Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ezam can help Pak Lah's agenda

Sunday June 1, 2008

Ezam can help Pak Lah's agenda

On The Beat

Ezam fits in as a reformist in Umno. He has given his commitment to back the war against corruption and Malaysians will judge him for what he has said.

IT’S not going to be easy for Ezam Mohd Nor to be in Umno. The former Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader is still remembered for his harsh criticism against Umno and many have questioned his decision, or his motive as his critics called it, in rejoining the party.

He is still remembered for his statements, and on YouTube, the video-sharing portal, there are enough reminders of his past campaign against the Barisan Nasional.

Many in Umno are still not ready to forgive him, let alone welcome him with open arms into the fold.

It did not help that a Bahasa Malaysia daily quoted him as saying that he intended to contest for the post of Umno Youth chief.

To be fair to him, he had given a general reply to a reporter’s question, not wanting to shut any future possibilities.

But for a new entrant, he sent the wrong signals.

He quickly clarified the next day, saying he has no plans to contest the Umno Youth chief post or any other main positions in Umno, saying his focus now is to help the leadership in its agenda for change.

He said he was drawn to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s commitment to bringing about change and reform, especially in the fight against corruption.

But we are living in unusual times. Even PKR leaders including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim have kept their reaction to Ezam’s return to Umno mild, with Anwar himself well aware that he has been pursuing critics of PKR to join the party.

The Pakatan Rakyat government in Penang and Selangor are offering jobs to Barisan leaders, aware of the wisdom in tapping talent.

It’s open season really, with carrots being offered by both sides to anyone willing to join their camp. In an emerging two-party system, with little differences in their ideological platforms, it’s only the personalities and approaches that now divide both sides.

The proposed anti-hopping law seems to have fizzled out with both sides believing they can entice defectors. Anwar is still talking of getting enough MPs to form a new federal government by September while we are hearing talk of negotiations between Umno and PAS to close ranks in the name of Malay unity, and DAP leaders privately expressing their discomfort.

It’s not impossible as PAS was in the Barisan at one time.

But Ezam will certainly be useful to Umno. It’s a morale booster for the party, which is still reeling from the massive losses in the recent elections.

While his return to Umno is not exactly earth-shaking news, the party certainly needs fresh faces. Some of the old guard who hold senior positions in the party have tainted reputations.

Many young Malaysians are asking why these veterans are still wielding clout in the party when it is in dire need of reinvention. They also look out of place for those who embrace Facebook and MySpace.

Umno needs plenty of Obamas to bring renewal and rejuvenation into the party. It cannot cling on to the old politics, which has drained away the influence of the party.

Young and talented professionals need to join Umno because they believe they can do something for the country, and not because they can make money or build powerful connections.

Umno needs a lot of reformists. Ezam would fit into this category, as have Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek and Datuk Shahrir Samad.

It would not be wrong to say that these reformists, with their liberal ways, do not fit into the Umno establishment. Many old-style Umno division warlords find them odd, just as they regard the reforms being pursued by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as compromises that challenge their positions. Or Malay positions, as they imagine or claim.

Many are still not convinced by Abdullah’s reform agenda, particularly for more openness, and the losses in the elections have made his job more difficult to continue this agenda.

They blame his experiment with these reforms for the losses and insist that the reforms must stop, citing them as weaknesses. Zaid and Shabery, for example, have found themselves being attacked in Umno.

But Abdullah’s reforms must be supported because it is the right thing to do, even if some of us do not agree with his style.

Ezam’s entry would help the reformists in their work. He should continue his fight against corruption inside Umno, and he should not worry about exposing his party colleagues if he needs to.

He has given his commitment to back the war against corruption and Malaysians would judge him for what he has said.

His return to Umno should not mean he has been silenced or bought, as his critics claim. Let’s see the evidence and documents you have against corrupt leaders.

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