Umno divisional support for Najib ‘just for show’?


Most divisional leaders prefer to maintain silence, watch and wait as events unfold.

Suresh Kashuerin, Free Malaysia Today

Umno President and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s supporters are claiming that despite the absence of some 37 divisional leaders including his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin at the meeting with him on Sunday, the party is generally behind their beleaguered leader. Umno vice president Shafie Apdal from Sabah was another key divisional chief who was absent.

There’s some dispute as to how many divisional leaders attended the meeting. Some reports said 154 while others say 160.

In any case, some divisional leaders who spoke up claimed that the party bought Najib’s explanation on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the trouble-stricken government-owned strategic investment company, and the source of his wealth, amongst others. These divisional chiefs were by no means among the more credible ones.

Kinabatangan divisional leader Bung Mokhtar Radin from Sabah, where many divisional leaders were absent, claimed that there was no issue with the source of his wealth in the wake of a controversial report in the New York Times.

“His siblings are all in business. The wealth comes from these businesses,” he said without explaining how his siblings’ wealth could be equated with Najib’s. He did not refer to a statement from Najib’s four siblings disputing a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office to the NYT that the source of his wealth was inheritance.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in the news for all the wrong reasons including pitting Malay consumers against Chinese traders, claimed he could speak on behalf of other divisional chiefs on the 1MDB issue. “We are confident that we can explain the situation to the grassroots.”

“The company has more assets — RM51 billion v RM42 billion — than debts,” said Ismail. He did not know whether it could service those debts in a deficit situation and where assets, including landed properties obtained free from the government, could not be easily disposed of in time at a fair price to meet loan repayment schedules.

“Najib promised that wrongdoings will be punished. This is what the divisional chiefs wanted to hear,” said Ismail. “If it’s a case of bad investment, it’s still acceptable.”

He did not say whether punishing wrongdoers would include Najib as speculated in the media.

Mokhtar, who chipped in, said that the most important thing was that the divisional chiefs accepted Najib’s explanation on 1MDB, the audit reports and the company’s finances.

He did not touch on Muhyiddin asking during the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday for a forensic accounting and audit of 1MDB and stating his opposition to any government bailout of the company.

Both divisional leaders were unable to state how the divisional leaders could accept Najib’s explanation on the company when the Auditor-General had to probe its accounts, as ordered by the Cabinet on Wednesday, and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had yet to vet it.

They based their confidence in Najib’s explanations on the fact that the Cabinet had reportedly accepted the explanations by the company’s officials and accountants to it last Wednesday.