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Will Mohd Ali run for VP?

Posted: 05 Aug 2013 03:56 AM PDT

There is talk in Malacca (and in Kuala Lumpur) that former Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam is going for the Umno vice-presidency.

On July 21, the other two vice-presidents, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, had announced their intentions.

Philip Golingai, The Star

Did Mister Potato discover Malacca? If I were an international tourist visiting the historical city, I would think that the potato snack brand was the founder of Malacca.

Advertisements for Mister Potato (including Manchester United's Ryan Giggs holding the snack) are ubiquitous in the core zone of the Unesco World Heritage site.

I tweeted my observation: "So many Mister Potato ads in Malacca that I'm beginning to associate the historical city with Mister Potato." Tweeters told me that it is a famous product of Malacca. Mamee Double-Decker Berhad, which produces Mister Potato and Mamee Noodles, was founded in Malacca.

On Friday night, I took the 45-minute must-do Malacca River Cruise. Along with the historical buildings, old villages and Hard Rock Café, I saw several Mister Potato advertisements.

The river cruise reminded me of another famous product of Malacca – Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam. The river cruise was the former chief minister's brainchild. He got the idea after he visited the Rio San Antonio Cruises in Texas in the late 1990s.

I loved the cruise. There must have been something clever about the former Chief Minister of Malacca to think of such a river rehabilitation or tourism project, I thought. He turned a smelly, dirty and muddy river into a tourist attraction. Nevertheless, he was rejected by the Bukit Katil voters when he contested for the parliamentary seat in GE13.

Earlier in the afternoon, I was at Mohd Ali's palatial residence in Bukit Katil. We waited for about an hour as he held court. Martin Carvalho, my colleague, who was The Star's Malacca bureau chief at one point, observed that there were still many people at his home asking for his advice and endorsement. It was as if he was still the chief minister.

"Will Datuk go for the VP post?" I asked one of Mohd Ali's aides.

"It is too early for him to declare his intention. There is still one month to go," he said. "He got burnt when he announced early that he was going for the Umno deputy president's post in 2008."

(In 2008, Mohd Ali, who was then Umno vice-president, was barred from contesting for the Umno deputy president post when he was found guilty by the party disciplinary board of breaking election rules).

An hour later, Mohd Ali was finally ready to grant us an interview.

"No politics today," said the politician who is known to be accommodating to the rakyat.

Oops, I thought, as I was there to ask him the question of whether he was gunning for the Umno vice-president's post.

"Datuk, today (Datuk Seri) Hishammuddin (Hussein) announced that he will be defending his Umno vice-president's post," I said, trying to hook him into saying something political.

Mohd Ali was not biting. The Umno Supreme Council member just smiled.

On July 21, the other two vice-presidents, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, had announced their intentions.

Mohd Ali did eventually talk about politics. He lamented about how he felt that the Chinese voters had betrayed him in the Bukit Katil parliamentary seat. About 95% of the Chinese and 25% of the Malay voters didn't support him.

"I gave them development. Look at where MMU (Multimedia University) is located, the rental for houses there have increased," Mohd Ali said.

Later, Carvalho explained that Bukit Beruang (part of the Bukit Katil constituency) was previously an "underdeveloped jungle undergrowth".

"In just 10 years, Mohd Ali had transformed it into a vibrant satellite town. The business and property prices have gone up in the area but the Chinese still voted for the Opposition," he said.

The talk in Malacca (and in Kuala Lumpur) is that Mohd Ali is going for VP.

"He might win it. He has the sympathy vote especially from the way he lost in Bukit Katil," an Umno minister told me last month.

At Mohd Ali's residence, I stumbled into Datuk Akbar Ali, a Twitter friend, who until now, I had never met in real life.

Later, I called Akbar, who is Malacca Umno executive secretary, to get his take on Mohd Ali's VP ambition.

"Maybe he is still thinking of the whole idea of contesting. If he wants to contest, he wants to choose the right time to make the announcement," he said.

"Can he win the VP post?" I asked.

"Datuk has a big chance of winning one of the three vice-president posts. He is very popular as he is people-centric," Akbar said.

"He has a wide base throughout Malaysia especially through his networking via 4B (a youth organisation) and Kemas. He also has wide support within Umno. He is a very popular leader."

I also asked Akbar about Mohd Ali's Bukit Katil defeat.

"It is a big loss for Malacca. He had the potential to be a Cabinet minister.

"There were many firsts when Malacca was under him. We had the lowest unemployment and crime rate in Malaysia. We have 100% literacy and 100% access to piped water and electricity," he said.

Akbar ended the phone conversation with: "I would like to emphasise the word, 'if'. As in 'if' Datuk contested for the vice-president's post."



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