Sunday, September 21, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — A move is underway to prevent Umno from splitting right down the centre over Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's transition plan.
Since several supreme council members urged the prime minister to consider handing over power soon during a meeting on Thursday, there has been a hive of activity on the ground.
Supporters of Abdullah displeased that some of the critics have gone overboard in their criticism of the prime minister have unsheathed their knives. They are urging him to disregard the pungent comments of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Rafidah Aziz and stick to his original plan of contesting the party presidency in December and handing over the power to Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
These supporters - among them a clutch of supreme council members and political operatives - have been working the ground for the past 48 hours.
Concerned that the public debate is going to split the party, Datuk Hishammuddin yesterday said that the Star's front page report on the supreme council meeting was inaccurate.
"I find it impossible to accept that any person can give an accurate picture of what went on in a two- to three-hour meeting, " he said. The report in the English daily among other things said that pressure was mounting on Abdullah to step down as party president.
It noted that several council members at Thursday's meeting called for a speedier transition plan.
That report and several others in the alternative and foreign media have upset senior party officials who believe that it will be counterproductive for the ruling party to fight among themselves when the focus of their attention should be Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, aware that the mercury is rising among Abdullah's loyalists and those who want a quick transition of power, has moved to quell the public debate. He said that only several individuals wanted Abdullah to hand over power earlier. The transition plan, he added, was still in place.
Despite these attempts to cool down the temperature, the buzz on the ground is going to continue until Abdullah makes clear his position.
Until then, party officials live in fear that the focus on the transition plan could become a flashpoint in Umno - something the party and none of its leaders can afford.