Malaysia: Ku Li can make history or fade consequentially

From time to time, Tengku Razaleigh Hamza make the headlines for the wrong reasons, at least for the United Malays National Organization (Umno). In the current struggle for Kelantan to earn its oil royalties, Razaleign – well known as Ku Li – has become the main battle horse but the fact is the former Minister of Finance of Malaysia could make history or fade as a consequence.

By World Future

During the years after his massive challenge against Tun Dr Mahathir which almost caused the fall of the Malaysian maestro from power, Ku Li and Tun Mahathir has rarely had a spat. They avoided each other on most issues and with the folding of the Semangat 46 and the entry of Ku Li and his party members back in the Umno, Ku Li became redundant.

However with the rise of Anwar Ibrahim as an opposition force to reckon with coupled with the Umno’s faltering popular support, Ku Li has become a stronger voice for reform within the Umno and for a change in the way the country is being run. His recent views are more aligned to that of the opposition and his claim that he is the ‘tool of the people’ is bent on giving him unexpected support on the ground.

But unfortunately, Ku Li has been a ‘broken’ barometer since the 2008 debacle of the Umno and the formidable push by the opposition parties under the helm of Anwar Ibrahim. Their victory must have acted as a sort of vindication for Ku Li who has been clamoring before 2008 that the Umno is in for trouble if it does not reform. While campaigning to get support from the Umno base at grassroot level, Ku Li suffered a series of humiliating defeat indicating to him that his days within the Umno and his battle to bring reforms to the party were over. The Umno grassroot is not willing to embrace any attempt at reforming the party, reforming the government agencies or at changing the overall policies that has guided Malaysia since Mahathir became Prime Minister.

Tengku Razaleigh has also seen how Mahathir was brought to tears in June 2002 when the former Prime Minister made the shocking announcement that he is resigning. Mahathir claimed that he was fed-up with the attitude of the Umno members who were not ready for change and were hurting the image of the party. He saw how Abdullah Badawi was brought down as the 5th Prime Minister of Malaysia and how his attempted ‘reforms’ withing the party and the country had failed due to resistance from within the Umno. Now Ku Li is witnessing the resilience of the ‘cadres’ and the leaders – from grassroot to the top most leadership – against any efforts to ‘change’ the Umno. Even the suggestions by Tun Mahathir that the party is corrupt to the bones and the party needs to ‘change’ has been swept under the carpet by party leaders.

Yet these events are not strong enough for Ku Li to force his exit from the party. It was the Kelantan ‘oil royalty’ dilemma that has now come to the rescue of Ku Li’s political career unless Ku Li maintains that he is too old and cannot do much for the people of Malaysia. His statement that he is the tool of the people is good enough for him to at least pretend that he can at last rise as a popular figure to unite the Malaysians but the question is whether he is brave enough to face reality and join the opposition group?

It is very clear that Ku Li has a better chance of becoming Prime Minister if he joins the Party Keadilaan Rakyat (PKR) or the Party Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) as such a move could cement the opposition into one solid block since Ku Li’s presence will mean the rallying of more Malay voters behind the Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Ku Li has, in 2009, repeatedly said that he will make a move – to quit Umno – when the time comes and if the party persists in its path to ‘harakiri’. In 2010, the Umno is not changing and the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is altogether finding himself hostage to the Umno ‘establishment’ with more troubles seen ahead for the party. An exit by Ku Li at this stage would mean a terrible backlash for the Umno as it will further reduce its Malay base and erode its chances to win big in the next General Elections.

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