Sunday, October 26, 2008

JOCELINE TAN: What Wanita Umno wants

DATUK Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s social and political network is so wide that she hosted her Hari Raya open house over two evenings.

And on both occasions, the question on everyone’s lips was whether she would challenge Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz for the Wanita Umno leadership.

“It was the top topic at every table. She should go for it €“ that was the general consensus,” said an editor who was there.

Shahrizat has secured enough nominations to go for the wing’s No. 1 post as well as to defend her own No. 2 post.

The Wanita Umno members had snubbed the June 2009 leadership transition plan that would see Rafidah giving way to Shahrizat three months after the Umno elections.

The women were telling Shahrizat that they were prepared to go the distance with her.

So what is she waiting for?

Apparently, Shahrizat is just being Shahrizat. She is reluctant to challenge the status quo, afraid of taking risks and fearful of the conflict that will come with a fight.

Some of her closest supporters, frustrated by her lack of fighting spirit, have even called her penakut (scaredy-cat) to her face.

Even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who gave her her break in politics, has joined in, telling her to respect the wishes of the grassroots.

Her closest supporters are hoping she will make a decision by this weekend when more nominations come in for her to challenge the top Wanita post. In fact, they are demanding that she decide by this weekend.

“We are pushing her.

“I told her she would be letting her supporters down if she does not listen to them,” said a Wanita division chief.

Shahrizat’s would-be running mate Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim, the Kuala Kangsar Wanita chief, has also secured enough nominations to run for deputy Wanita chief.

It is obvious Shahrizat was hoping that the wave of support for her would persuade Rafidah to gracefully step aside before June.

It was wishful thinking because Rafidah is Shahrizat’s complete opposite. The daring and decisive Rafidah has not lost her warrior spirit despite losing her Cabinet post. Nothing scares the Iron Lady, not even the “warlords” in Umno.

And Rafidah, for reasons best known to her, is determined to fight to stay on till June.

Sources say Rafidah has given her blessings to her loyalist Datuk Maz-nah Mazlan to vie for the No. 2 post in the event of a challenge from the Shahrizat-Kamilia pairing.

There are still more than 60 Wanita divisions which have yet to hold their AGMs, and Maznah, who is Pahang Wanita Umno chief and a deputy minister, has been asking them to nominate her for the No. 2 post.

Rafidah’s camp knows that Shahrizat has support but they also know she is more timid and they are ready to take her on.

Frankly, one of the few persons who has demonstrated clear thinking and shown to have a mind of her own has been Kamilia.

She pointed out the loopholes of the June 2009 transition plan €“ how it does not hold water under the Umno constitution and how it would create an incomplete leadership in June because the party rules do not provide for an acting Wanita deputy chief.

“This is not about what two people want, but what the grassroots want. Rafidah must leave behind a strong wing, not an incomplete leadership with gaps. Shahrizat should be thinking along those lines. I believe she sees my point of view,” said Kamilia.

Tough decisions lie ahead for Shahrizat.

The interesting thing is that she is no longer singing the old tune of respecting the June 2009 transition plan.

When guests at her open house asked her about a possible challenge for the Wanita Umno leadership, her reply was: “I will have to think about it.”

What Wanita Umno wants
Malaysia Star, Malaysia -