Uphill battle for Ku Li to bring back old Umno, say experts

They said there were many obstacles ahead for Tengku Razaleigh – better known as Ku Li – if he wants to pursue his aim to bring back a party with its original aims for the Malays.

They also said there were various issues involved, including legal tangles as well as the questions over the status of the present Umno. They added that the Gua Musang MP could also find it difficult to gather members and funding for his venture.

Rais Yatim, who left Umno to set up Semangat 46 along with Tengku Razaleigh and others, said the Kelantan prince would have to go back as far as 33 years if he wants to revive the old Umno. 

Dr Mahathir at the time had purged his opponents from the new party. Tengku Razaleigh and his supporters had formed Semangat 46.

Rais, who was a top leader in Semangat 46, said Tengku Razaleigh was undertaking an impossible task.

“Because 33 years have passed, the matter is not simple, even though we know Tengku Razaleigh’s intention may be considered pure from some angles. 

“It’s just a matter of time constraints. Umno has operated for so long and it is not easy for anyone to (legally) challenge what has happened,” said Rais, who rejoined Umno in later years, and then defected to Bersatu just before the last general election. 

The “original” Umno Tengku Razaleigh wants to revive was destroyed due to the split that arose in the aftermath of the 1987 party elections, said Rais, who is now Dewan Negara president.

He said he and Tengku Razaleigh had originally planned to name their new party “Umno 46” but the Registrar of Societies (ROS) at that time did not allow the formation of a new party with a similar name. As such their new party was called Semangat 46.

Surprisingly, Dr Mahathir managed to register his new party under the name Umno Baru but dropped “Baru” from usage, hence carrying on the Umno name despite the fact it was a new party.

The effort to revive the original Umno was mentioned by Tengku Razaleigh in a speech last week in the Dewan Rakyat, where he said the ban in 1988 was illegal and politically motivated.

A day after the speech, Tengku Razaleigh resigned as chairman of the Umno advisory council on grounds the party continued to support a failed government.

Following the resignation, a group that identified itself as Pekembar Protem Committee – Umno 1946 threw its support behind Tengku Razaleigh’s effort to revive the “old” Umno. 

However, one of the members of the group, Norali Nordin, who is also head of the Sg Senam Umno branch in Perak, refused to comment when asked about the organisation.

“In a few days, Tengku Razaleigh will issue a statement so we will not comment on anything for now,” he said.

Chances are slim

Political analyst Azmil Tayeb, on the other hand, said Tengku Razaleigh could be talking about the old Umno spirit because he was not happy with developments in the party at the moment.

The Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer said it appeared as though the Gua Musang MP did not like Umno leaders in the government working with those facing court cases.

Individuals facing court cases include former president Najib Razak and also his current successor, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“I think Tengku Razaleigh wants Umno to remain in the opposition and take over the government through an election,” said Azmil.

At the same time, he also said that Tengku Razaleigh may not be able to develop the new party even if he could revive the original Umno.

“Firstly, because there are many Malay parties such as Umno, Bersatu, PAS, Amanah and Pejuang.

“So, the chances of winning are slim, especially the new party that does not have many resources, funds and machinery. Secondly, who will be a member of this new party and why?

“Thirdly, the new party that split from the old one usually does not have a good record, like Semangat 46 and also Amanah now,” he said.

He said the main challenge that Tengku Razaleigh has to face in efforts to revive the original Umno is to get approval from the ROS.

“And ROS is under the jurisdiction of the federal government led by Umno and Bersatu, who may not be happy with the existence of this new party,” he said.

Legal implications

Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia lecturer Dr Mazlan Ali said Tengku Razaleigh’s statement would have a big impact on Umno.

This is because the current party needs to be dissolved if the court allows the original Umno to be revived, he said. 

“As far as I remember, after the new Umno was formed, they used the name Umno (Baru). And Tengku Razaleigh, if he wants to form the original party, he has to go to court. 

“Actually, when the old Umno is revived, then the new Umno will automatically be dissolved because there cannot be two names of the same party,” he said. 

He also said Tengku Razaleigh faces a difficult task due to his old age, apart from not having strong support to fight it.

Last week in Dewan Rakyat, Tengku Razaleigh said Umno must return to its basics and bring back the idealism that was lost after Umno Baru was set up in 1988.

He said it was time to look at Umno’s original vision for the Malays in 1946.

He added that the party was then committed to the parliamentary constitution and rules, and was also progressive with a leadership whose only aim was to serve.

“Leaders at branch, division or national levels had integrity and carried out their duties responsibly,” he said.

He added that the original Umno established in 1946 was still a legitimate party and that he was keen on reviving it.

He said the 1988 high court decision was wrong.

The Kelantan prince rejoined Umno in 1996 on the invitation of Dr Mahathir. TMI

The Ku Li Dilemma: Power Must Be Taken, Not Given

Ku Li needs to wake up to the fact that power must be taken. It cannot be given. Ku Li expects power to be given to him. That is never going to happen. He can wait till the day he dies, and he will still be waiting. In fact, Ku Li has been prime minister-in-waiting even longer than Anwar Ibrahim has.

