trading, making sure as many as their men are in the line-up… and if Najib scores less than Pak Lah [Abdullah Ahmad Badawi] did, this would be his last tenure as the Umno president,” he added.

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