A start to a massive exodus at Umno?

MPs blame the deviation of the party’s founding principles since losing federal power for the 1st time since independence

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By TMR

Cracks are emerging in Umno, the country’s oldest and formerly the most influential political party, as more of its leaders decide to abandon the establishment.

Yesterday, former Federal Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman announced he was quitting the party, less than 24 hours after the shocking exit of Umno’s stalwart Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

The latter 67-year-old Jeli MP’s move to leave the party has created a ripple effect, raising the possibilities of more leaders from the party that led the country for 60 years to abandon its cause.

Anifah and Mustapa, who command huge respect from the party grassroots, blamed the deviation of the party’s founding principles after losing federal power for the first time since independence.

Mustapa cited “no sign that the majority of the multiracial and multireligious society will once again trust the party’s struggles”.

The former international trade and industry minister, who was in the party for about 40 years, also cited the party’s growing shift from the middle ground.

His statement is believed to follow Umno leadership’s strong presence at PAS annual muktamar in Terengganu recently, with Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reportedly announcing plans to form a new Opposition coalition with the Islamist party.

There is also a rise in racial intonation with allegations of unfair treatment against the Malays following the change in the government. Islam’s position is also said to be under threat as the Opposition rallies the support of the Malays who account for about 63% of the country’s 31 million population.

“My political principle is that Umno should be inclusive, moderate and a party that takes the middle path,” Mustapa had said.

Former Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Umno has lost a “leading light”.

The vocal former Umno Youth chief, who had on many occasions had gone against the party’s political decisions, tweeted: “I have been vocal in cautioning my party against this alliance with PAS and I bore the brunt of attacks from within.

“A brilliant and good man. This is on you, Mr President (Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi).”

The Rembau MP, however, yesterday insisted that he has no intentions of quitting Umno, adding that he would not have attended a party meeting if that were the case.

Khairy had gone against the party when he decided to stay in the Dewan Rakyat despite his fellow Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout.

Interestingly, Anifah was the only one who supported Khairy’s decision and stayed in the Dewan, heightening talks of his exit from the party.

The Kimanis MP said his resignation was due to Barisan Nasional’s (BN) failure to implement pledges related to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“I made this decision because I previously promised my voters in the Kimanis constituency and Sabah people in general that I would resign from the party if Umno and BN failed to fulfil their promises in relation to the MA63.

“I acknowledge that without Umno and BN at the seat of power, my struggle would not have borne fruit. However, I hold fast to what I previously promised, which was that I would resign if my struggle for Sabahans cannot continue under this party.”

Meanwhile, Umno’s Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz recently expressed his open support for PKR president-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to contest the now-vacant Port Dickson parliamentary seat, a move which was not well-received by the party.

While cautioning Umno from contesting the by-election to give Anwar a clear path to be the country’s future prime minister (PM), the Padang Rengas MP even offered to campaign for Anwar in the upcoming by-election.

Mustapa and Anifah’s decision to quit Umno is fanning the rumour mill with speculation that more leaders are expected to exit the party.

Besides Khairy, who lost in the Umno election for the president post, others who are widely speculated to leave the party include former Higher Education Minister and Besut MP Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, former Minister in the PM’s Department and Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and Kudat MP Datuk Rahim Bakri.

Those aligned to Anifah are also said could decide to abandon Umno including in Sabah’s State Assembly.

Kinabatangan MP Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said yesterday that according to sources and predictions more Umno MPs are expected to quit the party.

The Sabah Umno Liaison Committee deputy chairman told Bernama that more MPs from the party, including in Sabah, are expected to resign. He said he could not reveal any name for fear of possible defamation.

Asked whether former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman would emulate his brother Anifah’s move and also quit Umno, Bung Moktar declined to comment.

As for himself, he said he would remain in the party because he is convinced that Umno will rise again.

Umno leaders who have already left the party include Masjid Tanah MP Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, Bukit Gantang MP Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal and Bagan Serai MP Datuk Noor Azmi Ghazali.

The exodus will not spell the end for Umno, but will make the work to wrestle the power from Pakatan Harapan almost impossible.