Malaysia Dateline

The exodus of Umno and the expectations

As this is written, two of the biggest names in Umno have left the party. There is no telling which party they will join, or, will they remain independent at least until after the PKR party election that would be held between September 22-October 22.

Potentially, they might join Pakatan Harapan only after the much anticipated electoral victory of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Datuk Seri Anifah Aman were the former Minister of Trade and Industry and Foreign Minister respectively.

The former hailed from Kelantan, while the latter from Sabah.

Their departures from Umno on September 18 and 19 respectively have led pundits and analysts to wonder if more disgruntled members of Umno will leave the grand old Malay party.

Although Umno will hold another party congress next month, the leadership of Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi has been less than inspiring, despite being the president of Umno.

A day prior to the resignation of Mustapa, a man widely regarded as a talented economist, with a first class NBA degree from University of Melbourne, the Vice President of Umno Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin claimed that Umno will undertake the politics of “Islah” based on restructuring and revival.

Clearly this is not happening, as one of the reasons cited by Mustapa, better known as Tok Pa, for his resignation was the total lack of any efforts and committment to change the party.

A sign of that happened in July 2018, as the much delayed Umno general election, returned some old and odd faces into the Umno Supreme Council, among whom included Papa Gomo, a known bankrupt who has lost his legal suit against Anwar.

On September 19, words were rife—–nor were they denied by Bung Mokhtar the MP of Kinabatangan—that there was a secret list of 18 MPs who have confirmed their intention to leave Umno.

The names of Tok Pa and Datuk Seri Anifah Aman were included in the list of 18, according to Bung Mokhtar, when speaking to Malaysia Kini.

Meanwhile, in light of the double resignations first, the likes of South China Morning Post and, both of which are online news portal that cater to more than 10 million Asian readership in English a day, that have begun speculating on a “mass exodus,” from Umno.

Then immediate likelihood of a “mass exodus,” in more ways than one is affected by the intensity of the investigation of former Prime Minister Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Rosmah Mansor.

So far twenty charges on criminal breach of trust and anti money laundering acts have been slapped on Najib, with another six slapped against Rosmah.

If this effort is amplified, then those MPs in Umno who have been tainted by the money that comes from the duo would be at risk of being contaminated by them too.

By opting to leave Umno sooner, rather than later, an earlier resignation would provide them with some degree of protection from Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, whose authority at this stage, is still widely respected in the Cabinet and Malaysia.

Any further delay would lead to the return of Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime Minister in Waiting, who would want to have a say on who can be accepted or rejected by Pakatan Harapan.

What is interesting is the background of some of these MPs. Tok Pa, for instance, has long been seen as the prodigy of Tun Daim Zainuddin.

Speculation is also rife that his resignation from Umno may signal the admission of Tun Dr Mahathir and Tun Daim Zainuddin that the duo may need an able hand like him to help steer the economy in the better direction. This would of course require a cabinet reshuffle or some form of cabinet appointment.

But as mentioned earlier, the key determinant of how fast and how large the exodus in Umno may happen would be contingent on the legal investigation of Najib and Rosmah, and others who were in on the 1MDB scams and many mini 1MDBs through out the whole system.

Umno will fall precisely also due to its partnership with Pas, which has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. Pas did not help Umno win any parliamentary seats in the 14th general election.

If anything, the popular votes of Umno fell to a negligible 33 per cent. Clearly both parties are firing blanks, with Pas alone losing 90,000 members in recent months. Malaysians of all persuasions want a party that can handle the economy and various ministries well.

Members of Parliament or Ministers who can’t manage such expectations will find themselves lose in a quick sand of popular revolt.

Meanwhile, come what may, the most serious problem that is confronting Umno and Barisan National (BN) is the gradual, if not total, collapse of any confidence.