In five years, Hishammuddin rose from a Member of
Parliament to full minister and head of Umno Youth. (He was acting head of the
movement before assuming the post unopposed at this year's Umno general
But the ratings have dropped, at least in recent weeks.
His instant stardom has suddenly become a liability. Among the criticisms was
that the Youth and Sports Minister parachuted to the post. In short, he didn't
earn his stars and stripes.
Last week, Umno Youth executive council member Dr Shamsul Anwar complained
about Hishammuddin's softie image and that the movement lacked sting.
Then Deputy Umno Youth chief Datuk Aziz Sheikh Fadzir put in his resignation
letter, saying he could not take criticisms against him. As expected, he
retracted the letter.
For the time being, Hishammuddin has skillfully brought temperatures
Twenty-four hours after his outburst, Dr Shamsul walked out of the meeting to
say that he still had more to learn. Apparently, he was the only one who voiced
his feelings at the meeting.
Fellow exco members, who had supposedly promised to join in the criticism,
backed out. According to some exco members, the meeting was a tame
Promises and compromises have been made. Ruffled feathers would have been
smoothened and olive branches offered at informal meetings and buka puasa
It will be premature for anyone to write off Hishamuddin on the account of some
Many of the accusations, including the alleged lack of fire and direction of
Umno Youth, are not new.
After the fiery Datuk Harun Idris passed the baton to Datuk Suhaimi Kamaruddin
and then to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk
Nazri Aziz, the Youth wing has had to bear with the criticism of being
domesticated by the main party leadership.
The days of demonstrations, which Umno Youth had been associated with, were
over, explained the former Youth chiefs.
What is unusual now, however, is the undercurrent of discontent and unhappiness
at various levels of the party. The grumblings over the state of affairs in
Umno and the government can be heard at buka puasa functions these days.
The defeat of Barisan Nasional at the Lunas by-election simply released pent-up
frustrations. Lunas had been held by the Alliance and then Barisan since
More hurting is the fact that Kedah Barisan has lost its two-thirds majority in
the state assembly. Kedah happens to be Dr Mahathir's home state.
For the Umno Youth leaders, their former comrades had emerged victorious –
among them Keadilan candidate Nasution Ismail, Ezam Mohamed Noor and Azmin
A whole battalion of opposition campaigners, mostly youths, were attacking the
government. They included former Umno Youth members and university students,
unhappy with the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim.
Fingers were pointed at Umno Youth leaders for not doing enough to win the
Mingguan Malaysia reported that the Padang Serai division, which was given the
task of organising the election machinery, only had 10 Youth wing
Aziz, the man in the storm, is a committee member of the division Youth wing.
He is also the brother of Datuk Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, the MP for Kulim and
Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister.
Most of the 165 Umno divisions have between 40 and 50 Youth wing branches with
the movement claiming membership of over 700,000.
There were also charges that Hishammuddin did not spend enough time in Lunas
but instead took his family on vacation to Australia. He replied that he
dedicated four days to Lunas, saying the criticism was unfair.
But if he wants Umno Youth members to work hard and talk less, then he would
have to spend more than four days in the next by-election.
Perhaps Umno Youth members may have been too harsh on themselves. The whole
Barisan machinery should share the blame.
For starters, Barisan's S. Anthonysamy, 59, is hardly youthful, making it
difficult for Umno Youth to “sell'' the candidate. Nasution, on the other
hand, is only 36.
Barisan leaders would also have to learn to be less arrogant in their
statements, particularly during the campaign.
Aziz, for example, is still remembered by Chinese voters for the rowdy
gathering outside the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
But the Lunas by-election may not be the only reason for the sudden impatience
in Umno Youth.
Quoting an unnamed Youth exco member, the Singapore Straits Times reported:
“This is an attack by proxy. They cannot attack the top leaders, so they
attack Datuk Hisham.''