June 27, 2018
After 31 years out of competitive politics, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is back in the political limelight as one of three leading contenders in the race for UMNO Presidency. Standing alongside two seasoned UMNO politicians, Ku Li (as he is better known) appears as a formidable alternative to his “tainted” counterparts - Acting President Zahid Hamidi and former Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
“People have been to see me to say that they don’t want people who are associated with the past administration,” said Ku Li on The Breakfast Grille. His corruption-free political resume and 31 year absence from competitive politics meant that he played no part in UMNO’s implosion, and was therefore trusted by UMNO’s reformists to revive the party.
“What I’m interested in doing is to change the party. It must be more open, democratic and that the leaders must change their attitudes and approaches to problems, and be easily accessible. They must behave like ordinary people,” said Tengku Razaleigh.
Ku Li blames money politics as the root of UMNO’s problems. Its excess has turned most of UMNO’s 191 division leaders into brokers between their supporters and the people in power - earning hundreds of thousands of ringgits from million-ringgit contracts with a signature and “not much work”.
“Everybody wants to stay where they are because there’s an occupation for them,” said Ku Li, before adding that UMNO’s youths are frustrated by their lack of growth through the political hierarchy, as their path is blocked by division leaders who fear the loss of the opportunities they've enjoyed and abused.
“We’re going to be a loyal opposition. We’re going to watch them. If they do something wrong, or if they do things against the promises they made, then we’ll point it out to them so that we can pull them back to where they started. But we’re not going to be vengeful. We’re going to be very constructive and helpful in policies that could help the people.”
On his campaign trail, Ku Li’s message of reformation, empowerment and youth engagement is well advertised. With every stop, his grassroots support grows - heeding the message of a corruption-free, democratic and representative UMNO.
“I’m looking forward to reorganizing the party so that it becomes a viable political organisation [that’s] acceptable to the people and could represent the 60% Malay population, and those who looked up to UMNO in the past, and continue to do so,” said Ku Li.
But in spite of this, Ku Li maintains that he doesn’t see his UMNO Presidency as a stepping stone to Prime Ministership, rather that he wants to groom young people to take over the leadership after his one year term as President.
“We need to empower them and give them the opportunity to try out and solve problems. I think they’re capable - we have a lot of young people who are well trained. I notice a lot of the professionals in organisations like Petronas and other companies - they’ve done well for themselves. And I think they’re the future of this country.”