PETALING JAYA, July 17 — The knives are out in Umno and its secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa has made no attempt to cloak the identity of its target: Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin.
Despite there being other Umno members who chose to remain seated in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday — Labuan MP Datuk Rozman Isli and Datuk Seri Anifah Aman — rather than join the mass Opposition walkout, Khairy has been singled out for bashing.
The incident was another sign of the schism within Umno; on the one side, there is president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the old guards including Annuar, and Khairy the former Youth chief on the other side with his liberal ideas to open up the party to all races before the next general election.
The first clear sign of the rift within Umno was in the June 30 internal leadership election where Khairy ran for president and lost by a hair’s breadth to Zahid.
Rather than being extinguished, the fight seems to be raging on, as evidenced by Annuar’s sarcasm-laced tweet yesterday.
“A credible Opposition is someone who acts alone, who does not bother to attend pre-council meetings, who does not join discussions with fellow MPs.
“When things go wrong, they only sit; when friends rise to speak, they stay mute; the only thing credible is following PH!”
Though Annuar did not name anyone, the tone of his tweet reflects the new Umno leadership’s displeasure towards Khairy who had been vocal in voicing his thoughts on how to revive its over three million members’ flagging spirits after their shock defeat to Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the May general election.
Khairy had called on delegates to change the entire Umno leadership and rid the nationalist party of its entrenched “warlords”.
Annuar’s war of words with Khairy is a telling sign, though indirect, that the party leadership does not need him anymore and wants him out. The 42-year-old is probably considered a pain in Umno’s neck now.
Khairy seems determined to stay put for now, but for how long depends on the pressure he is under at present. But his options will depend on the challenges he may pose to whichever party he intends to join.
PKR does not seem to need Khairy as a leader because the ruling party has more than enough young and qualified individuals who are ready to lead and who appeal to young Malaysians across the board.
Parti Amanah Negara may not need a leader like Khairy as 90 per cent of its leaders are definite on their party direction and target: Liberal, practising Muslims.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) seems to be the only Malay party left to Khairy, but animosity between its chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Khairy’s father-in-law, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who succeeded Dr Mahathir, means any overtures may not go down well.
Political observers will be following the Sungai Kandis by-election in Selangor closely to see how Umno utilises its immediate past Youth chief.
Nomination Day for the by-election is this weekend with polling on August 4.
If he is not given any responsibility or ignored totally during campaigning, then it is a sure sign that Umno no longer needs Khairy.