Utusan again bares fangs at Umno

Umno top leaders are seen at the party’s annual general assembly at PWTC in Kuala Lumpur September 30, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 — Malaysia’s political landscape continued shifting today, with another Utusan Malaysia editor openly criticising Umno and its leadership in an opinion piece.

Utusan news editor Zulkifli Jalil asked the Malay nationalist party what it has learned — if any — from the results of the general election that consigned Umno and the crumbling Barisan Nasional (BN) to defeat.

The piece is the second this week that is critical of Umno, following another by Utusan assistant chief editor Datuk Zaini Hassan that said the newspaper cannot afford to continue carrying water for the defeated Malay nationalists.

In his piece today, Zulkifli noted that Umno has yet to announce its strategies and plans to chart the party’s revival and possible return to power, before asking if it has lost its appetite for battle simply because the gravy train was now derailed.

“Does finishing the money that has been pocketed also mean the end of the struggle? That when the pocketed money is used up, the values and struggle for race, religion and country also end?

“And because of the process of choosing money instead of leaders, that Umno will stay weak and defeated?” he wrote today.

He also pressed the party to wake up to its reality and to stop listening only to the things that it wants to, asserting that even as late as 6.30pm on May 9, BN was still being told that it had seized back Selangor; BN was nearly wiped out in the state

In an overt attack against the money politics in Umno, he told party members that the ability to offer “tributes” alone should not be the main determinant of a leader’s true mettle.

“Is he only a fair-weather leader but runs in the face of trouble? Or just someone who bought his way to the top?”

The two editorials indicate a marked shift in the stance of the newspaper that is majority-owned by Umno, especially with the signals sent out by both senior editors Zaini and Zulkifli.

Zaini, in particular, had been among Utusan’s staunchest backers of Umno and its leaders when it had still been in power.

The newspaper first showed its apparent shift in loyalties with an unusual editorial accusing former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak of stealing 1MDB’s billions and demanded his apology for misleading the party.

It is unclear if the change is motivated by factionalism in the party or the newspaper’s worsening financial health now that it can no longer count on Umno and its allies to support it.

Its parent, Utusan Melayu Bhd, is now classified as financially-distressed due to insufficient liquidity and at risk of being delisted from the stock exchange; the newspaper is also accused of not paying all staff salaries in recent months.