“Rembau Raid” an indictment of Umno’s power lust

But that’s how Umno operates. Its top leaders often resort to the bully pulpit to further their own interests.

Shahril Abdul Ghani

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has yesterday confirmed that he will be vacating his Rembau Parliamentary seat for Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan in the upcoming general election.

This comes as no surprise as the rumour has been circulating for a while now. The Umno deputy president and former Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar needed a Parliamentary platform. And since he’s also the party’s head for the Rembau division, he felt that the seat was his for the taking.

While Umno’s internal seats distribution is of no interest to the public at large, the “Rembau Raid” is symptomatic of Umno leaders’ lust for power, with little regard for the public’s interests.

Let’s face it. Khairy, or KJ as he’s popularly known, is a breath of fresh air in a party filled with old, tired faces and practices an even older form of politics where corruption, cronyism and nepotism was the norm rather than exception.

When the Oxford-trained Khairy burst into our national body politic, he had offered much hope to Malaysians holding out for rejuvenation in arguably the largest and most influential party in the country.

So far, Khairy has not disappointed. From overseeing the hugely-successful 2017 SEA Games as the Youth and Sports Minister to the speedy rollout of the Covid-19 National Immunisation Plan as the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation to his aggressive push for the Generational End Game law as Health Minister, KJ has captured the public’s imagination.

But his shining star was also seen as a threat by some in Umno, who in typical fashion, chose to undermine his meteoric rise. And on the eve of the 15th general election, Khairy has to start looking for a new seat to contest in, despite having served as Rembau MP since 2008.

In other words, Khairy, who had received military paratrooping training in the past, would now be a “parachute politician” in a seat where he had to contend with the local Umno warlord and build his electoral networking from scratch.

With the fluid state of politics the country is in right now and safe seats for Umno likely to be selfishly clung on by incumbents or local party warlords, it is not unforeseeable for KJ to be without a Parliamentary seat after the coming polls, either because no one wants to make way or he loses in a marginal or risky seat.

Malaysia will then lose a capable leader who could have lifted his party and the country out of its current morass. But not that these matter to the Umno’s top brass, most of whom abide by the mantra of “self above party or nation”.

Take Mohamad Hasan. He has already confirmed that he’s standing in his Rantau State seat but still wants to represent a Federal constituency, most likely because the Umno No 2 is eyeing to become the country’s 10th PM, with party president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi facing a slew of corruption charges.

And even if one buys the idea of him needing a Federal platform, shouldn’t Mohamad Hasan be the one parachuting elsewhere by virtue of him being the deputy president instead of having to sacrifice KJ?

But that’s how Umno operates. Its top leaders often resort to the bully pulpit to further their own interests. And KJ’s ejection from Rembau clearly shows that Umno, despite its devastating defeat in 2018, has not changed its ways.