Zahid messing up Umno, Anwar’s unity government again

Hot on the heels of a botched attempt by Umno to usurp the seat of the Sabah government from under GRS chief minister Hajiji Noor’s nose, Zahid is set to drag his party and Anwar’s unity government into yet another controversy.

Ibrahim M Ahmad, Free Malaysia Today

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi seems to be tying Umno and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in knots with his every move.

Hot on the heels of a botched attempt by Umno to usurp the seat of the Sabah government from under GRS chief minister Hajiji Noor’s nose, Zahid is set to drag his party and Anwar’s unity government into yet another controversy.

This time, the Umno president and his deputy, Mohamad Hasan (or Tok Mat as Umno folk love to call him), have contrived to give the registrar of societies a headache and put home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, Anwar’s PKR colleague, in a quandary.

The latest controversy is one of Zahid and Tok Mat’s own making, after they engineered and saw a controversial “no-contest” resolution passed at the party’s general assembly on Saturday.

The resolution ensures both safe passage into another three-year term in office without having to defend their seats at upcoming party elections.

The controversy has left many party leaders and members up in arms, including vice-president and former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Ismail has been vocal in his condemnation, challenging the legality of the resolution on the basis that it runs afoul of Umno’s constitution.

According to Ismail, the resolution violates Article 9(3), which prescribes that an election must take place once every three years to fill the positions of the party’s permanent chairman, deputy permanent chairman, president, deputy president, three vice-presidents as well as twenty-five seats on its Supreme Council.

The general assembly, he said, cannot override the clear requirement of Article 9(3) because, although it is the party’s highest authority, Article 8(1) stipulates that it remains subject to the party’s constitution.

Under the framework set out in Umno’s constitution, those elections must be conducted across the party’s 191 branches by polling approximately 160,000 delegates who represent more than 3 million party members.

Two thousand delegates at a general assembly cannot take away the right of those 160,000 divisional delegates to vote for party leaders of their choice.

Members are also challenging the “no-contest” resolution on the ground that it was not moved in accordance with party rules, Berita Harian reported on Monday.

A claim by Negeri Sembilan delegate Mohd Shukri Shamsudin (from Tok Mat’s Rembau), who moved the motion, that it was a supplementary resolution did not find favour with members who pointed out that none of the other resolutions concerned party elections.

Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan then explained that it was in fact an amendment proposed under regulations governing the party’s general assembly, but that explanation did not find favour with Ismail.

“The motion was brought in only on Saturday and immediately added on (for debate).

“Although described as an amendment (to the original resolution proposed), regulation 20.3 envisages amendments to words and sentences, not by adding on to it in the way that was done,” said Ismail.

Even the outcome has been called into question after Supreme Council member Khairy Jamaluddin warned in a TikTok video that went viral of non-delegates being “imported” into the hall to participate in the voting process.

Concerns about the ultra vires nature of the resolution, its improper tabling, the identities of those who voted and the disenfranchisement of branch delegates raise legitimate questions as to whether the resolution was properly laid before the general assembly and passed.

Those are matters which may constitute a “dispute” within Section 16 of the Societies Act, 1966 and call for the intervention of the registrar.

Section 16(1) provides that if the registrar is of the opinion that “a dispute has occurred … as a result of which the registrar is not satisfied of the identity of the persons who have been properly constituted as office-bearers of the society,” the registrar may call for the society to produce “evidence of the proper appointment of the lawful office-bearers of the society”.

That puts Saifuddin in the embarrassing position of having to oversee the registrar’s handling of a “dispute” concerning the legitimacy of the appointment of two fellow Cabinet ministers – Zahid, who as deputy prime minister is also his superior, and Tok Mat – to their posts in Umno.

Several striking observations may be noted from Section 16.

Firstly, there appears to be no formal requirement for a complaint to be lodged by any aggrieved party member before the registrar can act. Given the wide publicity the episode has generated, can/will the registrar act on his own volition and investigate the matter?

In any event, there appears to be nothing to stop aggrieved party members from lodging a complaint. That would require the registrar to investigate the complaint and, if found legitimate, demand that certain actions be taken to regularise the matter.

Presumably, one of the options available to the registrar is to declare the resolution bad and direct that elections be held to fill the party’s top two posts.

Section 16(2) of the Act provides that the registrar “may take steps to cancel the registration of the society” if the disputed matter is not resolved to the registrar’s satisfaction.

In other words, Umno runs the risk of being outlawed.

Given their relationship within the unity government, will Saifuddin allow the registrar to act without fear or favour even in a manner adverse to the interests of his Cabinet colleagues? What would be the repercussions of that decision on Anwar’s administration?

This is not the first time Zahid has messed with Anwar’s unity government.

During his speech at the general assembly last week, Zahid openly acknowledged Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin and assured him that Umno will continue to support his leadership strategy.

That statement confirmed what everyone had suspected all along – that Zahid was behind Bung’s failed “coup” attempt from the very beginning despite the obvious ramifications it could have had on the unity government.

Zahid is messing with Anwar’s unity government again.

He should not act in ways that jeopardise the unity within Umno, Barisan Nasional and government.