Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fair hearings for underdogs: Dato Suraya

It is odd to categorise Dato Suraya Yaacob as underdog in the contest for Naib Ketua Wanita UMNO. The reason being the incumbent Ketua Wanita Chief, Dato Shahrizat Jalil is supporting and promoting Dato Azizah Md Dun.

As far as her credential within UMNO, Suraya is already and is in her first term as member of the Wanita UMNO exco. She was the first alumni of Puteri UMNO to make it into the Wanita UMNO leadership line-up.

It is an open secret that she was supposed to takeover the helm of leadership from Dato Azalina Mohd Said but Pak Lah was smitten by Dato Noraini Ahmad's soft feminity and interfered to endorsed her. From where Suraya stand now, there is no love lost between them.

It bodes well of her leadership potential and perseverance.

Shahrizat's rationale

Left to right: Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nor (KSU), Dato Rohani Abdul Karim and Dato Azizah Md Dun (Deputy)

Shahrizat's  rationale is fairly simple and sellable to Wanita branch delegates voting this weekend. Azizah is a "Minister" and as Deputy Minister for Ministry of Woman, Family and Community Development (MWFCD), she could compliment the role of Wanita UMNO.

It is the Ministry that Shahrizat used to head as Minister but is now filled up by Dato Rohani Abdul Karim of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu from Sarawak.

Critics felt it was Shahrizat's ploy to peek into the happening inside the Ministry. If she gets her second Senatorship term and clear her name on the NFC in the court and the financial related issues, she could lobby to get back the Ministerial post.

Currently, Shahrizat is the Special Adviser to the Prime Minister to oversee the development of women entrepreneurs and professionals and Chairman of Yayasan Kebajikan Negara.

These appointments are said to have created dissatisfaction with current Women's Minister, Dato Rohani and PBB. It is reflected in Rohani's statement to deny Shahrizat is Adviser to the Ministry [read The Star here.]

The harshest critics claim Shahrizat was positioning to make herself indisposable by giving support to a candidate that is not neither popular and have a strong home base nor a potential Wanita Chief able to replace Shahrizat.

The basis for such accusation was the exact situation that forced Dato Najib to retain her Ketua Wanita position and only accept her resignation for Minister when the NFC saga broke out in 2011.
Former Naib Ketua Wanita, Dato Kamelia Ibrahim was not seen as a capable successor.

Shahrizat should not be blamed for it.

In 2009, Kuala Kangsar Division Kamelia won the post as Naib Ketua Wanita uncontested.

No other candidate surfaced to challenge Kamelia when Shahrizat shifted her slot from Naib Ketua Wanita to attempt to take on mighty Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz for the Ketua Wanita.

To be fair to Shahrizat, she needed Azizah's presence in government to enable allocation, assistance and government program to 'conveniently' coincide with Wanita's welfare cum political program. It is not of a major consideration to idealist but it is politically pragmatic.

The major limitation of Azizah is that she is not quite accepted by her "jemaah" as Sabah Wanita leader, Dato Armani. 

In Islam, being a leader is like leading a jemaah prayers. It is not one's ability to memorise surah and have great voice but acceptance of the jemaah to enable one to assume leadership.

So far she has no ambition and agenda. On stage, Azizah only talks of assisting Shahrizat.   

Succession plan

Another pertinent point is age. In terms of age, Azizah is already 58 and only 2 years younger than Shahrizat. While, Suraya is 44 years.

Suraya has openly support Shahrizat's leadership and denied is in a tag team of Puteri Alumni with Azalina. She is quite realistic enough to understand that the Puteri hierarchy does not hold any water in Wanita.

Azalina had earlier expressed interest for the Ketua Wanita post but pulled out. Azalina tested the market and realised she "cannot go" to opt for a strategic withdrawal. She gained Shahrizat blessing for MT contest and a corporate chairmanship position awaiting.

At 44, Suraya is at the right age to be the next layer of Wanita leadership. It is only right that she is nurtured and allowed to understudy Shahrizat.

In the US, Obama was inaugrated President at 48 and started campaigning at the age of 46.

Hillary Cinton was tasked as First Lady of Arkansas to reform the state education system at the age of 44. By 47, still as first lady, she was working to put together a national healthplan. She could only pursue her own political career to became Senator at 53, after husband Bill ended his Presidency.

Wanita needs a succession plan and Suraya conveniently fits that plan. 

On the basis of credential, there is no significant difference between Azizah (58) and Suraya (44). Both are trained as lawyers but when their resume are compared here and here, Suraya has time n her side.

At a much younger age, Suraya has comparable experience but wider scope of work then Azizah. Unless, she has serious weakness, doesn't she deserve to be groomed for the future of Wanita UMNO leadership?

