Abdullah’s dilemma: Party or country?

The Malaysian Insider spoke to several politicians and political pundits and these are their views on [Pak Lah]:

He is not on the ropes like he was a few weeks after Election 2008 with recent surveys showing a steady rise in support among Umno members for his leadership and acceptance that the poor performance of Barisan Nasional on March 8 was down to a combination of factors and not only his style of leadership.

But Abdullah is not in safe territory, yet.

His main dilemma will be: party or country?

So far he has won plaudits among segments of Malaysians for his moves to set up a Judicial Appointments Commission, reform the judiciary and strengthen the Anti-Corruption Agency. He earned kudos for expressing the government’s regret at the treatment of the judges who were sacked and suspended in 1988 and for acknowledging that the episode 20 years ago was the starting point in the downward spiral of the once-respected institution.

But many Umno members have been indifferent to his reforms so far. Some are even unnerved by talk of improved governance, the end of negotiated tenders and more space for other races and religions to flourish in Malaysia.

The sentiment on the ground is that Abdullah played into the hands of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim by agreeing to set up a Royal Commission of Enquiry into the V.K. Lingam video clip.

The commission’s fingering of Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Mansor and Dr Mahathir as main players in a scheme to fix the appointment and promotion of judges has only stirred up more disquiet over Abdullah’s reform agenda.

De facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that by recognising the problems in the judiciary and acting to bring renewal, Abdullah is sending a signal to other institutions that “the government has heard the people’s call for greater transparency and accountability, and will bring reform where it is needed. This is a historic moment for our country, and I am proud to be part of it.’’

His may not be the majority view in the party or in influential segments of the party.

Some Umno members are also unsettled by the tough talk by BN leaders like MCA’s Ong Tee Keat on the concept of Malay supremacy and the MIC’s insistence that the five Hindu Rights Action Force leaders be released from detention under the Internal Security Act. They want to see a strong Umno leader put the other component party leaders in place and drive an agenda which protects the interests of the party and Malays. They refuse to accept that Election 2008 has changed the markers in politics here.

So will Abdullah soldier on with reforms for the good of the country and risk alienating supporters in Umno? Or will he keep his eye on the mood in Umno and tailor his policies and decisions to appease this group.

Given that the branch and division elections are beginning soon, some of his supporters are telling him that he should focus on shoring up support with the party and look after the 90-odd division chiefs who were left “unemployed’’ and without any positions now that five states are in the hands of the Opposition. After all, the next general election is five years away, they reasoned. Deal with snaring the 58 nominations needed to defend the party president’s position first and then worry about regaining the support of the rest of Malaysia.

The PM should be wary of going down this path. Some 18 months into his first term in office, he opted for the party-before-country approach after realising that it was difficult to reform Umno. So he studiously avoided dealing with any controversial racial or religious issues which would spook his party men.

Full article here.


I just wrote a piece on this a couple of days back here. And again I reiterate, is there any point in Pak Lah even contemplating this issue?

He is not only the President of UMNO. If he was, then probably he could be excused for wanting to put party interests above all else. Although I would find it hardpressed to say that it would be his only priority.

No. He is NOT only the President of UMNO. He is the Chairman of Barisan Nasional, the ruling government today. I don’t want to talk about the chances of Pakatan Rakyat taking this role away from them in this post, because as it stands now, it is BN that forms the Federal Government.

And as Chairman of BN, of the ruling government, Pak Lah is also the Prime Minister of Malaysia. He is the head of the Administrative of Malaysia.

His first priority should have been, should be, and should always be, the rakyat. Me and you. Us. The people.

There shouldn’t even be a shadow of a doubt on whether he should focus of party interests. Because if UMNO members are forcing Pak Lah to choose, then it can only mean one thing: UMNO never had the people’s interests at heart.

Do they realise what political parties are about, at all? Do these UMNO members who are forcing Pak Lah to choose them over the rakyat know at all that UMNO’s whole purpose of existence is for the rakyat? Or are they so happy under their tempurung, that they never knew about this part of their job?

If Pak Lah is smart, he would know that he cannot ignore what the people want. He has made this mistake 4 years ago. Does he really think he can afford to make the same mistake again? But then again, his “smartness” leaves much to desire. His willingness, if I may, to succumb to UMNO’s pressure also only goes on to prove that Pak Lah has put his own desires and wishes above the public.

I’ve been saying this over and over again, UMNO has to wake up. Pak Lah has to wake up. All these “idiots” have to wake up, and step away from their comfort zones. Only the rakyat and the country should matter the most. Without the rakyat, without the country, there can be no UMNO.


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