UMNO party elections have tied the hands rather than empowered Abdullah to “walk the talk” to  fulfill his general election pledge to usher in reform and  lead a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy, efficient government prepared to hear the truth from the people

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): UMNO’s newspaper, New Straits Times described last night’s UMNO party elections as “a night of shock results” where “a rank outsider”, Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad, “pulled off a major surprise”when he polled the most number of votes to become UMNO’s first  vice president. 

In fact, New Straits Times had completely written off Isa yesterday when it made the forecast that the two hot favourites for the three UMNO vice presidential posts were Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib and Tan  Sri Muhyiddin Yassin while the third slot was a “toss up” for the other  four candidates, excluding Isa, “who was considered a strong candidate a month ago, now seems to have fallen behind”. 

Isa has made a remarkable political comeback.  It was an open secret that Isa was one  of the Mentri Besars to be  dropped in the last general election to present a new image for UMNO, but as the  new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was not strong enough to completely drop him, he was moved from the state to the national level.  Isa  was appointed to the Cabinet, but given the newly-created  light-weight Federal Territory Ministry, which was listed last in the  post-general election Cabinet line-up when it was announced. 

The “night of shock results” however is not just because of Isa  catapulting from being a dispensable member of the Cabinet to an UMNO leader and Cabinet member with the strongest claim to be the next Deputy Prime Minister, but also from the other UMNO Vice Presidential and Supreme Council election results. 

The shock results  raise the  tantalizing questions as to what would have been the outcome if there had been free democratic elections for the post of UMNO President and Deputy President, as well as Abdullah’s real hold in UMNO with the many powerful  undercurrents influencing the outcome of the party polls. 

Just as Abdullah’s jumbo-sized Cabinet after the general election had caused widespread disappointment, the defeat of three Cabinet Ministers and seven  Deputy Ministers, especially those regarded as “gurkhas" of Pak Lah, has  tied the hands rather than empowered Abdullah to “walk the talk” to  fulfill his general election pledge to usher in  reform and  lead a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy and  efficient government prepared to hear the truth from the people.

The critical issue  after the shock UMNO party election results is whether Abdullah can stamp his personality and commitment on UMNO or whether the UMNO institution and system is larger and more powerful  than an individual, even for a Prime Minister. 

It is most unfortunate that Abdullah had not used his maiden UMNO Presidential speech yesterday to spell out the specifics to translate his year-long rhetoric to lead a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy, efficient and  democratic government prepared to hear the truth from the people when he was  at his strongest politically. 

In his 100-minute speech, Abdullah signally failed to address three central issues to the fulfillment of his pledge when he became the fifth Prime Minister last November and was the centerpiece of his general election manifesto resulting in the unprecedented landslide  general election victory with nine-tenth parliamentary majorority, viz: 

  • An all-out war against corruption, and in particular, bringing to book the “18 high-profile corruption cases” which seemed to have been able to  escape the  anti-corruption dragnet in the past seven months;
  • Meaningful measures to restore the  fundamental constitutional principle of the separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary – with institutional and structural reforms to spearhead and sustain the  restoration of a truly independent judiciary and an effective Parliament.
  • Restoring the democratic rights of the people, especially those lost in the past two decades,  particularly concerning freedom of speech and expression, assembly and association, the right to information, represented by  a free, independent  and responsible media, printed and electroriic.

The majority of Malaysian believes that Abdullah is sincere and means well  in his pledge for  a clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent, efficient and people-oriented government but the UMNO party election results have  raised the disturbing  question whether he would be allowed by the Cabinet and the new UMNO leadership  to “walk the talk”, when time is already running out for him to deliver his election pledge. 


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman