Umno’s rebel branch chiefs, party wreckers or counter-balancing force?
(TMI) – “Where is the democracy they talk about?
The Coalition of Branch Chiefs Malaysia (GKCM) in Umno that is calling for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s ouster is not a threat to the party but plays a role in ensuring that views of the grassroots can be heard at a time when the party leadership has clamped down on dissenting voices, grassroots members say.
They said the party’s middle-tier leaders at the division level, the rank above the branch level, were no longer effective in conveying grassroots’ views to the upper echelons.
GKCM has no single leader and claims to have wide support, but its various spokesmen have refused to identify their sympathisers whom they said fear retaliation.
But party members The Malaysian Insider spoke to said the movement was helpful in trying to keep the Umno leadership accountable and credible, which they said was crucial for the party’s survival.
Called traitors by Najib’s supporters, others see them as providing a counter-balancing force within Umno.
“I don’t agree that they are called traitors just because they don’t support the leadership, in fact they are providing balance in the party,” Puteri Umno member Haziqah Nasirah Zol Bahari told The Malaysian Insider.
Her views were echoed by Tenggara Umno Youth member Asrul Esreen Mohd Salleh, who said GKCM represented concerns of the grassroots.
“This group is not the one breaking up the party; they are the ones saving Umno. Members are trying to save the party from a split caused by the top,” he said.
Asrul said branch leaders tend to have fewer vested interests, unlike division leaders, and were thus able to speak effectively on behalf of ordinary party members.
“The ones that truly love Umno are the branch members, they are not afraid.
“The problem is at the divisions which have their own interest to look after.”
Umno’s three million members are spread out across 191 divisions.
Leaders at this level vet the resolutions of the branches’ annual general meetings below them, and determine which views can be brought forward to the party’s main annual assembly.
GKCM has urged Najib to resign as party president over alleged scandals involving his brainchild 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the RM2.6 billion donation that went into the prime minister’s personal bank accounts.
The group has also filed a complaint with the Registrar of Societies, urging it to probe into Umno’s accounts for 2013 and 2014, which did not reflect the RM2.6 billion donation.
Najib said in the past that he as party president had the capacity to hold funds in trust for the party.
Kota Raja Umno leader, Mohd Hamidi Abu Bakar, said the majority of party members accepted GKCM as it was able to speak on matters that division leaders would not touch.
“Of course the grassroots support them, as they represent their voices. Grassroots are hoping that branch leaders forge ahead, because division leaders cannot be trusted.
“Therefore branch leaders have to carry the voice of the grassroots,” said Hamidi, who is vice-chief for the Kota Raja Umno division.