Buzz over Muhyiddin's absence from key Umno meetings

Mr Muhyiddin Yassin (centre), greeting his supporters during a rally on Dec 7, 2015.
Mr Muhyiddin Yassin (centre), greeting his supporters during a rally on Dec 7, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

Call him Umno's Invisible Man. Well, almost.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was not present at Umno's key meeting on Tuesday, when Malaysia's biggest political party kicked off its annual assembly.

His seat beside party president Najib Razak on the podium was vacant, a stark reminder that the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) is not quite united these days.

And Mr Muhyiddin, Umno's deputy president, did not turn up yesterday morning either when the party's three wings held their meetings.

"Is he coming?" several women were heard whispering to one another outside one of the meeting halls . There were shrugs all round.

No, he wasn't coming, they learnt later. Yet his very absence had made him the most talked-about absent leader at the five-day meeting that ends on Saturday.

Datuk Seri Najib sacked Mr Muhyiddin in July from the post of Deputy Prime Minister for asking too many questions about a mystery RM2.6 billion (S$854 million) donation Mr Najib received, and debt troubles at state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

But Mr Muhyiddin remains the party deputy president as Umno has not decided to sack him.

For now, party leaders can only fume that he, vice-president Shafie Apdal and former premier Mahathir Mohamad held a political rally on Monday to criticise Mr Najib.

Mr Najib said he was angry at the accusations made by his deputy and Tun Dr Mahathir at the rally.

"I was angry, my blood boiled but I remained calm," he told a closed-door briefing of Umno leaders on Tuesday, as quoted by The Star. "I respect Tun Mahathir but don't cross the line. Don't simply accuse."

Some leaders warned that Mr Muhyiddin might be axed.

But wait!

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Muhyiddin did turn up at the Umno headquarters complex.

Those leaders who had said he had no support in Umno must have found it disconcerting to hear shouts of "Hidup Tan Sri!" (Long live Tan Sri!) as he entered the meeting hall where nearly 1,000 Youth leaders were assembled.

And he received cheers and loud applause when he entered the hall where some 950 Puteri (Young Women) leaders were meeting.

Both Mr Muhyiddin and Datuk Seri Shafie attended the regular Umno supreme council meeting yesterday evening. After the meeting, Umno vice-president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters that Mr Muhyiddin will not be sacked or suspended for organising the political rally on Monday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Buzz over Muhyiddin's absence from key meetings'. Print Edition | Subscribe