Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wanita Umno chief Rafidah hits out at deputy Shahrizat

Wanita Umno's leadership transition plan slated for June is now history. In declaring this, its head, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said she would defend her post in the face of the challenge mounted by her deputy Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and would leave it to the delegates to determine who they wanted as their leader for the three-year term.

The long-serving leader of the Umno women's wing is also demanding an answer from her detractors: "Why only express your dissatisfaction now and not when the plan was introduced?"

Rafidah, in her trademark handwritten statement yesterday, that filled 10 pages of the Kuala Kangsar MP's note pad, hit out at her "loyal-deputy-turned-challenger" Shahrizat for changing her mind.

"I am disappointed that the plan is being questioned and rejected more than three months after I announced it.

"Shahrizat had repeatedly said that she would not contest the top post even if nominated as she adhered to the transition plan. It was she who said that 'my word is my honour' and that she obeyed the advice from the party leaders."

Replying to a text message sent to her, Rafidah said: "The transition plan became null and void the moment Shahrizat announced her intention to contest the top post."

Rafidah said as responsible leaders, the detractors should have voiced their objection to the plan during discussions.

"If they had done so before the divisional elections, then I am sure the executive council would have cancelled the plan."

Rafidah said she would not have hesitated to allow the divisions to nominate anyone they wished as Wanita Umno head and deputy.

"But they are only voicing their objections after securing the required nominations to contest. They are giving various excuses which are not justified."

The transition plan was mooted by Rafidah in August whereby she would hand over Wanita Umno leadership to Shahrizat next June, exactly three months after the March elections.

Despite this, 73 divisions nominated Shahrizat for the Wanita top post while 117 opted for Rafidah.

On Nov 9, Shahrizat, for the first time, urged that the plan to be brought forward to March, but this was rejected by the executive council which met a day later.

Finally on Thursday, Shahrizat announced what many viewed as the inevitable -- that she would be challenging Rafidah.

Rafidah said yesterday that some quarters wanted the plan to be expedited from June to March but this was not logical.

"If it is done in March, then there is no more 'transition plan' as it involves a gap of a short period from the time the assembly is held to the point when the leadership is handed over."

She said the transition period was supposedly January to March as the party's general assembly was originally scheduled to be held next month.

"If the plan is expedited to March, it would mean that I am forced to hand over the post to Shahrizat without any contest.

"This denies the aspirations of the 117 divisions which nominated me to be the Wanita Umno head."

Rafidah said she had decided to defend her post because the plan had been ignored. As the incumbent, it was only right for her to defend the post and face the challenge from Shahrizat.

"I am leaving it to the delegates, as representatives of the grassroots, to decide who they want as their leader for the 2009-2011 term."

Rafidah succeeded Tan Sri Aishah Ghani as Wanita Umno head in 1984 after defeating Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail. She was returned unopposed in 1986, 1990 and 1993.

However, in 1996, Rafidah lost to Datuk Dr Siti Zaharah Sulaiman by 27 votes. Four years later, she made a comeback after defeating Siti Zaharah by 12 votes and was returned unopposed in 2004.

Rafidah also hoped that all posts in Wanita Umno would be contested in an orderly manner.

"Do not get involved in anything that would tarnish anybody's or the party's image. Also, refrain from making up stories, lies and slander as this would result in disunity.

"Allah swt will decide on everything and there is nothing bigger than his power," said Rafidah, whose statement had several words underlined or written in capital letters. Wanita Umno chief Rafidah hits out at deputy Shahrizat
AsiaOne, Singapore