ZUBAIDAH ABU BAKAR: Joining forces key to securing BN victory

TEAM unity is what Umno needs now in Permatang Pasir.

Faced with an opponent that has an upper hand in the state by-election and with the polling date looming, a wise move would be for the squabbling party members to consolidate fast and face a common enemy as a unified force.

BN candidate, Rohaizat Othman, is in need of as much support as possible from Umno members, particularly leaders in the fractious Permatang Pauh Umno division to rebut allegations and clear public perception about his integrity.

He alone cannot counter the attacks that are coming from all sides over his disbarment by the Bar Council.

Although the matter did not disqualify Rohaizat's candidacy when nominations closed on Monday, it has now become a big by-election campaign issue.

Pakatan Rakyat leaders are already capitalising on his disbarment, with some suggesting that he withdraw from contesting to prevent further embarrassment to himself and the BN.

Rohaizat is the BN candidate and that alone is good enough reason for Permatang Pauh Umno leaders not to wash their hands of the controversial issue.

He is in need of their undivided support, at least until the Permatang Pasir voters cast their ballots on Aug 25.

Pas vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar and DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang have urged Rohaizat to withdraw from the straight fight with Pas' Mohd Salleh Man.

Mahfuz said Rohaizat was morally flawed and should withdraw from contesting before he was ridiculed further.

Lim on the other hand, called for Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to resolve the "Rohaizat problem swiftly and boldly".

But unity has never been synonymous with the Permatang Pauh Umno division after former Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from the party in 1998.

Morale has been low among its members and the divisional leaders have remained disunited since then.


The infighting continued to be the stumbling block to checking Anwar's influence in Permatang Pauh, in which Permatang Pasir and two other state seats are located.

Even the top Umno leaders do not argue about the fact that unity is lacking in Permatang Pauh, that the division is not only split into several factions but also clouded with elements of sabotage in past party and national elections.

The Permatang Pauh by-election that won Anwar his ticket to parliament after a decade's absence was testimony to this. Poorly organised election machinery contributed to Anwar's thumping victory last year.

It was thus very clear as to whom the early warning against sabotaging the BN candidate issued by Zahid was targeted at.

Two days before Rohaizat was named as the BN candidate for the by-election, Zahid who is Penang Umno chief, warned Umno leaders and members that they would be expelled from the party within 60 days if they were found guilty of sabotaging the party's election machinery.

The warning, he said, was given to ensure that Umno members would give their undivided support to the BN candidate.

Zahid harbours hopes that the feuding factions would set aside personal disputes to concentrate on the by-election, which is a test for him as the new state Umno chief.

And in the hope to ensure the party's election machinery could run smoothly, he had also roped in four Penang Umno leaders — Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad, Datuk Ahmad Saad, Datuk Firdaus Ismail and Datuk Arif Shah to boost the morale of Permatang Pauh Umno members.

Umno national leaders have initiated efforts that could see the revival of the party in Permatang Pauh.

But it is local leaders who will determine its success.