According to ‘legend’, when Tun Hussein Onn took over as PM3 after the death of Tun Razak Hussein in January 1976, he wanted to appoint Tun Muhammad Ghazali Shafie as his deputy. However, Ghazali was not one of Umno’s three vice presidents. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Ku Li), Tun Ghafar Baba, and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad were (in that order of priority).

Hence Ku Li should have been the first choice of deputy prime minister, followed by Ghafar and then Mahathir.

Somehow, for some strange reason, Ku Li declined the post. And since Ghafar did not have the ‘right’ credentials, the job went Mahathir (the number three in line). However, according to Ku Li, it came with a condition. And that condition was, when Mahathir eventually becomes prime minister, he would appoint Ku Li as his deputy.

Well, Mahathir did eventually become prime minister five years later in 1981. But he refused to appoint Ku Li as the number two. Mahathir said he will leave it to Umno to decide who they want as number two. However, if he was asked who he would like as number two, said Mahathir, he would choose Tun Musa Hitam.

To cut a long story short, Mahathir stabbed Ku Li in the back. Ku Li, who was the then Finance Minister, was demoted to the Trade and Industry Minister, and after that it was open warfare between Mahathir and Ku Li.

In 1987, Ku Li got wiped out and in 1988 he set up Semangat 46 as the replacement and ‘original’ Umno of 1946 to challenge Mahathir’s ‘fake’ Umno Baru (at least that was the narrative they told the Malays).

Anyone who is someone knows this story of Umno’s 12-year journey from 1976 to 1988, even if they were born after 1990. But what many cannot fathom is what possessed Ku Li to give up the post of deputy prime minister in 1976, and then fight for it from 1981 to 1987 (and fail)?

The post of deputy prime minister was in Ku Li’s hands in 1976 and he let it go. And for the last 40 years since 1981, Ku Li has been fighting for the post of prime minister, which technically was already his 45 years ago in 1976. How do you explain this?

The English say, opportunity knocks but once. And if you do not open the door to opportunity, it will go away and will never come back again. Ku Li closed the door to opportunity 45 years ago in 1976. And the opportunity never came back to knock on his door again.

Ku Li was only 39 years old in 1976 when he had the chance to become Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, just about the right age. Today, he is 84, and he still dreams of becoming prime minister.

An 84-year-old prime minister is too old lah! Only Pakatan Harapan will appoint a 93-year-old man as prime minister. Even then they tried to get rid of him 22 months later when they discovered Mahathir has a mind of his own and they could not control him like they thought they could.

Ku Li needs to wake up to the fact that power must be taken. It cannot be given. Ku Li expects power to be given to him. That is never going to happen. He can wait till the day he dies, and he will still be waiting. In fact, Ku Li has been prime minister-in-waiting even longer than Anwar Ibrahim has.

Today, Ku Li announced he has resigned as the chairman of Umno’s advisory council. And Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said this is because Ku LI merajuk that he cannot become the prime minister. Ku Li, on the other hand, said Umno has lost its way and is no longer the party that was formed in 1946.

But then this was what Ku Li said in 1988 when he formed Semangat 46, allegedly to restore the spirit of the Umno that was formed in 1946. And then, eight years later in 1996, he wound up Semangat 46 and went back to Umno. Why did he do this? What was the reason he wound up Semangat 46 and went back to Umno? Until today, Ku Li has not explained this strange turn of events.

And now, again, just like back in 1988, Ku Li is saying Umno has lost its way and has lost the spirit or semangat of the 1946 Umno. Why are we going down this same road, yet again, like what we did 33 years ago?

Many of us supported Semangat 46 when it was first formed in 1988. In fact, the PAS supporters voted for Semangat 46 in the Teluk Pasu by-election (which they won) and in the 1990 and 1995 general elections. And we were very disappointed when Semangat 46 was wound up in 1996 and everyone went back to Umno.

If Ku Li thinks he can form Semangat 46 version 2.0 and recapture the support which he got 33 years ago, he needs a reality check. The 1980s and 1990s were a different era. In the mid-1980s, Malaysia’s population was only 16 million. Today, it is double that.

In the mid-1980s, there was no social media. Today, Malaysia has 28 million social media users.

In the mid-1980s, 4.7 million Malaysians voted in the general election. In the next general election, there will be 10 million more voters than in the mid-1980s.

You cannot restore the Umno of 1946. You need to bring Umno into the future, not back to the past. Ten million more voters will be voting in the next general election compared to in the mid-1980s. And these people have different values and priorities. And what concerns people today is money, not sentiments concerning the birth of Umno in 1946 and the Malay ‘struggle’.

Today’s Malaysians are not grateful for what they have. They moan, complain, and grumble. They expect the government to give them everything without them having to give anything back, as if the world owes them a favour.

They are selfish and demanding, contribute nothing to the world, and expect to be pampered and spoiled. They even blame the government for the Covid-19 pandemic when it is they who refuse to follow the SOP rules.

You can never please the present generation, never mind what you do. Do you think they care about the spirit of the Umno of 1946? MALAYSIA TODAY


Raja Petra Kamarudin