Does Ku Li want to be PM?

I’m sure many would have read about remarks by Umno veteran leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah recently about Umno members and leaders who support “outsiders” i.e. from the opposition. A quick recall of what he said.

A few days ago, Tengku Razaleigh, fondly known as Ku Li, was on record suggesting that Umno members and leaders who support the opposition should face disciplinary action, including being sacked from the party.

The Umno veteran said no one in the party is immune to disciplinary action and this include those in the top leadership.

If Umno leaders “prioritize” leaders of other parties (who are opposing Umno), action must be taken as their action is a disrespect to Umno’s struggles, said Tengku Razaleigh.

No names were mentioned but Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi previously said he had been informed that many Umno MPs were starting to support opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and that he could not do anything to stop them.

Speculation then surfaced that Zahid himself, together with former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, are among those supporting Anwar. And Tengku Razaleigh’s remarks were made following circulation of a letter purportedly showing the duo and several other Umno MPS retracting support for Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister. The letter was allegedly presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

But that letter was confirmed by an aide to the Umno president as fake. That prompted a veteran newspaper man to ask on Facebook “but isn’t the letter fake?” implying why Tengku Razaleigh was commenting on something that was not real. However, that post has since been taken down.

Nevertheless, another veteran newsman said the denial by Zahid’s aide was for the letter circulated on the WhatsApp application, Facebook and what not.

As he sees it, “The letter that was circulated in social media purportedly from Zahid to the King was fake according to Zahid’s office. But his office never said if the Umno president indeed issued a letter of support for Anwar to hand over to the King.”

Anyway, a political observer pointed out that going by Tengku Razaleigh’s call that Umno people supporting the opposition ought to be disciplined, questions can be asked if he himself is working with, or is supportive of Tun Mahathir Mohamad?

Tengku Razaleigh is seen by some quarters in the political fraternity as one of the contenders for the prime minister’s post in the event Muhyiddin is proven to have lost the majority support in Parliament.

Speculation is rife that he is being supported by Mahathir in his bid to become PM. But another version has it that it is he who is throwing support for Mahathir.

While Tengku Razaleigh has not commented (up till now) on all the speculations, Mahathir has said he is not supporting anybody to be prime minister. And as if right on cue, his party Pejuang has “nominated” Mahathir to be PM yet again.

So political observers are saying it is important for Tengku Razaleigh to set the record straight. Clarify once and for all.

But does Tengku Razaleigh want to be PM? While his remarks and actions seem to suggest so (at least that’s what people see the “signals” are), Tengku Razaleigh has not said if he wants to be PM or otherwise.

That has always been his style, said a retired journalist who covered Tengku Razaleigh extensively back in the day.

“Ku Li remains quiet on what his plans are. He has always been like that,” said the former journalist.

But Tengku Razaleigh has always aspired to be prime minister. And he very nearly achieved it if not for his narrow defeat to Mahathir in the big Umno war of 1987.

In the Umno election that year, Tengku Razaleigh failed to unseat Mahathir from the Umno presidency, losing by only 43 votes. Needless to say, a win would have seen him be made PM.

He went on to form Parti Semangat 46 and created two political coalitions with his party featuring in both. One was Gasasan Rakyat comprising multiracial parties including DAP. The other was Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah made up of Malay-Muslim parties including PAS. This was an attempt to topple the Mahathir-led BN in the 1990 general election. Again, he failed. Had his coalitions won, Tengku Razaleigh would have been PM.

Long story short, Tengku Razaleigh returned to the Umno fold having dissolved his party Semangat 46. And he kept a rather low profile in Umno. But when Umno lost federal power in GE14 in 2018, Tengku Razaleigh resurfaced, so to speak. He mounted a challenge for the Umno presidency, contesting against Zahid and Khairy Jamaluddin in a three-cornered fight. He lost. Had he won, he would not be prime minister though, as Umno was government no more.

Now this. As the longest-serving MP in the country, said the former journalist, Tengku Razaleigh remains an enigmatic force with his own support base in Umno and outside the party.

And no one would discount his other advantage. “Being a prince from Kelantan with strong contacts in Malaysia’s royalty has its advantages in going for the PM post,” said the former journalist.

But Tengku Razaleigh also has his share of detractors inside and beyond Umno.

Among the older ones, well, they never fail to remind all and sundry it was Razaleigh’s (alleged) supporters who took Umno to court when they disputed the 1987 party election results.

But in the end the party itself was declared illegal by the court. Umno was dead and in its place came Mahathir’s Umno Baru.

Still , Tengku Razaleigh’s level of support now in Umno, according to the former journalist, is often overstated by his supporters, perhaps to take advantage of the current turmoil in Umno.

“However, doubts will persist in whether Ku Li has launched another bid for the PM post,” said the former journalist, going on to say Tengku Razaleigh’s aide was reported as saying Ku Li had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong over the political impasse and offered to sacrifice to resolve the deadlock.

One can only wonder if that meant he was willing to find a solution or offer himself as the solution.

By : Mohsin Abdullah (Veteran Journalist) – SIN CHEW DAILY

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