Malaysian PM Najib to rally Umno members at general assembly

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak at the 14th Asean-India Summit in Vientiane on Sept 8, 2016.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak at the 14th Asean-India Summit in Vientiane on Sept 8, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Ruling Umno began its annual general assembly on Tuesday (Nov 29), with leader Najib Razak expected to rally the battered party having seen out attempts to oust him over one of Malaysia's biggest graft scandals.

The Prime Minister will speak to top officials from the party's 191 divisions in a closed-door briefing on Tuesday afternoon, before the Women's, Youth and Puteri (young women) wings are opened by acting deputy president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at night.

The nearly 6,000 delegates attending the five-day pow-wow will likely experience a calmer conference this year as compared to the last, where Datuk Seri Najib's rivals had tried to agitate a revolt over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy.

Mr Najib, however, has fended off claims that US$700 million (S$996 million) found in his personal accounts came from the troubled state investor. He insists the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family.

Despite investigations into 1MDB gaining speed across the world - including Singapore and the United States, where assets have been seized - the Umno president appears ready to call for a general election as soon as next year, now that top critics have been purged from his party.

Former deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin has started his own party with the guidance of Tun Mahathir Mohamad, the former premier who has led calls for Mr Najib to step down for nearly two years.

In an interview televised on national broadcaster RTM on Monday night, Mr Najib accused Dr Mahathir - who led Umno and the government for 22 years until 2003 - of having a "super-ego" who will be more caustic to try and end Umno's six decades in power.

"The option available is to convince the people and in the process he will attack me because to topple Umno, he must attack the Umno president," Mr Najib said.