KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 ― Scandals engulfing top Wanita Umno leaders are undermining the backbone of the ruling party and will affect Barisan Nasional (BN)’s chances in Election 2013, say analysts.
The latest scandal is a lucrative land deal for a defence studies facility that has yet to be built by Selangor Wanita Umno chief Senator Datuk Raja Ropiaah Abdullah’s firm, nearly a year after the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal cost her boss Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil her senatorship and a Cabinet post.
“Issues that are raised by the Opposition can undeniably affect Wanita Umno’s image, and we know that Umno’s strong support comes from the women’s wing,” Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) lecturer Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani told The Malaysian Insider.
“So, it is up to Wanita Umno to change to menangkis tohmahan (dispel these accusations),” he said of the wing whose members have been effective in canvassing votes for BN.
Azizuddin said as many outside the party are watching Wanita Umno, the movement must change to ensure that they are seen to be clean and free from scandals that could hurt BN’s chances in this year’s general election.
“It’s all up to them,” Azizuddin repeated.
Raja Ropiaah has kept mum about her company Awan Megah Sdn Bhd’s failure to build the RM100 million National Defence Education Centre
(Puspahanas) in Putrajaya despite selling the government land that was swapped for the construction cost.
In late 2011, Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat’s family firm was accused of misusing a RM250 million federal soft loan for the NFC cattle-rearing project. Her senatorship was not renewed, leading to her being dropped from the Cabinet.
Wanita Umno has always steered clear of controversies in the past, unlike Umno and Umno Youth where several leaders have been hauled up for graft and even murder.
Shahrizat’s predecessor Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz had always snuffed out allegations that she was partial to giving approved permits (APs) to cronies in her long stint as the country’s most successful trade minister.
Dr Azizuddin’s views were shared by Wan Saiful Wan Jan, the chief executive officer of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), who said that scandals will impact Umno.
“I think any scandals that are exposed will definitely give an impact to the party, and this accusation will be used as a weapon by the Pakatan Rakyat,” Wan Saiful said.
But he said these issues could be used as a turning point for Umno to carry out reforms, including leaving out controversial figures from its election candidates’ list.
“I think if Umno is truly serious in solving these issues, Umno has to take the step of not appointing anyone involved in political scandals as candidates for the coming elections,” he said.
But Prof Dr Samsu Adabi Mamat from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) disagreed with the two analysts, expressing confidence that Umno will not be affected by these controversies.
“These issues will not give effect to the party. These are just modal (capital) from the Opposition for them to attack Wanita Umno,” Samsu said.
He said Wanita Umno’s influence, owing to efforts by the wing’s chief Shahrizat, would be greater than accusations hurled by the federal opposition.
“The Opposition also does not play a big role in women’s development compared to Wanita Umno, so from there we can know that support will not change (because) of the issues used by the Opposition,” he said.
Besides Wanita Umno, Samsu said the other wings in Umno could also be considered the “backbone” of the party.
“Wanita Umno is one of Umno’s backbones, but there are many other backbones in the party.”
“These issues do not affect the party, because the party still has support from strong grassroots,” Samsu said, saying that the strength of the grassroots’ support will determine the BN’s win this elections.