‘Scrap Umno’s 4 wings’

The chairman of Umno's disciplinary board, Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen, has proposed a radical idea to curb vote-buying in the party's internal elections.

He said Umno's four wings might be abolished so that only one set of leaders needed to be voted in, thus limiting 'money politics'. The branches within the 3.2-million strong party are the Women, Youth, Puteri (young women) and Putera (boys) wings.

Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad, a former minister and respected elder in Malaysia's biggest political party, said such a move was necessary to rebuild Umno's image.

'Do we really need Puteri Umno and Putera Umno? The party also needs to consider Umno Youth's and Women's wings too…There is no women's association in the labour or conservative parties in England. When there are more contests, such problems (money politics) will continue to exist,' he told reporters at a news conference after a meeting of the board.

Umno will hold its internal elections, held every three years, in March, with posts up for grabs in the main body as well as in the wings except for Putera.

The party had held elections at its 191 divisions in October and November last year, which attracted whispers about vote-buying.

At the March elections, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak is slated to be confirmed as Umno's new president.

Three top leaders are vying to be the new deputy Umno president, and nine are vying to become one of the three vice-presidents.

There are also contests in the Women, Youth and Puteri wings.

Though it is often impossible to prove, contenders in many heated contests allegedly pay cash to party voters to ensure their win.

Said Tengku Rithauddeen: 'My feeling is that if you want to reduce the problem of money politics and contests for posts, it will be better if these wings were to be abolished.'

He said many in the Puteri and Putera wings are students who should concentrate on their studies.

'They don't need political exposure that early. Many of them are still in their teens and 20s,' said the Umno veteran.

He also spoke against the quota system for contests, saying this too had led to corruption.

Under the system, a leader could contest a particular senior post only if he could secure a minimum number of nominations from the 191 divisions.