pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN
WHEN the Umno Supreme Council allowed and agreed for Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to resume the duties as the party president when he is facing 87 corruption-related charges should baffle even the most apolitical and naïve observer, except and maybe, party members.
By any counts, the number of charges he faces is an all-time record high in the country, even surpassing that of his scandalised predecessor Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak who has 42.
And by any logic, which party would have wanted a tainted leader to resume his duties after a full year of absence and when the charges against him kept piling up even until a few days before his resumption of duties?
It is actually quite amazing that a party, which suffered resounding electoral defeat for having leaders involved in massive cross-border corruption scandals, is prepared to allow such a leader to return and lead when it had an opportunity to move on and attempt to rebrand itself.
In fact, when Ahmad Zahid was on leave, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan put up a creditable effort as acting president when he led Umno to victories in three consecutive by-elections held after the 14th General Election (GE14). Mohamad himself won the third when he defended his Rantau seat.
Ironically, at just about the same time Ahmad Zahid saw several more charges heaped upon him, Mohamad was cleared by the authorities of any financial wrongdoings.
And one of the first things Ahmad Zahid did upon re-assuming the Umno presidency was to appoint five new members to the Supreme Council, all perceived to be strongly aligned to him and Najib.
Ahmad Zahid’s return may cheer some from across the political divide as to them, Umno had just shot its own foot. Further to that, they saw and based on reactions from Ahmad Zahid’s supporters in Umno that the move was to sideline Mohamad who was accused of being keen to work with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister and Bersatu chairman.
Obviously, not many perceived it as an altruistic move on Ahmad Zahid’s part — nor Najib’s, who backed his return — to resuscitate Umno for the benefit of its members and supporters at large.
It was merely a political power play inclined towards finding ways of escaping what seems to be an inevitable incarceration for their alleged corruption.
One theory believes that they saw the possibility of respite when the Pakatan Harapan government moves into the leadership or prime minister’s transition mode, whereby they believe it will not be smooth and a crisis will provide them a window of opportunity.
It is a case of when push comes to shove, all they need to do is to align themselves to one side of the divide and provide the “winning” numbers and all their sins will be forgiven by the winning side or so, as contended by the theory. The theory, of course, contended that they had already identified the side to align to as the other is not interested in them whatsoever.
Whether such plans are truly being hatched or otherwise, it will only be proven when and if the transition moves into crisis. More interesting is the fact that Umno, as a party that had led the nation since independence, is unable to move on and unload all the excess baggage that had dragged it down to the pits.
On one side, it is moving into right wing mode, having thrown away its voice of moderation to work with PAS, an unrelenting Islamist party. It is prepared to do so as PAS offers a lifeline.
The question of whether it will lead and shape the narrative, or it would be PAS doing so, is of no consequence. What is all important is the Malay Muslim unity mantra, when chanted repeatedly with fervour, will cleanse all the sins of the plunderers of Malay Muslim institutions — namely Lembaga Tabung Haji and Felda.
It is also prepared to put aside leaders who are not tainted with scandals and court cases merely because the tainted ones were generous and now promising to give the party a lifeline via
some political manoeuvrings. If anyone thought that Umno had learnt its lessons from their defeat in GE14, they obviously thought wrong. It is business as usual — no remorse or sense of guilt.
Despite the millions returned from abroad in relation to the plundering of public coffers visà-vis the 1MDB case, the scandal-plagued leaders are playing victim and urging their followers to return them to power.
It is the aphrodisiac of power, some would say. Regardless, the nation and in particular the Malay Muslim entire sense of right and wrong; truth and untruth; fair and unfair; good and evil; are all placed on a balance.
The community will suffer the dissonance in their value system and it will be so for some time. Sadly, they know not how to recalibrate.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve.