How low would a leader stoop to buy a nomination for a top post in Umno — RM500 cash or just a mere piece of kain pelekat (Malay sarong) gift to party members?

Sadly, this is among the tactics employed in the ongoing branch meetings, as revealed in reports to the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).

This goes to show that efforts to curtail the practice have been in vain despite the tightening of the election ethics before the branch meetings kicked off on July 17.

And the situation may worsen when the divisional meetings begin in October unless counter-measures are taken.

For Umno veteran Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Tapa, political corruption in the party would continue to happen as long as party positions and power are perceived as the door to wealth creation.

“In the yesteryears, our struggle was to fight for independence. After we had achieved independence, we strove to develop the country. There were plenty of projects during this period and we cannot deny that many projects went to Umno members.

“But from then on, we developed the perception that if you want to get rich, you must join Umno,” he told Bernama.

Abdul Aziz said that after 1978, Umno began to attract corporate figures, who, attracted by the surge in development projects, joined the party in droves.

“Before 1978, Umno members were mainly teachers who fought for the well-being of the Malays. But later, when corporate figures joined the party, the situation changed,” he said.

He said the situation in the party worsened when the old guard indulged in money politics to cling on to their positions.

“This is a political gambit. It is difficult to anticipate because anything can happen. Just like the leadership transition, it is not the party tradition but it has become a practice.”

Abdul Aziz, 85, did not discount the possibility that Umno might ‘sink’ if the leaders do not listen to the grouses of the grassroots and transform itself as demanded by members.

“From my observation, the people are worried about Umno. During my visit to Pahang and Terengganu recently, those whom I met expressed their concern, although the emotion has somewhat tapered off.

“This is after Pak Lah (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) announced that he will hand over power. Emotions subsided when the people heard that there is going to be a muqabalah (face-to-face interaction) with PAS for the well-being of Muslims, but they are still worried nevertheless,” he said.

Abdul Aziz said Umno’s survival would also be influenced by the result of the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election on Aug 26.

“I think the by-election will be a yardstick. If Anwar wins, what would his vote tally be? If he garners a bigger majority than before, this means that the support for Umno is waning.

“But if the BN (Barisan Nasional) can get more votes than before or, better still, win the contest, there is still hope for Umno,” he said, admitting that political corruption had turned the Malays against Umno.

Political analyst Prof Datuk Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid said the country needed able leaders in every field, not those chosen because of bribery.

“Malaysia is now at the crossroads. After 50 years of independence, we have to deal with challenges which can hinder our progress and leave us lagging behind our neighbours and other developing countries.

“That is why we need leaders of calibre who are chosen in a clean and civilised elections.”

Dr Ibrahim who was former Unitar dean of Humanities and Social Science faculty said that as such, national and party leaders must stop bickering for positions, as this could distract them from discharging the responsibilities entrusted upon them.

“Political instability will drive away foreign investors. If this were to happen, how can we generate more wealth for the people? The nation’s development will be hindered if the leaders are constantly embroiled in squabbles,” he said.

The people increasingly getting tired of the tirades and shenanigans of selfish political leaders.

“It does not matter whether they are from Umno or the opposition, the leaders must continue to serve the people and the country. This is what the citizens want.

“They do not want to see conspiracies, money politics and corruption. They want transparency, a clean and civilised democratic process,” he said.

Abdul Aziz and Ibrahim were echoing the sentiments of Umno leaders and members who felt let down by political corruption within the party, but it seems that airing their concerns is just as effective as pouring water over a duck’s back.

Money politics and political corruption will continue to surface every time there are party elections.

This is further compounded by the Malay mindset of feeling indebted to their leaders regardless, as stated by former Universiti Malaya dean of Arts and Social Science Faculty Prof Datuk Dr Zainal Kling.

The question is whether the Malays, especially Umno members, will continue to be fooled by leaders who have no compunction about buying votes or choose leaders of calibre who has the interest of the Malays uppermost on their minds.