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Friday, June 29, 2018

Who will Sabah Umno choose as party president?

KOTA KINABALU - Three Umno president hopefuls visited Sabah on Tuesday and Wednesday as they pitched for support from the 20,000 Sabah Umno delegates ahead of the party polls tomorrow.

They are among the 146,000 delegates in 191 divisions who will vote for the top posts in the party, which has three million members.

Those who attended all three meet-and-greet sessions here would have noted a stark difference in attendees as well as the mood exhibited during these two days.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s event was held at a small function room in a four-star hotel located in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city. It was later moved to the hotel ballroom for the dialogue session to cater to the crowd, which had grown to 800 by 3pm.

During the question-and-answer session, moderated by Ranau Umno division chief Masidi Manjun, questions posed to the veteran statesman were respectful and polite, with mostly “safe” questions such as why he wanted to contest for the post.

The attendees also asked Tengku Razaleigh, popularly known as Ku Li, to explain the photo of him with Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders such as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Even during the session, many left their seats and stepped out of the ballroom, saying it was too cold inside.

The session was over in less than two hours. Many who had attended Ku Li’s session stuck around for the next session with Khairy Jamaluddin.

The former Umno Youth chief arrived at the hotel shortly before 8pm. By that time, the crowd had increased to more than 1,000, consisting mostly of members from the party’s women and youth wings.

Khairy’s session was much livelier than Ku Li’s, with the 42-year-old taking the microphone to announce his plans for political autonomy for Sabah Umno.

The ballroom was full, and except for one or two members who now and then shouted “Hidup Khairy”, those attending were mostly attentive and supported the candidate with thunderous applause here and there.

When it came to the question-and-answer session, Khairy was bombarded with questions.

The attendees were queuing up at the microphone, unlike Ku Li’s session where attendees were so quiet that Masidi had to excuse them by saying they felt shy of the Umno veteran.

It was also an opportunity for some members to tell Khairy of their disgust with certain leaders in the party and the difficulties they had faced when campaigning for a party tainted with scandals.

Some attendees did not even address Khairy as “YB” (Yang Berhormat).

On Thursday, it was Umno acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s turn to face the delegates. More than 1,000 Sabah Umno delegates were treated to a lunch-cum-Hari Raya do at a five-star hotel.

Zahid, who was scheduled to arrive at 2.30pm, only came at around 3pm, apologising as he walked up the red carpet to muted applause from the audience.

Newly-appointed Sabah Umno liaison chief Salleh Said Keruak gave a spirited speech to welcome the former deputy prime minister, but some in the crowd heckled him, telling him to finish off his speech.

When it was Zahid’s turn to speak, the applause was a bit more welcoming. He talked about Sabah Umno’s history and related it to the now-defunct United Sabah National Organisation (Usno).

He also talked about not giving up and said monthly allocations would once again be made available to all party divisions.

There was no question-and-answer session.

He finished off his speech with shouts of “Hidup Umno” but the chorus that joined in was weak and unsure. Outside the ballroom, only half of the attendees bothered to punch the air at all while the rest just looked on.

Asked who they would vote for this Saturday, two delegate members said they would vote for whoever their division heads asked them to.

“We are not sure yet because we haven’t received any directive. Soon, maybe, we will know,” they said.

If given the chance though, they said they would prefer to vote according to their own conscience. However, they refused to divulge who their chosen candidate would be.

By Tracy Patrick

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