Can the sacking of nine threaten UMNO?

M.G.G. Pillai 

Why is the UMNO secretary-general, Tan Sri Khalid Yaakob, on the defensive?  Why does he have to explain why sacking nine UMNO members would not affect the multi-million membership party unless he speaks in tongues? That the sacking does cause problems within that must be arrested quickly.  He lamely says that the party continues to attract members; in fact eleven new branches have been opened as the nine were expelled.  In yesterday's press conference, Tan Sri Khalid, was forced to distinguish the sacking of the Tumpat UMNO chief, Dato' Kamaruddin Jaffar (who was once political secretary to the former deputy prime minister, Tun Ghafar Baba) and that of the dismissed UMNO youth chief, Dato' Zaid Hamidi, both linked to He Who Must Be Destroyed At All Cost but the latter, stripped of his youth chiefship, apologised and let free.  The list includes a senator, is widely spread so as not to cause a local problem; but UMNO is torn asunder with the nine-month old crisis, with the camp followers of its ousted deputy president hunted down;  the linkage is now, in UMNO eyes, tantamount to treason.  But
that group is too large to be made an enemy of, without hurting UMNO itself. 

The sacking of the nine does pose problems.  Is this a token exercise, or a continuing one of greater intensity?  I do not think UMNO can go on with this vendetta for long, especially with a general election approaching and much pressure from the ground.  Which is why the UMNO leadership goes to extraordinary lengths to explain the sacking of the nine.  With all the media at his command, Tan Sri Khalid, who is also information minister, would rather not explain to UMNO members himself;  he says UMNO would explain to members at state and division level reasons for the recent expulsions.  Otherwise, why does he insist that UMNO remains intact despite the recent expulsions.  Besides, Tan Sri Khalid said, "if the offence is very serious, then the punishment should be severe, like dismissal."

UMNO nervousness at the dismissal of the nine is a replay of UMNO's continued nervousness at its inability to nail He Who Must Be Destroyed At All Cost legally to neutralise him politically.  His continued presence as a wronged individual, while retaining his political equinamity, is one reason why UMNO goes to extraordinary lengths to justify each anti-Anwar move.  UMNO gets ready for electoral battle with Anwar the subject of official humiliation that redounds on the Prime Minister.  There are now threats of video tapes produced at the trial to do that, but who would believe them?  Indeed, the Prime Minister and others did show video tapes allegedly depicting the ousted deputy prime minister in homosexual activities, but the nation's senior military officers and diplomats punched so many holes of its authenticity that they are now no more shown;  tapes of the conversation between the Prime Minister and the army generals were available in Chow Kit at the time, within a day of the meeting.  But the way the man was bundled out of office, beaten up by the Inspector-General of Police while in custody, charged with corruption on spurious grounds, and sodomy.  The Attorney-General wants him convicted again -- and is on a fishing expedition to find an offence that could.  His prosecution for corruption ensured doubts about his Chambers' impartiality in such matters;  his attempt to prosecute Dato' Seri Anwar for sodomy could well destroy the little respect he still retains as the Public Prosecutor.

Tan Sri Khalid is nervous.  The Attorney-General is nervous.  The Prime Minister is nervous.  UMNO is nervous.  All because a man was dismissed vengefully.  Against Malay mores.  The fortress of stone the Alliance built in 1955 turned in papier-mache 43 years later.  This miscalculation threatens to cost UMNO dear.  It forces UMNO to rethink its fundamentals, with those in power unable to accept that time passes it by.  The grandchildren of the founders are on the ascendant, but the grandfathers continue to behave as if nothing has happened;  the grandchildren must be punished for their ungratefulness in demanding their patrimony.  The Prime Minister did not realise it but the rot began when he helped ensure the destruction of the old UMNO and create a new one in his image in 1988.  That alienated the second generation, under Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah;  he is back, but brought back into the mainstream because of the problem from the grandchildren.  Dato' Seri Anwar shrewdly latched his political horizons on the grandchildren. That is at the essence of the current unstated but real political conflict within UMNO.  That is why nervousness is catching like a Kalimantan forest fire within the UMNO leadership.