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Kedah leaders' oath heralds better prospects for Umno
UNPRECEDENTED MOVE: Six division chiefs pledge to put party before self
THINGS are looking up for Kedah Umno's and, by extension, the Barisan Nasional's chances of returning to power in Kedah.
Last Thursday, six Umno division chiefs, led by Baling Umno division chief Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, took the sumpah laknat oath and decided to put party before self. The move by the six division heads was unprecedented in Umno.
The pledge was before Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, when he visited the town of Baling to open the annual delegates' conference of the six divisions, which are seen as key in BN's fight to win back Kedah from Pakatan Rakyat.
The six divisions make up six parliamentary seats and 15 state seats. They were once Umno strongholds. But in the last general election, BN lost all the six parliamentary constituencies. It only managed to retain two of the 15 state seats.
At the ceremony, the division chiefs pledged full support to whoever Najib names as candidates in the parliamentary and state constituencies and that they would work hard to ensure victory for their party.
"It does not matter if I or any of my colleagues are not chosen," Azeez said to a thunderous applause from the 1,000 delegates and observers from the six divisions. In a break from the past, when delegates were usually bussed in, this time everyone made their own way to the conference -- a possible indicator of future commitment.
Azeez and the five others -- comprising the heads of the Merbok, Kulim-Bandar Baharu, Sik and Sungai Petani Umno divisions and the deputy head of Padang Serai Umno division -- had been regarded by many quarters as having placed their heads on the chopping block.
It is no secret that Azeez, nicknamed Azeez Rempit for his campaign to rehabilitate youths -- mostly Malays involved in illegal motorcycle racing, is at odds with his division's Wanita Umno chief, Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, who is also deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
As for the others, their "problems" ranged from being a novice to one with illusions of grandeur.
Merbok Umno division chief Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain said he and five of his colleagues had decided that the time was right for Kedah Umno to pay serious attention to winning back Kedah.
"For some reasons, we have been off tangent," he admitted. "We need to go back to the right track and help our party president and the BN chairman win with a bigger mandate.
"Personally I have no problems on the candidacy. Leave it to our party president and we just work with him to win back Kedah and the other states," he said.
His counterpart from Sik, Datuk Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah, also a first-term state assemblyman, said the time was right for Kedah BN, and especially Umno in the state, to right all the wrongs of 2008.
"The opposition was never strong," he said. "Everybody knows they had beaten us because we were weak due to our own follies."
However, the oath-takers' intentions, if they truly and religiously carry them out, are a step in the right direction.
Taking the sumpah laknat is a serious matter and Allah will curse them if they lie. Muslims, irrespective of their degree of piety, take this very seriously. It involves their faith and their belief in His powers to create and destroy.
Najib had also in the past called for Umno leaders at all levels to emulate one of Prophet Muhammad's companions, the great Muslim general and military strategist Khalid ibn al-Walid.
Despite being dismissed later by the Caliph Umar, Khalid remained loyal to the causes of Islam and a true Muslim.
Again, the Kedah Six are no Khalid ibn al-Walids. Far from it. However, if they remain loyal to Umno even if they are not picked as candidates by Najib, then they are true blue party members.
Realising the importance of the six divisions, Najib has called on them to lead the way in Kedah to recapture the state in the next general election.
The Kedah Six's commitment is very commendable, said Universiti Utara Malaysia's political and international studies senior lecturer, Md Shukri Shuib, adding that Umno should capitalise on the ever-growing shaky and fragile state of the opposition now.
"If they are honest and good, they have nothing to worry about," he stressed.
"The prime minister knows who are his winnable candidates."