Agung UMNO: Fists of fury from the wings


Wanita, Youth and Puteri in fighting mode at their assemblies

The star

KUALA LUMPUR: The Youth, Wanita and Puteri wings of Umno were in combative mood, with their leaders striking hard at their Opposition counterparts.

Wanita chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil expressed surprise that her PKR rival Zuraida Kamaruddin “had the audacity” to demand her resignation over the National Feedlot Corporation controversy.

She dared Zuraida to ask her party president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail to step down because her husband, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, “had been found guilty and charged with various offences which I don’t even have the heart to say out loud”.

This, said Shahrizat, would be in accordance with Zuraida’s logic behind blaming a person for the actions of his or her spouse.

Hear me roar: Shahrizat gesturing as she delivers her fiery speech during the Wanita Umno general assembly yesterday. – NORAFIFI EHSAN / The Star

For his part, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin mocked his PKR nemesis, Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, for suggesting that Umno change the Federal Constitution so that only a Malay can be Prime Minister.

He said PKR suggested such a proposal only because it realised that its support among the Malays was waning.

Puteri Umno chief Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin, meanwhile, slammed the Opposition for “twisting facts and figures” to arouse fear among the people over the country’s economic situation.

For his part, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin mocked his PKR nemesis, Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, for suggesting that Umno change the Federal Constitution so that only a Malay can be Prime Minister.

He said PKR suggested such a proposal only because it realised that its support among the Malays was waning.

Puteri Umno chief Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin, meanwhile, slammed the Opposition for “twisting facts and figures” to arouse fear among the people over the country’s economic situation.

Fists of fury from the wings

Analysis By Joceline Tan

Umno’s three wings were on fire as they took up their party president’s call to prepare for a do-or-die battle in the coming general election.

WHO would have thought that Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had that sort of fire in her belly? The normally demure Wanita Umno chief was on fire as she made the most aggressive and fiery speech of her life at the opening of the wing’s assembly yesterday.

None of the senior ladies who had supported her through the years had ever seen her in this high-octane mode and it brought them to their feet, cheering their lungs out and calling out encouragement to her.

She brought the house down. Even her aides were stunned.

“I’ve never seen her speak like this,” said one of them.

Then again, Shahrizat is fighting for her life – or rather her political life. She is facing a career crisis like never before over the “cows and condos” issue. Not even her fight for the leadership of Wanita Umno had been this stressful or critical.

Shahrizat’s policy speech had begun ordinarily enough, spelling out the wing’s role and commitment to Umno and its long string of accomplishments for Malaysian women.

Midway through, she lashed out at Zuraida Kamaruddin, the PKR Wanita chief whose style of politics is, well, far from being lady-like.

Or as Shahrizat put it, “Zuraida, perempuan biadap (rude woman).”

There was no stopping Shahrizat after that. She also hit out at PKR politicians who had gone to town on the cattle-rearing scheme in Negri Sembilan headed by her husband and children and which has become such a controversy.

The Women, Family Development and Community Minister seemed incensed that PKR politicians had demanded her resignation. Why should she, she said, when she had nothing to do with the project.

Instead, she challenged Zuraida to ask her own party president to resign over the alleged indiscretions of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The women loved this other side of Shahrizat, they were with her in her fit of fury against their opponents and they stayed on their feet till the very end of the speech.

Umno’s steel magnolia showed she could be a smiling tigress.

Not everyone in Umno may agree with the way she used the Wanita assembly to defend herself on the cattle scheme. But no one would disagree that she inspired her ladies to prepare for the general election.

Shahrizat knows that public opinion is not with her on this issue. Her aim is to get through the Umno assembly as best as she can. After that, she will have to evaluate her political future in the light of the Umno president’s uncompromising stand on winnable candidates.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s call for the party to get ready to fight the most difficult general election ever seems to have sunk in with the three wings.

There were lots of opposition-bashing. They went for the jugular of their opponents, pointing out their contradictions and shortcomings.

They served warning that the next election will not be a walkover for Pakatan Rakyat.

Those who spoke in the three wings have also moved on to new targets like Bersih chairman Datuk S. Ambiga, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and PKR’s deputy president Azmin Ali and strategy chief Rafizi Ramli. The old staples like Anwar, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and PAS leaders Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Datuk Seri Hadi Awang are not interesting to them.

Perak DAP star Nga Kor Ming was singled out for derogating Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir at a ceramah as hitam metallic haram jadah (metallic black and damned). It was a shocking racist remark for which the DAP leader has since apologised.

Of the three wings, Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin’s speech im­­pressed in terms of content, structure and the way it translated the president’s ideas in the context of the Youth wing. It was also thankfully free of rhetoric.

He explained what Najib has tried to do since taking over the party as the first Prime Minister to have been brought up in the post-Independence era. The generational shift that Najib is advocating is more than just replacing old faces with new ones; it’s about a change of worldview and he is trying to balance tradition and modernisation.

He put it well when he argued that the party’s push for winnable candidates is crucial because surveys have shown that 62% of young people are fence-sitters who will choose only parties and candidates they consider the best.

The Youth wing stands to gain most because the fresh and qualified candidates will mostly be sourced from the Youth rank and file.

The wing also has a well-thought- out assessment of the economic issues but it was the way Khairy poked holes in Pakatan’s critique of everything connected to Umno and the ruling coalition that was most interesting.

He signalled that the Youth wing knew the game the other side is playing and that it will be a fight to the end or lawan tetap lawan, as they say in Malay politics. Khairy calls it a test of survival for Umno and the Barisan.

The battle cry will get louder when the main assembly starts today. This once very powerful Malay party is determined to defend Putrajaya as much as Pakatan is eager to get there.

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