Posted by Raja Petra
Monday, 17 March 2008
By Jeremy Au Yong, THE STRAITS TIMES
UNITED Malays National Organisation (Umno) heavyweight Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has written to all the party's division chiefs calling for an emergency general meeting over the disastrous election results.
The two-page letter started popping up on the Internet recently, and Tengku Razaleigh's office has confirmed that it was written by him.
But while his aides stress that the letter is simply the former finance minister expressing his concern over Umno's woes, observers say it is the first move by the political maverick in a grab for power.
They say he has always harboured hopes of becoming prime minister after a failed bid in 1987 to usurp then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's place.
After all, this could be the 70-year-old Tengku Razaleigh's last and best chance as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to step down.
Already, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, son of the former premier, has issued an open letter asking Datuk Seri Abdullah to step down.
In Tengku Razaleigh's own letter, he said he 'nearly shed tears' thinking about how Umno had fallen from holding two-thirds of parliamentary seats in 1955 to having just a simple majority.
'We should not accuse anyone for this bad performance. If we point fingers at just one leader as the source of it, then we are just absolving ourselves,' he wrote. 'We should have not allowed the leadership to make the mistake.'
Umno must find out the reason behind its recent losses, he said. 'Otherwise, at the next election, if the principles, moral and culture in BN and Umno do not change - and change radically - BN and Umno will no longer rule,' he said.
He urged party chiefs to meet to discuss the matter on May 11, the anniversary of the founding of Umno.
Whether Tengku Razaleigh, the longest-serving parliamentarian, intended so, his mass mail is likely to pile pressure on PM Abdullah.
Mr Wong Chin Huat of the electoral reform lobby group Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections feels there is little doubt Tengku Razaleigh will seize the current opportunity to make a comeback.
'He has been lying low ever since he rejoined Umno in 1996 and his party was disbanded, but he has never given up his ambition. People always see him as a dark horse who can come and pose a challenge at any time,' he said.
'He has more reformist credentials than PM Abdullah or Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. And I think he will be good for Umno,' Mr Wong said.
Tengku Razaleigh's cause is helped further by some quarters who consider him the candidate who can unite the Malays and non-Malays.
Meanwhile, the Internet is rife with speculation that Tengku Razaleigh is preparing himself to make a bid for Umno's presidency at the party's Supreme Council elections later this year.
But Mr Wong doubts if Tengku Razaleigh will make any headway.
'Given the amount of infighting in Umno, I doubt the party at large can think about the greater good and put aside personal ambitions,' he said. 'For him to make a comeback would mean Najib's dream of becoming prime minister is over. Would Najib allow him to do that?'
Separately, Bernama reported that the Johor Umno Youth yesterday proposed holding a special Umno assembly soon to discuss the differences of opinion over the party's performance at the elections.
Its chairman for special functions, Mr Suhaimi Khalid, said such differences of views on party leaders and members would only weaken the Malays.