Malaysia Dateline

The zombification of Umno has begun


With or without the president of Umno, the latter has outl-lived its usefulness since 2004, when it couldn’t muster enough policy expertise and talents to put it’s super majority of 198 seats to great use.

Since then, Umno has seen nothing but the exodus of all its top figures, invariably, Dr Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim, Rafidah Aziz, Rais Yatim, Adib Adam and if rumors are to be believed Syed Hamid Albar, Nazri Aziz and invariably, Khairy Jamaluddin and Anifah Aman too.

At this rate, there won’t be any “New Turks” to take over from Umno but an Umno that is hollowed out from the very inner core.

Nevertheless, without Zahid Hamidi at the helm, who was charged on Friday for criminal breach of trust and money laundering, Umno is looking at the prospect of having a disgraced former president looking in, and a soon to be disgraced current president looking out: if Umno still has a future, and if the remaining members won’t make a beeline to leaving Umno either en masse or in phases ?

Either way, Umno is confused by its (considerable) legacy politics with the politics of litigations, which it feels can help it to survive, even out last Pakatan Harapan, since the two top leaders of the coalition are both 93 and 72 years old respectively. On both scores, Umno will find itself to be deeply and structurally mistaken.

To begin with, Umno has corrupted every single pillar of the Government Linked Investment Companies (GLICs). Be it Khazanah, or, KWSP, even if the nest egg had grown by the magnitude of few hundred per cent, some of their Chief Executive Officers resorted to using the wealth of the GLICs to help 1MDB out. This process of dipping in the proverbial left pocket to fill up the right one has tarnished Umno so badly, that all the accounts of Umno are effectively frozen.

When a party is financially illiquid, Umno would be ill disposed to believe that the party has any future left; not unless the corporate bigwigs in the party that had gained from the largess of the state is willing to bailing out.

When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad retired in October 2003, for instance, it was believed that he left at a time when Petronas then had a surplus of RM270 billion. At least this is the account of the late Barry Wain, the editor of Asian Wall Street Journal. But during the tenure of fifth Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, all the money were spent on various economic corridors, which to the surprise of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad did not amount to anything. But such a huge amount could not have just disappeared, unless some supreme members of the Umno had pocketed them first.

With Umno based on sheer rent it would be nothing short of a miracle that it can last, and last, as Najib once affirmed in December 2017 that it could, invariably, when he announced to a hall packed with Umno members, that it was even ready to “rule for a 1000 years.” As recently as last week, Najib still insisted to Financial Times that had Umno been more united, it could have survived the mammoth of a tsunami on May 9 2018.

The fact is this: Umno is finished. As and when its top leaders leave Umno at different historical points in its history, each of these departures had signalled the beginning of the end. Thus when one of its earliest founders Datuk On Jaffar left Umno soon after establishing it in 1946, the omen was there that Umno would also peddle a form of racial politics that its top guns would grow to disown. Not surprisingly, this was marked by the departure of Anwar Ibrahim first in 1999, when his version of rainbow politics had caught a chord with the Malays and Malaysians writ large.

When Tun Dr Mahathir left Umno time and again, with the final resignation in 2015, it was clear as night and day that not unless one was willing to suckle permanently on the teats of the party state——-a process that would be both humiliating and demeaning—–the spigot of Umno offered nothing meaningful except contracts, concessions, cash and connections.

With Zahid now gone, who ever that remains in the Umno Supreme Council would have to collectively shoulder the flaws and faults of Umno. To the degree they seek to reclaim all the frozen assets and accounts of Umno, their names and reputation can only blacken further. All signs do point to the end of Umno. As of now, it is a walking dead. The zombification of Umno has begun.