Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein are allegedly the hidden hands behind garnering support for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
PETALING JAYA: The spate of resignations that has almost crippled Umno is a result of a proxy “Mahathir-Anwar war” between groups in the party – one in support of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister and the other that wants to see Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim move up.
Umno supreme council member Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad said the disagreement between the Umno sides came to a head when the pro-Anwar group began openly canvassing support for him to become the 8th prime minister.
Alwi, who is also Kelantan opposition leader, said the pro-Mahathir group is led by Larut MP Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin while the pro-Anwar group is headed by Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Hamzah is staunchly opposed to Anwar becoming prime minister.
As such, the Hamzah group is not so much about supporting Dr Mahathir as it is about stopping Anwar in his tracks.
With the help of Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, who is also opposed to Anwar, Hamzah managed to persuade 38 Umno MPs to sign statutory declarations in support of Dr Mahathir if anyone brings about a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister in Parliament.
“There was no intention among them to resign from Umno or to join Bersatu. None are interested,” said Alwi.
However, Alwi said that sometime last month, Padang Rengas MP Datuk Nazri Aziz began meeting division leaders in the Klang Valley to persuade them to support Anwar.
Nazri had reportedly said to them that if Anwar were to become the prime minister, there will be no witch hunt against Umno leaders.
He said the MACC would not be used to suppress the opposition as it seems to be happening now.
He also assured his listeners that Anwar would not deregister Umno and there would be equal allocations for government and opposition wakil rakyat.
Many in Umno believe that Nazri’s latest move is linked to whispers and rumours that something big would take place at the March meeting of Parliament to propel Anwar forward.
Nazri met eight Umno divisions. His latest with the Ampang Umno division ended in a fierce commotion.
The Umno Youth leaders criticised him for asking them to support Anwar, which they said were nothing short of cooperating with DAP.
They said even though DAP was prepared to accept ex-Umno leaders, they would never accept that party.
Nazri’s open campaign for Anwar infuriated Hamzah, who then decided to take things to another level.
It is understood that a secret meeting was convened at Hishammuddin’s house in Ampang last weekend. Among the attendees were Hamzah and PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.
How and why Azmin is involved in this made-in-Umno drama is unclear but he has emerged as a trusted figure in Mahathir’s circle.
A few days after the meeting, the resignations in Sabah began, followed by more in the peninsular.
“I see it as Hamzah’s way of warning the Umno leadership to stop the alliance with Anwar,” said Alwi.
Hamzah has not only threatened to spark off more resignations from Umno, he is also demanding that Dr Ahmad Zahid steps down as Umno president.
Dr Ahmad Zahid has shown no sign of caving in to the demands. He is, after all, a democratically-elected president.
A supreme council meeting, scheduled for this evening, has also been called off. The cancellation is widely seen as an attempt by Dr Ahmad Zahid to buy time to seek an amicable solution.
But the pressure is not easing. Former Umno Youth chief and Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin is crying out loudly for Dr Ahmad zahid’s ouster.
Yesterday, Khairy tweeted again: “Step aside sir. It’s time.”
Khairy, once labelled as kambing hitam or black sheep by Dr Mahathir, has also lashed out at Hishammuddin as geng bangsawan (aristocratic gang)
Political commentator Dr Azmi Omar described the debacle that Umno was going through as a “perfect storm”.
“It is ironic that Umno is facing so much trouble because of another round of Anwar versus Mahathir,” said Dr Azmi.
It is obvious that Anwar is closely following the proxy war in Umno. He tweeted yesterday: “Lots of political intrigue discussed in #Twitterjaya this week”.
Alwi said he was also approached by Hishammuddin a few months ago over the same issue.
“I was invited to his Ampang office for lunch. I arrived late. There were already more than 30 Umno leaders there. Then, he met us one at a time – no phones allowed.
“He wanted to know if we were to choose between Anwar and Mahathir, who did we prefer,” said Alwi.
Incidentally, Alwi told Hishammuddin that he trusted Dr Mahathir more than Anwar.
“But that doesn’t mean that we want to join Bersatu. Why should we? Umno is a big party with a long history. We can recover if we are united and focused.”
Umno’s political tug-of-war has left the Youth wing fed-up.
Its deputy Youth chief Shahril Hamdan said the wing was not interested in taking sides between Anwar or Dr Mahathir.
“Right now, it seems the best political minds in Umno are invested in trying to capitalise from any alleged split in the government rather than focus on good old politics – policy, inspiration, sentiment and charisma,” he said.
Shahril warned against falling into the trap of “my opponent’s weakness is my strength”.
“Even if the rakyat is falling out of love with Pakatan, we are not even in their consideration, especially when we seem more interested in convenient mergers and backdoor dealings.”