Setiu Umno sets off another signal for Najib-Muhyiddin tussle

Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

A power challenge between the top two men in Umno – Prime Minister Najib Razak and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin – is becoming visible, and at the division level, which is the heart of the party, battle lines are beginning to be drawn.

On Friday, an early signal was set off in Terengganu, where existing infighting between rival factions led by Mentri Besar Ahmad Said and his predecessor Idris Jusoh has worsened.

“This is classic Umno smokescreen. They may attack Pakatan Rakyat, but the real disorder is in Umno itself. It is traditionally well-known for power grabbing and it is the warlords there who will actually broker who forms the national leadership,” Kuala Terengganu MP Wahid Endut told Malaysia Chronicle.

Unprecedented disrespect

The Umno brouhaha began when four Terengganu assemblymen snubbed Muhyiddin during the opening of the Setiu division meeting. Their unprecedented boldness immediately sparked speculation the boycott had broader implications – perhaps, right up to the national level rather than just infighting amongst state leaders.

Of late, rumblings have grown louder that Muhyiddin was preparing to oust Najib. Terengganu is under the direct care of Najib’s cousin Hishammuddin Hussein, who was tasked to resolve the Ahmad Said-Idrish Jusoh conflict.

When asked for his reaction, Hishammuddin slammed the four assemblyman for not rising above state politics and showing disrespect to the DPM. Yet just last month, the Umno vice president had insisted the internal bickering in Terengganu was under control.

“”This is not our way of doing things. We should respect the person opening the meeting, more so when it is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin,” Bernama reported Hishammuddin as saying.

Muhyiddin himself has publicly voiced his unhappiness over the incident.

Aligned to whom

The recalcitrant assemblymen were were Jabi representative Ramlan Ali, Permaisuri’s Abdul Halim Jusoh, Langkap’s Asha’ari Idris and Batu Rakit’s Khazan Che Mat. All were previously believed to be aligned to Idris Jusoh, but Umno watchers say they may have switched over to the Ahmad Said camp.

“Asha’ari and Khazan were recently appointed to the state executive council by Ahmad Said. So the talk is that they are now with the MB and are trying to encourage Ramlan and Halim to do the same,” a veteran Umno watcher told Malaysia Chronicle.

“Both Ahmad Said and Idris will insist they are Najib’s men. But that is only if he remains in power. Of the two, perhaps Ahmad Said has the more reason to stay loyal to Najib.”

Followers of Idris Jusoh, controversial for having launched a slew of quick but under-performing development programs during his time in power, are perceived to be unhappy with Najib and Hishammuddin for continuing to support Ahmad Said, who also has the backing of the Terengganu Sultan.

Ahmad Said, on the other hand, is believed to be grateful to the PM for standing by him despite the lack of progress made in Terengganu since he took over from Idris in 2008.