MARCH 18 - When Datuk Norza Zakaria was introduced to Perak Umno delegates as part of the beauty pageant of election candidates yesterday, rapturous applause broke out in the hall.
The response from the floor was telling: it was an indication of how different the Umno value system and world view is from the rest of the country. It was also a rebuff of the party leadership’s vow to clean up Umno.
Norza, the Federal Territory Umno Youth chief, grabbed the headlines last week when he became the highest ranking party official to be charged with money politics by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
It was the culmination of several weeks of his name being soiled in public with accusations of paying between RM300 and RM500 to Umno delegates to secure one of the 25 places on the all powerful supreme council.
But in Ipoh yesterday, the taint was not a handicap, in fact it was a badge of honour. In the company of politicians more prominent and well-known than him, he was a giant.
Several party officials told The Malaysian Insider that the reaction to Norza was not surprising, they view him as a victim of selective prosecution, the same they view Datuk Ali Rustam as a victim of backroom deals to clear the path for Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to become deputy president.
Also, Umno delegates understand the hypocrisy at play. They know that they have demanded cash, holidays, tyres, hotel rooms and other goodies from politicians contesting the party elections since divisional elections in November last year.
And they know that nearly every candidate has obliged, even those who have made sanctimonious speeches condemning graft in the party. For example, an Umno minister playing catch up has given delegates RM1, 000 “petrol money’’ while agents and supporters of a tight-fisted mentri besar has offered delegates RM50.
Other candidates have offered between RM200 and RM500, government contracts, free stay in five star hotels during the party’s assembly.
In short, there have been willing givers and takers in this party. This has been the case for more than 15 years.
When news broke midway during the session in Ipoh yesterday that Ali had been barred by the Umno disciplinary board from contesting the deputy president’s position, there was palpable anger in the hall and a huge dose of cynicism.
Many party officials embraced him, slammed the disciplinary board and offered words of consolation to him.
The reasons: because one of the most popular politicians had been deprived an opportunity to win the second most coveted prize in the party.
Because the party officials in Ipoh knew that Ali and his agents were not the only ones spreading the wealth in the run-up to the polls.
Because if Ali and Norza are guilty of money politics; then they too are culpable, guilty of abatement.
Because through the Umno prism, this campaign against money politics is much ado about nothing. - The Malaysian Insider