Malaysia

Former deputy president criticises Umno for sidestepping leadership contest

Former Umno deputy president Tun Musa Hitam (pic) has deplored the way Umno avoided any challenge to the party’s top two leadership posts.

"Challenging incumbents is not a competition but a process to give chance for leaders to serve," Musa said in an interview with the New Straits Times, adding that challenging incumbents must not be seen as a contest to gain power.

However, he revealed that from the time he joined politics, it was ingrained into him that competition could divide the party.

Yet in 1987, Musa, who was the incumbent deputy president, teamed up with arch-rival Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who challenged Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the president's post.

Razaleigh lost by a 43-vote majority and Musa lost the deputy president's role to Ghafar Baba, the then deputy prime minister.

Disgruntled members went to court to declare the general assembly and the election results null and void on the grounds that several delegates from unregistered branches had voted.

Umno was then declared illegal by the High Court and two groups emerged from the incident. One of them was a revived Umno, the other a splinter group, Semangat 46, with Razaleigh as its leader.

But Musa remained loyal to Umno.

Whether a party was divided depended on the winners and losers, he said, adding that there were losers who continued to be enemies.

"This culture has to be changed, accept defeat and this is part of the process," said Musa.

The former Umno leader would like to see the six vice-presidential candidates debate on TV so that “this way, Umno members and the public at large get to watch these candidates”.

Musa, who was deputy prime minister from 1981 to 1986, said based on the list of candidates, there was perception that factionalism had emerged.

"I would like to stress that this is an inevitable reality in a big political party," he said.

In the lead-up to the vice-presidency contest, he said there was a group that claimed they were not together but moved as a group.

He said the reality now was that there was a strong, powerful and influential group seeking re-election.

"But I hope people ask themselves the question; what was their success rate? If they had failed, then they should not seek re-election," he added.

Musa said this election was not only for Umno but for the leadership of the country.

"Umno cannot afford to be blinkered and introverted here. How can we face the challenges from the opposition, not to mention the world?” he asked.

He advised delegates to pick leaders who could take care of the party. - October 5, 2013.

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