On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Money talk spoils it for the winners

Several reporters complained of Umno campaigners offering
to pay for their meals; one journalist claimed that when she asked for the bill
after a meal, it was already taken care of.

But, as Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
said, these are allegations – no one has come forward to file a complaint.

In fact, none of the Umno delegates and newsmen who
talked about corruption saw for themselves money being given out.

Like most Umno members and newsmen who had been at the
PWTC over the past few days, Abdullah said he, too, had heard of the allegations.

He had even reminded the delegates before they cast their
votes to pick leaders who were trustworthy and credible.

To be more accurate, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had pleaded,
cajoled and even cried when he talked about such matters.

If the allegations of money politics are true, then all
these reminders have fallen on deaf ears.

On hearing the results of the vice-presidential race and
supreme council contest, one MP sent me an SMS message: ''When money talks, a
person stops talking about principles to let the money do all the talking.''

These unproven aspersions, whether we wish to admit it or
not, have taken the shine off the winners. It is certainly unfair to those who
had worked hard to win their positions without using money.

Many Umno leaders, especially the younger ones, had been
talking to delegates over the past three years. Some had used their network in
youth organisations to win the votes.

I know of many Umno leaders who spent countless hours in
villages to get to know the grassroots leaders, winning their confidence and
even their friendship.

One vice-presidency contender – regarded as a shoo-in –
was often seen at teh tarik stalls having breakfast with Umno members. No
coffee houses, just roadside stalls. He lost and does not know why.

Tan Sri Mohamed Isa Abdul Samad, who topped the list of
vice-presidents, said he was unaware of any incident of money politics during
the campaign.

He did not see his victory as an upset because he was
confident of winning based on the reception he received during his visits

But supreme council member Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar
said that everywhere he went, people talked about money politics.

The Foreign Minister, who has a reputation among Umno
members for being kedekut (stingy), said no one was hauled up and this was
unacceptable to the party.

As in all allegations of corruption, it is easy to point
fingers and cast doubt but difficult to find evidence.

A person's wealth could well be accumulated through legal
means and not necessarily through his political connections.

Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yasin, who was expected to finish top
among the veeps but ended in the third spot, had remarked that it would be
difficult to say whether there was money politics.

Only the candidates involved would know although Umno
members perceive that money politics had affected the outcome.

Abdullah, who has a reputation for being a clean
politician, has cracked the whip on corruption since becoming prime minister.

If the allegations of money politics are true, then the
crack of the whip has not been loud enough or his warnings have not been taken

It would be sad if some of our national leaders think of
acquiring and consolidating power for themselves without any thought of
integrity and morality.

Abdullah has issued a warning to the cheats – any winner,
including the vice-presidents, will be removed if found guilty of money

The names of the Umno winners have been announced but the
game may not be over yet.