Khairy blames Najib and 1MDB for Umno’s downfall

Khairy said the party should have acted when Najib, who was also finance minister, sacked ministers who publicly challenged him over the 1MDB scandal in 2015.

(TMI) – ALL roads of Umno’s downfall in the 14th general election lead back to the party’s decision not to confront former party president Najib Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said the collective failure of party leaders and government ministers to demand answers over the multi-billion-ringgit financial scandal led to Umno and Barisan Nasional’s “catastrophic” defeat in last month’s polls.

“We perhaps missed an opportunity, all of us, to convey the truth of the gravity of the situation,” Khairy told The South China Morning Post.

Former prime minister Najib is now facing criminal investigations over his role in what several countries call one of the worst cases of embezzlement from a state fund.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing.

Khairy, 42, said the party should have acted when Najib, who was also finance minister, sacked ministers who publicly challenged him over the 1MDB scandal in 2015.

“All of us stopped or did not convey what we felt were sentiments on the ground and what we felt were the true concerns of the voters,” he said.

“At some point there was a line drawn, that’s it, no further questions, no more discussions about this (1MDB) and that was that,” Khairy said.

“After a while, we just went with it and look at where we have ended up.”

American prosecutors say around US$4.5 billion was siphoned off from 1MDB, while US$700 million found its way into Najib’s bank account.

Khairy said his post-election critique of the party and BN were not meant to be an attempt to distance himself from Najib or Umno.

“I am pointing the finger at ourselves. We stopped asking, we stopped probing, we stopped challenging,” Khairy said.

Despite calls by some younger party leaders and even those within the Pakatan Harapan leadership for Khairy to run for president in the party elections, he said he will not contest the leadership of the country’s largest political party of three million members.

Khairy said he would run to be one of three vice-presidents, but would leave the presidency and deputy presidency to be filled by leaders with “wiser heads and broader shoulders than mine”.

“We are running for posts in a party that just lost catastrophically, the burden that the new leaders of the party will have to bear is tremendous so I don’t think that there is (going to be a) clamouring for positions that you normally associate with past party elections,” he told SCMP.

Khairy has said the party must be prepared to transform itself if it hopes to remain relevant in the new Malaysian political landscape.

One option being considered is the opening up of party membership to all ethnicities, a proposal that has been dismissed by most party veterans.

“It is something that is quite appealing to people outside the party and younger people in the party.”

Asked about his biggest fear for Umno, Khairy was quoted as saying: “The fear of change (and) a resistance to reform is my greatest fear in my party”.