Stop May 13 posturing and challenge Najib for Umno presidency, Zaid tells DPM

Zaid Ibrahim

(Malay Mail Online) – Umno deputy President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin needs to take the plunge and challenge Datuk Seri Najib Razak for the party presidency, instead of making divisive statements to knock the latter down from the helm of Malaysia’s most powerful political entity, said Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.

The former minister said it is clear that Muhyiddin disagrees with his party boss — who is also the prime minister — on at least a few federal policies set by Putrajaya, but stressed that it does not warrant a reminder of the deadly racial riots that rocked Kuala Lumpur on May 13, 1969.

‘There is nothing to be proud of in May 13, and certainly nothing that warrants reminding people about constantly. The solution is simple: the DPM must announce his intention to challenge the PM for the presidency of Umno,’ he wrote in his latest blog post.

The senior lawyer said Muhyiddin, who is deputy prime minister by virtue of his party post, is likely frustrated by the fact that he is bound by Cabinet decisions and may have resorted to reviving the spectre of May 13 as he feels that the majority Malays and Islam are not adequately protected by the current leadership.

The maverick politician said Muhyiddin is stuck on how to call Najib out on his alleged failure to look out for the interests of the Malay community as a whole, as is the raison d’etre of Umno as the ‘guardian and protector’ of the Malays.

The situation, however, does not merit the recent May 13 reminder just to put the spotlight on the prime minister’s weaknesses and failures, Zaid noted.

He proposed that Muhyiddin moot a leadership caucus in Umno, comprising senior party leaders, all MPs, selected women and youth leaders and all division chiefs, to mitigate the party’s alleged destructive tendency when there is a direct tussle for the presidency.

Zaid said by adopting a caucus system as practised by modern democracies, Umno can avoid a repeat of the fractious 1987 party elections that resulted in the party’s deregistration.

This is because the party leader would be selected by caucus members and not in a grassroots free-for-all that is the current practice, he explained.

In the present system, Zaid said Muhyiddin has no choice but to play in Najib’s shadow, quietly undermining his chief in the hope that the latter will call it quits and pave the way for his succession.

But through a caucus, Zaid claims that ‘any leadership contest is swift and trouble free’ and will not have the baggage of prolonged friction that could instead undermine the party.

‘Umno is a long way from this reform as the incumbent prefers the present convoluted arrangement, but I suggest that the DPM should make a move to implement this reform as a prelude to challenging the party president,’ he said in his latest blog post.

‘I like Tan Sri Muhyiddin, though not some of his political ideas,’ he added. ‘He is friendly despite his dour visage and has a wonderful wife and family.

But Zaid said Muhyiddin, his ex-colleague in Umno, should stop trying to shake Najib by questioning policies and decisions that the Cabinet has agreed on. Instead, a leadership challenge would be more fitting, he said.

‘Even if he (Muhyiddin) loses, the party will be stronger and better for it. Most probably, there will no actual contest and the PM will gracefully make way for him to take over in 2017,’ Zaid wrote.

Last Friday, Muhyiddin was reported by Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysia as saying there could be a repeat of the May 13 racial riots if ties between the country’s ethnic communities continued to be strained.

He was quoted saying that ethnic tensions that were allowed to simmer would lead to unrest when the various communities start to eye each other with suspicion.

‘Because of that, there exists all kinds of assumptions when ethnic ties become strained and unhealthy. This can cause that event and I do not want to mention the particular date,’ he was quoted as saying.

Muhyiddin did not mention the date specifically but Utusan Malaysia inserted May 13, 1969 to his quote in parentheses.