Ku Li on Umno, Mahathir and Party Presidency

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Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said Umno would arise from its election defeat and would be reborn as a stronger organisation.

  • Apologises for Umno’s failings and mistakes
  • Against opening Umno to non-Malays
  • Says Dr M is the same man in a different shirt
  • Would not go crawling to Mahathir if he was the Umno acting president
  • No grudges against PM, calls him special, an old friend
  • Mulling over making a bid for Umno presidency
  • Volunteers to be opposition leader, if necessary

Acknowledging the party’s defeat in the May general election, Tengku Razaleigh, who is popularly known as Ku Li, said the party apologises for all its past failings and its mistakes.

“We really sincerely apologise (to the rakyat). If they think we have wronged them we apologise as a party,” he said at his residence yesterday.

However, the party would make changes and would return stronger as an organisation.

“No matter what happens, we accept the fact that we lost the election. It means the people have made the decision and they already elected a new government and we from Umno will give our cooperation,” he said.

However, such support was conditional upon the new government following the constitution. “And we will stand by that,” he said.

Asked if Umno would look at the corruption within the party, he said: “We will leave it to Tommy Thomas” (the newly-appointed Attorney-General).

Asked if his apology includes the “mistakes” made about scandal-mired 1MDB and whether it included Najib Razak, who stepped down as Umno president after losing power as prime minister, Tengku Razaleigh merely reiterated: “I apologise for all the mistakes we have made.”

Not open to opening up Umno to non-Malays

He disagrees with the idea of opening up Umno to non-Malays, as has been suggested by some of its leaders.

He insisted that the sentiment on the ground dictates that Umno is kept an exclusively Malay party.

“You can add one or two non-Malays, like some parties have done, and label them as multiracial parties. But the face is still not multiracial.

“I can say I am a multiracial because I used to have a non-Malay wife, but I am not multiracial in that (the party) sense,” he said.

Tengku Razaleigh, a member of Umno for over 60 years, said such a move would go against the reason Umno was set up in the first place.

“It was born like that. Umno was formed by the gathering of Malay organisations in 1946 because of the threat to the sovereignty of the country,” he said.

Does not believe Dr M has changed 

On Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tengku Razaleigh does not believe he is the “changed man” many admirers and former critics have said he is.

“He is still the same, but in a different shirt.

“He was like that 23 years ago, he was like that 22 years ago, I think he is like that now,” he said in between laughter.

Tengku Razaleigh said to take a look at Mahathir’s newly formed PPBM as an example.

“You just see the line-up of the party that was only just born but heads the government in Kedah, Perak, heads the government in Johor and elsewhere, and you see the number of seats they have in Cabinet,” he said.

(PPBM holds 13 seats out of Pakatan Harapan’s 116, but holds three Cabinet positions as well as the premiership.)

Asked if people would eventually realise that Mahathir has not changed: “I don’t know, it’s up to the people, it’s not for me to say.”

Would not “crawl” to the PM

When asked if he would have visited Mahathir if he was the Umno acting president, he said he would not have  “gone crawling” to the prime minister.

“Why should I? Why must I go crawling to him? He is from a different party. He has left our party which he formed with Anwar Ibrahim,” he said.

The question was a reference to the visit that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the acting Umno president, had made to Mahathir last week.

Razaleigh said he would not want to comment on Zahid’s visit.

“People have also asked me why he met up with Mahathir to seek advice on how to run Umno? That is his right,” he said.

Asked if he held grudges against Mahathir, Tengku Razaleigh replied: “No nothing. I have nothing against him.”

He added that Mahathir was an old friend and “he is special”.

Making a bid for Umno presidency, being opposition leader

In a report by news portal Malaysiakini, Tengku Razaleigh strongly hinted that he may make a bid for the Umno presidency in the June 30 party election.

He also expressed his willingness to become the opposition leader, “If need be, I’ll be (opposition leader) again,” he said.

He, however, remained mum on whether he would contest the Umno president’s post.

“I’ll come to that when I need to make the decision.

“I want to see whether all those people offering themselves will be able to manage Umno the way I think it should be,” he said, adding that Umno still had substantial power due to the 54 lawmakers in parliament.

“We are a strong force, and because of that, let’s see whether the general assembly or members with the right to vote will vote for those who can manage it,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of having young members lead the party, adding that he felt he was too old to do it.

“There are so many young people, young talented people, better educated, better schooling, better exposed; we must allow these young people (to lead).

“They are the future of this country. I’m 81, I left the cabinet in 1985,” he said.

The longest-serving member of Parliament, Tengku Razaleigh, 81, has been representing Gua Musang since 1986.

A former finance minister, he had served in Mahathir’s first Cabinet.