Najib takes over Perak Umno

(The Straits Times) – UMNO deputy president Najib Razak has taken personal charge of the party's troubled division in Perak, where tensions burst into the open with the defection of an Umno assemblyman to the opposition.

This followed the resignation of Perak Umno liaison chairman and former menteri besar, Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali (right), as chairman of the Perak Barisan Nasional (BN) and state Umno liaison committee.

The New Straits Times (NST), quoting party sources, reported that the former menteri besar quit to take responsibility for the defection of Bota assemblyman Datuk Nasarudin Hashim to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

Some Perak Umno assemblymen had blamed his leadership for the internal problems in Perak Umno.

Mr Tajol Rosli has held the two posts in Perak since 1999. He had conveyed his intention to quit to Mr Najib at a meeting on Monday, according to reports.

Present at the four-hour meeting were two other assemblymen rumoured to also have plans to leave Umno for PKR.

'However, both pledged their loyalty to the party and gave their assurance that they would not jump ship, as widely speculated,' a source told the NST.

With Mr Nasarudin's defection to the PKR, the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat now has 32 seats in Perak's 59-state seat assembly to BN's 27. This has sparked speculation that BN is trying to get at least two Pakatan assemblymen to quit in a tit-for-tat move, said The Star daily.

It was not clear whether 'negotiations' towards such defections had been finalised but on Tuesday, Mr Tajol Rosli indicated such a possibility when he said the 'game has just begun'.

He referred to an incident involving opposition Democratic Action Party's (DAP) Buntong assemblyman A. Sivasubramaniam, who quit the party for only eight hours last year.

Meanwhile, Mr Najib has brushed off a proposal for Umno to abolish its four wings – the Youth, Wanita, Putera and Puteri – by its disciplinary board.

'The suggestion is too drastic a measure and would create a huge impact on future leadership,' he said.

It would also deprive Umno of the opportunity to build up leaders from within. Mr Najib said the structure for the wings has existed since the beginning and they play an important role.

On Wednesday, Umno disciplinary board chairman Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen suggested Umno revamp by abolishing party wings – to ensure that corruption within the party was totally eradicated.

He said the problem of money politics and vote-buying could be eradicated by making Umno a singular organisation.