'Returning Umno leaders must start from scratch'

KUALA LUMPUR: Sacked Umno leaders seeking a return to the party will have to start from scratch, says supreme council member Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi.

He said this would show they were sincere about returning to the fold.

Under Umno's constitution, new members must complete one term (three years) in the party before they are eligible to contest positions.

Puad's remarks came amid reports that Umno was ready to give leaders who were sacked or suspended in the aftermath of the 15th General Election (GE15), a second chance.

Umno secretary-general Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki had said the party always kept its doors open to former leaders and members.

Puad, however, said while Umno's doors were "open" to anyone, the idea of giving sacked members a second chance was not a sign of desperation.

"(Umno is not) desperate or overly eager to persuade those who were suspended or expelled to return to the party," he told the New Sunday Times.

The Rengit assemblyman said the "second chance" proposal referred to sacked and suspended members who already applied to rejoin Umno or had their suspensions lifted.

Meanwhile, an Umno Youth leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said many in the wing were in favour of giving sacked Umno leaders a second chance as they believed it could rejuvenate the party.

"It is not like they are missing these leaders very much," said the source.

"It is just that they believe and are aware of the influence and capability of these leaders to help Umno restore the support of the people."

The source cited former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and former information chiefShahril Sufian Hamdan.

Khairy was sacked in January last year and Shahril was suspended the same month for breaching party discipline. Khairy and Shahril have a large social media presence.

"If the party can bury the hatchet with DAP, why not accept back some of these former leaders who we know will rejuvenate and strengthen it?"

A Wanita Umno leader, who declined to be named, said she believed the proposal was acceptable, though more senior party leaders and members might not agree.

"I am sure they (senior party leaders and members) will resist, as they have been toeing the party line and defending Umno's decision to sack and suspend some leaders."

Political analyst Dr Azmi Hassan said he believed the time was right for Umno to accept its sacked or suspended leaders back into the fold.

He said the Barisan Nasional linchpin was now "stable" and had recovered from its poor performance in GE15.

"Some of these former leaders, such as Khairy, are not only appealing to Umno members, but also people outside the party," the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow said.

Political analyst Dr Ainul Adzellie Hasnul said the return of sacked leaders could cause unease in Umno's ranks, particularly among those who toed the party line.

"But the benefit of accepting them back is that it shows Umno is willing to im-prove and become stronger."

Aside from Khairy and Shahril, other Umno leaders who were sacked include former Tanjong Karang member of parliament Tan Sri Noh Omar, former supreme council member Isham Jalil andSembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

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