Ex-Umno MPs in limbo

PARLIAMENTARIANS and party leaders who left Umno last month, in hopes of better things, are now in limbo — directionless and rejected by both sides of the political divide.

(NST) – It is speculated that some who announced their departure on Dec 14 are having second thoughts and may be seeking to rejoin the party.

Among those who left are Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin (Larut), Datuk Rosol Wahid (Hulu Terengganu), Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad (Mersing), Datuk Shabudin Yahaya (Tasik Gelugor), Datuk Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh (Sabak Bernam) and Datuk Seri Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (Tanah Merah).

When they left, they claimed that it was due to the slow pace of reforms in Umno. Some demanded party president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi step down and make way for an Umno special assembly to elect a new leadership line-up.

Before that, there was also the mass exodus in Sabah, where nine of 10 Sabah Umno assemblymen, five of six MPs, 21 of 25 division chiefs and two senators left with the intention of joining Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Insiders say while the masterminds of the exodus had promised huge rewards if they followed through with the plan, they may have gone overboard and promised more than they could deliver.

Those in Sabah are now left party-less, as Parti Warisan Sabah president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafee Apdal has not agreed to plans for Bersatu to open shop in the state.

“Bersatu has their own process in accepting political figures. They have said it before: if you are from Umno, you have to go through a grace period before you can be a member. You also need to declare your assets. Bersatu cannot be seen as too desperate and in need of these Umno members either,” a source said.

He added that other former Umno leaders — Jeli MP Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Masjid Tanah MP Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and Bagan Serai MP Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali — who joined Bersatu towards the end of last year, did not immediately get a warm welcome from their new comrades.

According to another insider, Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had brought forward the names of the six MPs during a meeting with Zahid, acting Umno president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan and Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Tuesday night.

Hishammuddin, the source said, had suggested that taking back the six MPs would increase Umno’s presence in Parliament and strengthen the party.

“However, there has been resistance from not only the party grassroots, but also in the Umno Supreme Council.

Umno loyalists view them as traitors, and argued that they need to prove their sincerity in fighting for the party’s struggles and not just for their selfish needs or agenda.

Political analyst Dr Oh Ei Sun said given Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy, it is normal for Pakatan Harapan, the government of the day, to welcome more MPs if it can boost their numbers closer towards the constitution-amending two-thirds majority. Umno, as the main opposition party, would also welcome more MPs to make its voice louder.

“It is understandable that both sides are hesitating to take them in, fearing that they may change their minds again, and thus embarrass the party concerned,” said Oh, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

He said until the political situation changes drastically, these former Umno leaders — now independents — will likely linger in political limbo for a while.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Associate Professor Dr Azmi Hassan said because the six MPs left Umno due to low confidence in the leadership, now that things have changed, it should be acceptable for them to return.

“They (Umno) need to look at what benefits the party most. We know the six had intentions of joining Bersatu, but it never happened. They remain independent. If they are accepted back, there is a chance that the MPs who had left before this would also come back.

“They should look at it from a more strategic perspective. By accepting the independent MPs, they are denying PH, especially Bersatu, from getting more MPs. This is not about increasing Umno seats, but denying others.”

Mustapa’s presence in Bersatu has sparked rumours that he had been promised a cabinet position. This has caused unrest among party members vying for ministerial posts.

Things will be slow moving at the moment, a political observer said, but expect rough seas and aggressive checkmates to happen mid-year as party leaders prep for the succession plan to take place in 2020.

“The political manoeuvrings are now still being played out as they fight to gain majority support.”