UMNO Ministers and leaders must prove that they are qualified to talk about democracy by rescinding the UMNO Supreme Council “no contest” decision for the two top party posts

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Tuesday): Umno veteran Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba has expressed his support for a contest for the two top UMNO party posts despite the UMNO  supreme council’s “no contest” decision for the posts of  UMNO President and Deputy President.

The former deputy prime minister and deputy Umno president said the positions of the president and deputy president would be stronger if they were endorsed directly by party members.

He said:  "This does not mean I don't like Mahathir and Dollah Badawi but I love Umno  more.   No harm if they continue to lead the party but it is better if their leadership is  endorsed by the members."

I believe Ghafar is speaking from the bottom of his heart. But why are there no UMNO leaders in the UMNO Supreme Council who dare to speak from the bottom of their heart?

On Sunday, I had expressed my concern that the final fifth full term of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister of Malaysia would be the most dangerous times for Malaysian nation-building as all external checks-and-balances have been dismantled while there are  totally no countervailing forces inside UMNO and Barisan Nasional to give him a reality check.

I had asked whether in the present top UMNO leadership, there is  a Musa Hitam, Anwar Ibrahim or even a Ghafar Baba who has his  own independent power base to moderate the excesses of  Mahathir and give him a  reality check?

Ghafar’s statement has only proven me right about the lack of independent minds and voices in the present top UMNO leadership. What Ghafar said yesterday should have been said by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in the UMNO Supreme Council, and this would have considerably enhanced his political credibility and legitimacy.

I believe that if the other former Deputy Prime Ministers, namely Musa Hitam and Anwar Ibrahim, had been asked, they would concur with Ghafar. In fact, I believe that a secret ballot of the UMNO Supreme Council members would show that they would overwhelmingly support a contest for the two top UMNO posts so that UMNO would not be ridiculed as undemocratic, authoritarian and even becoming Stalinist!

I have also no doubt that given a free vote, the overwhelming majority of the UMNO branches and members would oppose the UMNO Supreme Council’s “no contest” decision, which is different and separate from whether there would actually be a contest for the two posts - as the UMNO Supreme Council decision openly and publicly tramples on grassroots democracy inside UMNO.

I hope Ghafar would not be accused by the UMNO-controlled mainstream media of  “quite clearly and understandably in favour of a fractious contest at the May 11 Umno elections”, an accusation which has been levelled against me for making the very same proposal as the former Deputy Prime Minister.

UMNO Ministers and leaders must prove that they are qualified to talk about democracy by rescinding the UMNO Supreme Council “no contest” decision for the two top party posts

I do find myself in a very unprecedented and ironic role of  taking up the cudgel on behalf of UMNO members and leaders (including Cabinet Ministers)  for democracy and to oppose the Stalinisation of UMNO.

From a purely selfish standpoint, I should be keeping mum so that  the UMNO Supreme Council’s “no contest” decision  for the two top UMNO posts is not  disturbed - which  would   generate enormous  resentment and animosity inside the UMNO rank-and-file against the top UMNO leadership  as  to keep  UMNO in perpetual turmoil.

I am not interested in UMNO elections as I am not an UMNO member  but as the election of the two top UMNO posts also decides the posts of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the country, it is the right of every Malaysian citizen to be concerned.

It is not going to be helpful for Abdullah’s political credibility and legitimacy to take over as the fifth Malaysian Prime Minister if he is seen as having reached this post by being the first UMNO Deputy President from the backdoor as no  contest is allowed for the post as a result of  the UMNO Supreme Council decision.

May be, Ghafar should advise Abdullah that he should formally propose at the next UMNO Supreme Council meeting that its “no contest” decision for the two top posts should be rescinded before more damage is done to the political legitimacy and democratic credentials of the new Prime Ministerial  heir-appaent in Malaysia.

I am very concerned about the undemocratic and Stalinist lurches in UMNO for the simple reason that if the undemocratic excesses in UMNO cannot be checked despite widespread unhappiness and opposition at all levels in UMNO, there will be even less resistance to the undemocratic excesses of the Barisan Nasional government in the next five years.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman