KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 – As some Umno veterans once again pressure Datuk Seri Najib Razak to resign, one former leader has endorsed former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah as the best person to take over as prime minister. Former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said out of all current Umno leaders, Razaleigh, also known as Ku Li, was the best person to take over due to his honesty and integrity. In his latest blog post, Zaid also called on Razaleigh’s one-time nemesis Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed to back Razaleigh for prime minister, saying that both have to bury the hatchet for a greater purpose.
“If he truly wants to see some improvements in curbing the systemic corruption, Tun should endorse Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah as the one to take over as prime minister after Najib,” said Zaid, a former Kelantan Umno leader. “Tengku is from the old school. He values integrity and honesty. A person like him is therefore needed to start the reformation in the country,” said Zaid of the Gua Musang MP. Razaleigh was one of the few politicians during the Dr Mahathir era who posed a threat to former prime minister’s administration.
Razaleigh was narrowly defeated in a historic challenge against Dr Mahathir for the Umno presidency in 1987. But a subsequent court case that he brought against Umno led to the party being de-registered due to irregularities in the party elections. Razaleigh and his supporters left Umno and formed Semangat 46, which defeated Barisan Nasional in several parliamentary seats in the 1990 general election. “Tun Dr Mahathir might still feel the rancour and pain of the bitter fight between Umno’s Team A and Team B in 1988, and Tengku Razaleigh might still feel uncomfortable with Tun.
“But both of them must forget the past and rise above themselves. They need to use their combined resources to change the country from its current Wild Wild West mentality, where cowboys plunder our riches,” Zaid said. In the past few weeks, Dr Mahathir has ratcheted up his campaign to remove Najib, saying that Barisan Nasional would lose the next general election if it did not replace Najib. Unlike his previous move to remove fifth prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Dr Mahathir, however, refused to endorse anyone to take over from Najib.
Razaleigh, Zaid said, was the best person to tackle the country’s endemic corruption and to put the government back on the right track. “Corruption has flowed into our national bloodstream to such an extent that it will take generations – if at all – to cleanse the system. “Our values must first change. We must first feel that it’s wrong to be corrupt.” Razaleigh had been one of the few BN leaders to call ministers to declare their wealth. Zaid said corruption had seeped into the national consciousness to the point that no one batted an eyelid when politicians had close ties with business tycoons.
For instance, it was not unusual for politicians, judges and senior police officers to get honorary memberships in prestigious golf clubs, said Zaid. “I am sure the tycoons who own these golf resorts give away memberships to judges and police officers because they may come in useful in certain situations. “No one, especially tycoons, gives anything for free and civil servants and judges know this all too well.”