In Suraya, lies fresh and new perspective of politics from her understanding of the her's and lower  generation. By GE14, say in 2017, Shahrizat will be 64, Azizah will be 62 and Suraya 48. Who will the younger profile voters relate to?

Process of change

Some may dispute the simplified description but face the reality. Wanita UMNO is saddled with the image of being a wing for Makcik-Makcik and old woman. That will not auger well for Wanita wing and UMNO.

During the time of Rafidah, her prominence as Minister for Industry and International Trade, both locally or internationally, lifted the image of Wanita UMNO. Her leadership team reflected an attempt to shift the Wanita UMNO image from wife and homemaker image to career women, professionals and businesswomen. 

In that pursuit, Rafidah may have neglected the original segment of Wanita that toil the campaign trail to win the party, election in and election out. After being long as Ketua Wanita, Rafidah became insensitive to this majority segment of Wanita and her iron fist and vindictive nature had it's toll on grassroot Wanita.

Eventually, that dissatisfaction percolated and Shahrizat seized the moment to challenge and win. Rafidah is not as invincible as perceived. She had lost the post before to Dato Siti Zaharah Sulaiman in 1996 and sit out as appointed member of Supreme Council in 1996-2000.

One mistake of Rafidah was to allow an aspirant to gain a stronghold on Wanita's powerbase and political pipeline and that is the position of Women's Ministry..

Shahrizat had appeased the Makcik-Makcik segment of Wanita UMNO and able to unify them with her charm and charisma. Her critics may not agree but that is the reality on the ground.

Today, the so-called Rafidah faction has only about 30-40% support. Unless she can create a groundswell and wave effect similar to Dato Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and to a lesser extent Dato Mukhriz Mahathir, Dato Maznah Mazlan is a "classic dark horse" at best.

By the way, Maznah is also 60. 

Shahrizat was cleared by MACC for NFC and no signs of her being legally implicated to 1Azam.

Only the vicious UMNO rumourmongers presumed the involvement of her former political secretary Dato Suhaimi Ibrahim and "no boss not know what their pol-sec does."


Despite being tainted, Shahrizat remained strong and looks like to win. It is time for her to create a legacy after solving the divisiveness within Wanita from the aftermath of Rafidah's long tenure.

These days, most UMNO leaders tend to be taken in by the idea of branding promoted by two marketing corporate man, Dato Farid Redzuan and Dato Shazally Ramli.

They never realised that branding is only a mere option in the one of the 4P of marketing and that is promotion. There is the more important aspect of product, pricing and place (network and distribution) to look into.

Branding also only serves the purpose of marketing products and services but not marketing politics. It has failed under Pak Lah in GE12 and Najib GE 13.

What more when Wanita UMNO now realised that reception to their door-to-door and face-to-face campaign are beginning to be lukewarm.

One is believed to be the tainted image of Shahrizat and that only she can address and manage the perception. If it remains negative, the brutal reality is she has to go.

Another is the changing age profile.

Younger profile voters are more comfortable to be interacting and associating with the younger politicians than the Makcik-Makcik.

The young, more educated and university students will be comfortable to be associated with the Nurul Izzahs, Hannah Yeohs, Jenice Lims and even the sinful living Eli Wongs than most of the current line-up of Wanita UMNO personalities.

Wanita UMNO politicians and leadership need to appeal to the young by stimulating and intelligent interaction. They need to carry themselves to exude an air of trust and confidence of voters towards them.

It was crude for us to describe Azizah as a pintu bilik air reput (decayed wooden bathroom door) in a previous posting here.

The need for such shock treatment is necessary to drive the point that Wanita needs to get out of that set image. Perhaps a better perspective is choosing between Camilla Parker Bowles and Princess Diana.

Wanita UMNO has to be creative and not keep repeating the same thing and doing the obvious. They need to interact more and sharpen the political intellectual prowess.

The game is no more about servicing only UMNO members but to enable non-UMNO members to be comfortable with UMNO. They have to reach out across boundaries. Otherwise, cold front awaits approaching Wanita UMNO campaigner or social worker.

The win or lost in an election lies with the atas pagar or undecided voters. In a tight race, securing UMNO supporters votes is not sufficient. One needs the non-Malays, non-UMNO and at times, even opposition supporters votes to win.

Imagine Shahrizat working on the support of the traditional voters and older folks, while her Naib address the younger and majority profile of voters. Wanita cannot leave it to Puteri or Pemuda to appeal to the young.

If the intention is to win GE14, political logic says either Shahrizat or Maznah needs Suraya to compliment them and not Azizah.

Stay in the horse stable, Camilla!

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