Shahrizat has 'ok' reputation but signals Umno’s failure to groom new leaders, say experts

07 Feb 2023 08:00am
Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil
Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil

SHAH ALAM - Appointing Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to return to Wanita Umno Malaysia leadership may be accepted by many in the women wing but signals Umno’s failure to groom new leaders, say experts.

International Islamic University Malaysia political expert Dr Syaza Shukri said people like Shahrizat haa an ‘ok’ reputation, especially among the grassroots.

"But of course, it does signal that Umno has failed to groom new leaders, especially among Wanita Umno," she told Sinar Daily.

Syaza said as for men, there are leaders like suspended Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan and former Umno youth chief Khairy Jamaludin.

"However, no women of such "calibre" had been observed among Wanita, and if she (Shahrizat) does come back, it signals that Umno is really in a dire situation.

"The fact that they need an old blood to inject the party with life is sad," Syaza stressed.

She further said Umno should be serious in grooming female members as future national leaders.

"They can’t depend on former leaders who are tainted by previous scandals to be the poster girl and boy of the party.

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"Unfortunately, where Umno is right now, it does look like it needs some guidance from former leaders."

Echoing Syaza’s view, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun agreed that appointing Shahrizat to lead Wanita Umno may have its advantage.

"Since the existence of her (Shahrizat) and former Umno veteran Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Wanita Umno has not seen its glorious self.

"However, the main game for Malay parties nowadays is not to see which one can rejuvenate or reform itself better.

"It's more about who can be more racially and religiously extremist to woo the green wave voters," he said.

Oh also said that if he had a choice he would bring back Rafidah to the party.

Shahrizat has passed her prime time?

Meanwhile, Universiti Putra Malaysia political analyst Datuk Prof Dr Jayum Anak Jawan pointed out that Shahrizat has pass her prime time and should look at retiring.

“Coming back may compromise her stateswomanship as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sadly experienced when the latter was humbled by his defeat in Langkawi by losing his election deposit from his backyard, Kedah.”

“A good leader must know when to let go. It is always difficult to decide to go when one is up, but history will not heat one up nicely when kicked out,” Jayum added.

Jayum further viewed that Umno had back-up leaders but their leadership qualities were not as good as the previous leaders such as Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Razak Hussein.

“Then comes the cronyism that retarded the process of leadership building. Cronyism gave way to favourites, and patronage galvanised these second rate leaders that now dominate Umno,” he stressed.

Jayum said it will be doubtful that Umno could be making a come-back, especially with the qualities of potential candidates that are vying for the top management of the party.

“These individuals do not have what it takes to resurrect Umno that is sliding into decay.

“Many candidates that are indicating that they are putting themselves up for these top party positions are not making any new approach and on how they intend to bring back support for the party and how they would bring the multi-ethnic nation forward.

“Instead, many are repeating the now outdated single ethnic approach that is being spun not only by the Malays but Malaysian in general.”

Jayum said Umno needs a new president and a deputy president, as well as a dynamic vice president groomed to take over one day.

“In all likelihood, the retention of the top position will not help rejuvenate support for Umno from party members and neither from the Malays in general.

“It certainly does not sync well with the general public for various reasons that have been paraded over the media in the past several years.”

However, political analyst Associate Professor Dr Ummu Atiyyah Ahmad Zakuan of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) believes that the ultimate decision on who should contest or be chosen as leaders rests with the political party and its members.

"In the context of Shahrizat running for office as the Wanita Umno chief, the proponents might argue that the age of a political leader is not the only factor considered but also other factors such as her experiences and her previous track records.

"Not to forget, her ability to connect with the grassroot members as well as her ability to connect with voters, which are also important considerations."

Those who oppose her return as Wanita Chief, Ummu Atiyyah said they may argue that the party should give opportunities to new faces who have the calibre to rejuvenate and re-energise the party and create a larger pool of leaders.

"Shahrizat could be seen as best serving as an advisor who could provide valuable support to new leaders in Wanita Umno and I believe that the Wanita wing in general can benefit from her expertise and experiences," she added.

However, Ummu Atiyyah said the Umno members should know how to strike a balance between making decisions for the overall best interests of the party and the views and perceptions of the non-member voters.

More than half of Wanita Umno division chiefs across the country are calling for Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to return to Wanita Umno Malaysia leadership.

According to Melaka Wanita Umno chief Datuk Haryaty Hamdzah, a total of 147 Wanita Umno division chiefs stated their stand in a recent meeting with Shahrizat.

Haryaty said Shahrizat's reputation and legacy was evident, and she was effective as the first Women, Family and Community Minister.

"As a Wanita Umno division chief myself, together with the 147 Wanita chiefs nationwide, we have met Shahrizat and informed her of our stand. The majority of us had contemplated and asked Shahrizat to return to lead Wanita Umno Malaysia again," said Haryaty.

"Personally, I was never under her leadership when she led Wanita Umno but her reputation and legacy as the first minister in the Women, Family and Community Ministry was very effective and produced much success," she said.