By Arshad Raji
Zuraidah Kamaruddin, the outgoing Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, quit Bersatu on 22 June to join Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM).
[Despite Zuraidah announcing her intention to resign from the cabinet], Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob [has not yet replaced her]. What is stopping him from acting decisively as the nation’s leader against Zuraidah’s transgression?
The latest acrobatic stunt by the trade-mark ‘party-hopping’ Zuraidah has got tongues wagging all over again.
What remains highly suspect and questionable is the fact that she first joined a political party that supports the incumbent ruling party of the PM.
With her quitting of the very party that gave her the ministerial appointment, will Ismail Sabri marshall his political will and have the gumption to remove Zuraidah from the cabinet given her betrayal of Bersatu?
Or, as the grapevine speculates, will he retain her on the flimsy argument that PBM is a component party of the incumbent ruling government.
Zuraidah’s case is bound to be the ultimate test of Ismail Sabri’s leadership.
Bersatu president Mahiaddin Yasin is reported to have suggested that a new ministry could be established and Zuraidah could be appointed as the minister of that newly established ministry.
His suggestion, short of naming the new ministry, sounds like a bake house experimenting with new moulds using the same ingredients.
Is Mahiaddin condoning ‘party hopping’ and denying that her act was an act of transgression and a rude challenge towards the PM’s leadership?
Now, will the PM take heed of Mahiaddin’s incredulous suggestion and show compassion towards Zuraidah’s ill-intended action?
A commonly held fact is that Ismail Sabri’s position as Umno vice-president is growing precarious by the day.
Having defied Umno president Zahid Hamidi by not heeding his call for an early general election, can Ismail Sabri survive the predictable onslaught?
Meanwhile, the sacking of Tajuddin Rahman, a loyal supporter of Ismail Sabri, from the Umno supreme council is also an indication that all is not well within Umno.
Zahid cannot accept an act of disobedience from any member of the party’s supreme council.
The sacking may have an impact on Ismail Sabri himself, as he is also Umno vice-president and subservient to Zahid in the party’s leadership structure. His current position as PM will no longer be tenable should he be sacked from the party.
Now, what option does Ismail Sabir have to remain in power should he be sacked from Umno?
Zahid’s call for an early general election is probably based on the confidence after the success of Barisan Nasional in winning the recent state elections in Johor, Malacca and Sabah.
There is also a widely held perception that should Barisan Nasional win the general election, Zahid would in all probability be appointed as the incoming prime minister by virtue of his position as Umno president.
It is unprincipled of Zahid to continue to hold on as the party president knowing he is facing serious criminal charges that could probably end his political career, should he be found guilty of the criminal charges.
Public opinion, as sieved from coffee-shop talk and social media traction, indicates that Zahid wants an early general election merely to escape being disqualified from contesting in the general election, should he be found guilty of the charges levelled against him in the ongoing court trial.
Speculation on social sphere is also rife that Zahid’s case could be dismissed by the court should Barisan Nasional return to form a majority government.
Such perceptions, speculations and coffee shop talk also seem to jive with the statements being dished out by those having a strong allegiance to and are hopeful of Zahid’s aspiration in becoming the PM to succeed Ismail Sabri.
All this does not augur well for the nation, which has to ensure it gets back on track for nation-building and returning to its past glory.
Lest we forget, the fact remains that Umno’s reputation as a political party is mired in a web of excesses of corruption involving several of its leaders. It will take years for the party to shed its corrupt image.
The changeover to a clean party image must come from within the party itself; its members must demonstrate the courage to say no to corruption and discard all its leaders who are corrupt or even alleged to be corrupt.
Unless and until this is done, Umno will forever remain as a party that is corrupt and a corruptor. And if the party does make a comeback to power with its baggage of corruption, the country will in all probability sink deeper into the cesspool of a failing state.
So what option does Ismail Sabri have if he wants to remain in power, and will he only call for a general election when his official term of office expires in mid-2023?
How will he overcome the threat of the Umno leadership towards him for his defiance to their call for an early general election?
Will he be sacked as Umno vice-president?
How will he act against Zuraidah for her ‘party hopping’ betrayals, which is in the first place a deliberate act of transgression against his leadership?
Will he heed Mahiaddin’s suggestion that a new ministry be created to accommodate Zuraidah?
These are the greatest challenges confronting the PM in addition to rising inflation and the global geopolitical and economic threats knocking harder day by day on his door.
Indeed, to state that our beloved nation and its people are facing unprecedented uncertainties is an understatement given the political undercurrents and intensifying chase for power.
Retired Brigadier General Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)