Monday, May 26, 2008

Ezam and the $64,000 Umno question

EZAM Mohd Nor coming back into Umno's fold? It is still hearsay, at this stage.


News that he is to rejoin the party he had been critical of until the March 8 polls is strange, but as they say, anything is possible in politics. Stranger things have happened.

Furthermore, it has been a longstanding rumour that the once rising star in Umno and former close aide of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will return to the party, which he once served as the Petaling Jaya Selatan deputy division chief.

Ezam has not made up his mind although he did meet Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi two weeks ago and Datuk Seri Najib Razak soon after.

He is expected to answer this nagging question soon now that he got home from Bangkok yesterday, but not without first having a "small talk" with former colleagues from Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

There are many questions, if it is true that Ezam, once dubbed the "Siamese twin" of PKR's vice-president Azmin Mohd Ali, has the intention to rejoin Umno. More so since it is a known fact that he left PKR after a fallout with Azmin.

Is he returning to Umno's fold because he sincerely believes it to be the only party championing the cause of the Malays?

Is he conceding that fighting corruption, through the Civil Movement against Corruption (Gerak) he helped set up, is a lost cause? Or does he find the invitation from Umno leaders to revitalise Umno an irresistible offer?

"I think it's strange (for him) to join the very institution he has been critical of. (But) this is his choice.

"After all he has done for the party (PKR), after going to prison, it would be odd for him to go back to them," said PKR chief Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Ezam had gone on record many times, saying he would not rejoin Umno. He said he wanted to focus on the campaign against corruption beyond partisan lines.

But Umno seems keen to embrace Ezam despite his venomous attacks on the party leadership, particularly on alleged corrupt practices in the government.

There is also concern. The question of Ezam being a "Trojan horse" was dismissed by Najib, who reportedly said that Ezam is a friendly party.

Speculation that Ezam will be appointed a senator and be given the task to lead the battle to recapture Selangor also has not gone down too well with other suspicious leaders.

There is uneasiness within Umno Youth, too, over talk of pushing Ezam to lead the movement.

Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has prepared three questions for the party leadership to ponder on the Ezam "crossover". First, what is the benefit for Umno if Ezam rejoins? Second, is he willing to struggle alongside Umno? Finally, what will be his role?

It is no secret that Ezam almost accepted an offer from PKR to contest the last general election after being told that Anwar was willing to forgive and forget.

When this did not materialise, Ezam convinced PKR leaders that he would assist "close friends" contesting the elections, which saw him campaigning for friends like Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Pas' Husam Musa and Mahfuz Omar.

When he was in Kelantan to launch a book published by Gerak, Islam dan Perjuangan Merawat Rasuah (Islam and the struggle against corruption), during the election campaign, he was full of praise for Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat for being the "cleanest" of all politicians.

But when the opposition pact won and statements and policies announced by Anwar on behalf of Pakatan Rakyat seemed to leave out the Malay agenda, Ezam was said to be upset.

Is rejoining Umno, therefore, an afterthought for this man?

By Zubaidah Abu Bakar

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