pic by TMR FILE
WHEN Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) said he was willing to return to Umno, it stirred widespread reaction from across the board.
Not many, though, cared about the caveat that came with the statement, especially in the cybersphere where flippancy is of the essence.
The caveat was actually very telling — the possibility of Dr Mahathir returning to roost can only be realised if Umno rid itself of the kleptocrats from its leadership, which in effect will allow it to salvage and regain some semblance of respectability.
Upset over Dr Mahathir’s perceived renewed affection for Umno, his critics viewed it as him doing a volte-face and a U-turn. After all, he was a lead critic of Umno since he quit the party in early 2016.
While many of Dr Mahathir’s critics are seeking clarity, there are those whose criticisms are self-serving. These included those who questioned why it was alright for Dr Mahathir to express willingness to return to Umno and yet was opposed to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s plan to get his numbers from Umno to qualify as prime minister (PM).
Obviously, they chose to ignore Dr Mahathir’s caveat because Anwar’s plan in getting his numbers was actually the opposite of it — he allegedly agreed with or sought the support of kleptocrats MPs. True or otherwise, some of these kleptocratic MPs seem to have confirmed that that was the plan.
But beyond Dr Mahathir’s “affection” for Umno and allegations of Anwar playing footsie with Umno kleptocrats, the relevance of Umno in mainstream politics is of bigger interest.
Even though it lost its grip on power in the last general election (GE14), it still emerged as the party with the most number of seats.
No doubt, since the May 2018 election, it has lost the numbers due to defection, but it remained the largest party in the coalition which was cobbled together in February last year to bring about the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government.
What ails the party is simply the fact that it is still dominated by kleptocrats who among them have been found guilty in the courts awaiting appeal, and others whose trials are still ongoing.
If Umno had taken the steps to rid the kleptocrats from positions of power after it lost the GE14, it could have bounced back and regained its footing.
In fact, when its deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan was acting president, Umno seemed to be getting on the right track and managed to secure crucial wins in by-elections post-May 2018.
While he may have his faults, but to most, friends and foes, Tok Mat, as he is affectionately known, comes across as someone decent, capable and with a good head on his shoulders.
His biggest problem is that he is not an accomplished politician and lacks extensive grassroots support making him a lightweight in facing the more accomplished kleptocrats. Accomplished here can be read between being cunning, shrewd, conniving, Machiavellian, ruthless etc…
However, if Umno is serious in reinventing itself to re-emerge as a leading party, Tok Mat and those like him would make the difference.
Furthermore, lest people forget, if Umno had heeded the amplified discontent among the people over the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) scandal and asked Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak to step down before GE14, Dr Mahathir would not have left Umno and if had, he would have rejoined it as he did during Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s era. And with that, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia would not have been formed.
While such thoughts are now academic, the fact remains, the instability and uncertainties in Malaysia’s political sphere are very much Umno’s doing and undoing, whichever way one chooses to look at it.
Lest the current Umno leaders and its supporters are unaware, there’s no denying that there is a pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
Sometimes, it borders on despair and at other times, anger and frustration are vented alongside. Those despairing seem to believe that the nation is sinking and sliding further and deeper into the rabbit hole.
The angry ones are unsettled because of the double standards, topsy-turvy SOPs (standard operating procedures) and especially due to the incomprehensible behaviour — from a display of childishness, being totally detached, or utter imbecility among those in the corridors of power.
How long more can the nation withstand the devastating effects of the pandemic and economic downturn, worsened by the political instability and uncertainties.
Much as there is a widespread expression of disgust over the political one-upmanship, scramble for power, political corruption and holding on to power without legitimacy, it is the political parties and politicians who can resolve it, though some of them contributed to the debacle.
The first step to resolve it is not to depend on the current crop who has taken the nation into the pit.
Hence, the necessity for the Parliament to be convened and a Cabinet led by a PM with legitimacy installed.
Only then the confidence of the people can be somewhat restored, and whatever plans and policies that need to be introduced or initiated will get support.
Umno, as much as other political parties, needs to buck up.
And what is required is simply for it to do the right thing.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.