March 30, 2016
Tengku Razaleigh –The Perennial UMNO Man
by Scott Ng
UMNO Man to the End
Many people were shocked last Thursday when Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah joined other Kelantan UMNO figures in signing a declaration of support for Prime Minister Najib Razak.
In retrospect, though, the news should not have been so surprising. More than two weeks earlier, Ku Li did give a hint of where he might be going when he indicated that he would not be party to the Save Malaysia movement of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The Kelantan Declaration effectively declares unconditional support for Najib in his positions as Prime Minister and UMNO President. This has prompted Mahathir to finger Ku Li as the prime mover, months ago, of a plan to table a no-confidence motion against Najib.
To have Ku Li openly support Najib is undoubtedly a massive victory for the Prime Minister as well as Barisan Nasional. This is especially true when one takes into account the reformist credentials of the Kelantan prince, who in 1988 founded Semangat 46 as an alternative to Mahathir’s “Team A” of powerful warlords
Semangat 46 did not perform well in the 1990 general election, and eventually the party was largely re-absorbed by UMNO. But that run cemented the Tengku’s reformist legacy, and one must wonder what Malaysia would look like today had he become our fifth prime minister. There is no doubt it would look very different indeed, but history has already bestowed the victor the spoils.
It would appear that Ku Li is finally shrugging off the legacy that defined him as a politician for decades. No longer with the reformists but with the establishment, he has made the choice to stand with Najib instead of the Save Malaysia movement. Mahathir can snipe all he likes, but the damage is done, and the ultimate winner in this exchange is Najib.
Indeed, Ku Li had finally relinquished his dream of becoming PM when he announced he would not be running in the next election. It is clear that he had no path to that position whichever side he stands on, though one must hear him explain his actual motivations before making assumptions. It may be that Kelantan will finally get the attention it deserves.
Whatever Ku Li’s true intentions are, we will know only when he decides to tell us, and with politicians, that may mean never.
Then Rising Star of UMNO
Regardless, the Kelantan prince bows out of the political scene causing a wave nearly as big as the one Malaysians saw when he campaigned against Mahathir all those years ago, and the Ku Li as Prime Minister we never really got to know becomes another “what if” to followers of Malaysian political history.