Friday, March 28, 2008

Updates on UMNO

Umno supreme council endorses Ahmad as MB, sets December polls date

The Umno supreme council has agreed to endorse Datuk Ahmad Said's palace appointment as Terengganu Mentri Besar, ending the crisis which had set up a confrontation with the state palace. The meeting, which ended at 7.30pm, also shot down a proposal to defer party elections to next year by agreeing to a Dec 16-20 date, coinciding with the party's annual general assembly. Party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who chaired the meeting, made the announcement at a Press conference.

Idris, who also took part in the meeting, had been directed to accept the endorsement, he said.The priority now was for Ahmad to put togther a State Exco line-up as soon as possible, Abdullah said, denying that decision to endorse Ahmad "humiliated" him and the party.On Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's proposal to hold a party extraordinary general meeting on May 11, Abdullah said the issue did not come up for discussion.However, Razaleigh's challenge for the Umno presidency was discussed. "I'm willing to accept any challenges to the presidency," Abdullah said.

Party elections will begin with branch and divisional polls beginning July 17.The meeting lasted four and a half hours after starting at 3pm. This is the first supreme council meeting after the March 8 polls debacle where the party lost control of Kedah, Perak and Selangor and saw the defeat of several stalwarts. Tension is uneasy outside the meeting room where as many as 100 members are milling about.Before the meeting, NST reporters covering the meeting witnessed supreme council members walking in silently after 2pm. No one offered a remark to the Press. Just before 3pm, Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak appeared on the 38th floor where the supreme council is meeting, smiling and acknowledging the presence of the media representatives. The two also walked into the meeting room without saying anything.Meanwhile, while the supreme council commenced, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah held a meeting of his own with representatives from 51 Umno divisions at his palatial home here off Jalan Tun Razak. Among those who attended were former Information Minister Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, Datuk Dr Ibrahim Saad and Datuk Malek Hanafiah.

According to an aide, Tengku Razaleigh indicated that he will give a Press conference once he is briefed on what transpired in the supreme council meeting. The aide also said during the meeting with the 51 representatives, Tengku Razaleigh expressed his concern with the state of affairs in the party and the country, and that was why he proposed the May 11 Umno EGM.In return, the representatives expressed their support for Tengku Razaleigh's push for the EGM, the aide said.

In hindsight, the 52-member Umno supreme council members are holding what could be their most challenging meeting. Veteran journalists who covered previous meetings over the years anticipate marathon deliberations that may last into the night.

The meeting had discussed these crucial issues:

:: Umno’s defeat in three states, their failure to recapture Kelantan and the loss of several stalwarts in what used to be party strongholds;

:: The call to postpone to the August party elections to next year although several supreme council members disagreed; and,

:: The fate of Datuk Ahmad Said who accepted the palace appointment to be Terengganu Menteri Besar that clashed against the party’s wish that Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh be re-appointed to the post.

There had been high-tension meetings before since the 1980s. Here are samples:

:: the time when members discussed (then) Datuk Musa Hitam’s resignation in 1985 after his falling out with then president Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. To satisfy everyone, all members were allowed to say their piece;

:: after the party was declared unlawful in February 1988, the meeting was tense in deciding what needed to be done to reconstitute the party; and,

:: the marathon meeting on Sept 9, 1998 to decide on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s fate as deputy president. He was expelled that night and the there were sight of incredibly emotional scenes, such as disgruntled Anwar supporters throwing plastic drinking water bottles to senior Umno leaders who left the meeting.

BERITADARIGUNUNG: on strait times online