Battle lines forming in Wanita Umno fight

(The Star) – As talk surfaced of Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil making a comeback to the post, supporters of the incumbent are campaigning fiercely to retain the status quo.

The pro-Shahrizat team has claimed that 147 of the 199 divisions are likely to support her should she decide to go for the top job again.

However, supporters of current chief Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad said she has proven her mettle in keeping the movement together through “Umno’s darkest times”.

Noraini, the Parit Sulong MP, was actually handpicked by Shahrizat as her successor in 2018.

Wanita Umno information chief Datuk Rosni Zahari claimed Noraini has the support of divisions from most states, especially the east coast and Johor.

“Umno needs to move on and that means not bringing back the old ones. Their time has passed.

“We need younger faces like Noraini, who is also an MP and a former minister. It is not fair to compare her with Shahrizat.

“They led Wanita in different political landscapes. Shahrizat led when Umno was at its most stable, whereas Noraini had to lead it when Umno was at its lowest ebb.

“Those who say Noraini has not done much for Wanita are wrong as she held the movement together when the party was attacked from every front,” said Rosni.

She said that with Noraini at the helm, Wanita Umno would be able to show that it is a party which is willing to allow the younger generation to take over.

Another Wanita leader from Johor said ousting Noraini is not a good idea.

“Umno will be seen as a party which is always politicking,” she said.

However, there were also many who are batting for Shahrizat.

Kangar Wanita Umno chief Azihani Ali said that even though the older woman had stepped down due to the National Feedlot Centre scandal, her leadership is needed now.

“She did not offer to return but it was us, the Wanita Umno grassroots, who felt she should make a comeback. We need a strong leader who can be heard,” said Azihani.

She said this does not mean Noraini was not good.

“The political landscape has changed. What we need is Shahrizat’s experience,” said Azihani.

Another Wanita Umno leader at the national level said Shahrizat might just be the shot in the arm the wing needs right now.

“She is not afraid to speak out against national leaders and a number of top leaders are her peers or juniors. They will respect her.

“Wanita Umno is now being treated as second class, although we have held the party together despite getting thrashed in the 14th and 15th general elections,” she said.

Sik Wanita Umno head Maizatul Akmam, a Puteri Umno leader under Noraini who then joined Wanita under Shahrizat, said that despite having a “younger” Wanita chief, the party has lost its appeal among the younger women.

“Leadership cannot be measured by age. The Wanita wing is now dying from a lack of strong leadership, like Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and Shahrizat.

“The Puteri Umno wing, too, has lost its spirit due to weak leadership at the Wanita Umno level,” said Maizatul.