A test of loyalty for the prince

By Zainal Epi, Free Malaysia Today

A local Umno leader said that loyalty has an expiry date and the Galas by-election will be a test on the loyalty of the voters.

GUA MUSANG: Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is not alien to Malaysian politics and to Malaysians at large.

The former finance minister is not only recognised as a statesman, he is also acknowledged as a financial wizard – one who knows how to use money prudently and how to make money.

In Malaysian politics, Razaleigh, or Ku Li as he is fondly known, has made headlines time and time again. He contested for the Umno presidency in 1987 against Dr Mahathir Mohamad and lost by a razor-thin majority of 43 votes.

He formed and led an alternative Malay political party – Semangat 46 – which nearly defeated the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 1990 general election.

Back in Umno now, Ku Li has been given the tough job of getting back Galas, a state seat under his Gua Musang parliamentary constituency, which was lost to PAS in the March 2008 general election.

Ku Li has been holding the Gua Musang parliamentary seat since 1976, together with the three state seats including Galas.

Getting back Galas is no easy job, given that the mindset of the people has changed dramatically since the historic 2008 electoral battle.

Fast-flowing tide

Umno-BN is simply unable to catch up with the fast-flowing tide. The 2008 debacle which saw Umno-BN losing its two-thirds majority was a testimony to its inability to read the minds of the people.

And Galas is no exception. No doubt, Ku Li is still a popular figure, but times have changed and today, it is difficult to gauge the feelings of the 11,500-odd voters.

A local Umno leader said that loyalty has an expiry date and the Galas by-election will be a test on the loyalty of the voters.

This was supported by a humble, soft-spoken Chinese shopkeeper who said: “Last time, Ku Li used to mingle with the voters often but in recent years, he has been missing.”

The fact that Ku Li has not spoken much has become an issue with the locals, voters and non-voters.

Many questions go unanswered as speculation is rife that the Umno camp is torn with internal conflicts.

A former assemblyman who lost in the 2008 general election, Mohd Saufi Deraman, is said to be on the “war path” against Ku Li, his former boss.

Pride and credibility at stake

Gua Musang Umno Wanita chief Wan Hazani Mohd Nor is also said to be angry with Ku Li after she was totally ignored when she made the mistake of promoting herself as the candidate last week, before the official announcement of the legal candidate for Galas was made.

Friends and supporters of Ku Li said that three names had been shortlisted and submitted to party president Najib Tun Razak for selection but Wan Hazani, whose name was included, jumped the gun by promoting and campaigning for herself.