Of political comebacks and asset declarations

PH’s gain obviously means a loss for BN and significantly rattled the party to its core, including its pillar Umno

pic by BERNAMA

EVERYBODY loves a comeback story. It is what fairy tales are made of.

After all, it was only 13 months ago that Malaysia and the world witnessed the historic return of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the nation’s prime minister (PM) after 16 years of retirement. It reminded the world that miracles do happen. Hope is not lost.

Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) victory also saw the return of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — who is currently termed as the PM-in-waiting — in the political scene after years of incarceration and political oblivion.

PH’s gain obviously means a loss for Barisan Nasional (BN) and significantly rattled the party to its core, including its pillar Umno. Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had to take garden leave last December to allow the party to reinvent itself.

The task to lead the party fell on the shoulders of Ahmad Zahid’s deputy, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, who for the past six months has been working hard to appease Umno’s grassroots of a change in the party which had ruled the country for more than six decades. Mohamad, to his credit, managed to unite Umno members despite their apparent ideological differences.

He was also able to convince PAS that the union of both Opposition parties is vital for the nation, race and religion.

It is under Mohamad’s leadership that Umno secured three by-election victories post the 14th General Election, successfully leveraging the rising fear that Malay-Muslim sentiment is under threat from the new government. The general view is that their cooperation would pose a real threat to PH.

The sentiment was valid, until Ahmad Zahid’s sudden announcement that he is cutting his leave short and returning as Umno president.

The shocking announcement came 48 hours after the former deputy PM was slapped with another 33 corruption charges. Altogether, Ahmad Zahid is saddled with a total of 87 criminal charges.

Unprecedented, indeed.

If the online reaction is to be believed, it is apparent that the party supporters and its elected leaders are having two minds about the situation.

The squabble between Umno leaders began to surface on social media. Some even dared to question both Ahmad Zahid’s and Mohamad’s wealth publicly.

Political analysts were quick to point out that Ahmad Zahid’s criminal charges would only drag Umno down and alienate PAS supporters, who had only recently became more accommodating to the Umno struggle.

Some had even gone as far as saying that this would spell disaster for Umno, undoing all of Mohamad’s good work.

This may not be the comeback story Umno is looking for, but the ball is in Ahmad Zahid’s court to decide what kind of narrative or legacy he wants to leave behind.

On another related note, the Dewan Rakyat has just passed a motion for all MPs to declare their wealth and that of their spouses, adult children and trustees to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

This would compel lawmakers who fail to do so to be referred to the select committee where they are required to state their reasons for not declaring.

Asset declaration was one of the reforms that had been promised in PH’s election manifesto.

Come to think of it, with the recent events unfolding, lawmakers may be doing the public a favour by sparing them from watching politicians from the same camp accusing others of having “ill-gotten, unexplained wealth”, especially when things do not go their way.

Dirty linen somehow always appears in public in the life of a politician.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.