Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy
KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 – Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has fired a broadside against Umno president Abdullah Ahmad Badawi , writing a letter to all 193 party division chiefs calling for a special meeting to discuss the reverses suffered at the polls.
Ku Li, as Razaleigh is known in the party, is viewed by some of Abdullah’s critics as someone who can unite the party and reach out to Chinese and Indians.
His letter will add further pressure on Abdullah who is being blamed for Barisan Nasional’s lacklustre performance in Election 2008, and could cause a split in a party that is struggling to come to terms with the loss of 5 states.
His letter reached the division heads yesterday and was measured in its tone. The elder statesman of Umno said that the recent election results was not only surprising, but frightening. He wrote: “In the first general election in 1955, Umno controlled two-thirds seats in Parliament. Today, we are a minority voice in Parliament. At the federal level, Umno is no longer a strong political power. I nearly shed tears thinking about this scenario.
“We should not point fingers at anyone and absolve ourselves. In fact, we should have not allowed the leadership to make the mistake before it happened.‘’
Ku Li urged party members to call a meeting on May 11 to discuss the election results and the future of Malays.
“I’m suggesting this date because it is the anniversary of (the founding of) Umno,” he wrote.
“We must find out why Chinese and Indian voters rejected MCA and MIC candidates. Why were incumbent Umno candidates defeated by PKR and PAS candidates? We must find out why… Otherwise at the next election, if we don’t change our policies, culture and morale in BN and Umno and change radically, BN and Umno will not rule again.
“PKR-DAP-PAS will form the federal government, the PM may be from PKR and the DPM may be from the DAP… Umno will not be able to represent the voice of Malays again, ‘’ he wrote.
His letter sketched the worst case scenario for Umno, appealing to the party’s sense of insecurity over its place in Malaysian politics.
His letter and move to get a special assembly organised will scuttle efforts by the Umno leadership to put off any meeting till the end of the year.
It will also spark a debate within the low reaches of Umno, where there is confusion over the election results. It is difficult for Abdullah to say no to a demand from the ground to be heard.
Razaleigh has challenged the top party leadership before. In 1987, he challenged Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the leadership and lost by 43 votes. He then formed a rival faction of Umno, splitting the party to form Semangat 46, which helped PAS to win control of Kelantan, Ku Li’s home state.