Umno’s disciplinary problems

By Datuk Zaid Ibrahim in The Nut Graph

THE call by Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Ismail, chairperson of Umno's disciplinary tribunal, for the party to disband its youth, wanita and puteri wings, has drawn much flak. Even though Rithauddeen made this suggestion as a measure to curb corruption, the party's senior leaders, including president-elect Datuk Seri Najib Razak, have opposed it.

Instead of brushing it aside, as Umno tends to do when confronted with something new, they should reflect and try to understand what Rithauddeen is trying to say. Rithauddeen is exasperated with the extent of corruption permeating the party at all levels. He is saying that the disciplinary tribunal alone can no longer cope with the practice and culture of corruption within the party.

As a loyal party man he was trying to politely tell the party leaders that Umno could no longer be salvaged under its present structure. And under the present crop of leaders, I might add.

What makes it so difficult for the tribunal to effectively carry out its functions is the selective prosecution it must practice in the discharge of its duties. Actions can only be taken if required or useful to certain top leaders. The tribunal lacks clear mandate from the party management in dealing with money politics, Umno's euphemism for corrupt practice.

When I was suspended for allegedly being involved in money politics, I knew that Rithauddeen, although he was chairperson, was not involved in making the decision. Someone else in the management wanted me out. So an Umno member will be subject to investigation and harassment if he or she does not belong to the right camp. Many others will escape with impunity and they can bribe the delegates as much as they want and not get the attention of the tribunal.

So even Rithauddeen now realises the futility of having the disciplinary tribunal deal with corrupt practice. I therefore urge Rithauddeen to resign from the tribunal and retire.

Umno leaders who are critical of Rithauddeen should also be mindful that they are not supposed to criticise him or the tribunal. Look at what happened to me for criticising the tribunal and for not wanting to apologise when asked. I got suspended because they said I violated party ethics. Umno has ethics? Anyway, that is the story.

So the same fate may fall on Najib and his friends in the supreme council. They too may get suspended if they continue to criticise the disciplinary tribunal or its chairperson. This is of course wishful thinking, as there are rules in Umno that apply to some but not to others.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim
30 January 2009