Malaysia's PM Najib issues gag order over Kedah Chief Minister crisis, meets Umno leaders

Ahmad Bashah (centre) with other Kedah Umno chiefs arriving at the closed door meeting with Mr Najib on Friday (Jan 22).
Ahmad Bashah (centre) with other Kedah Umno chiefs arriving at the closed door meeting with Mr Najib on Friday (Jan 22).PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has issued a gag order on Kedah Umno leaders while he looks into ways to resolve the crisis of confidence against Chief Minister Mukhriz Mahathir's leadership.

The Umno president had told the Umno leaders during a meeting at the party headquarters on Friday (Jan 22) that he understood their problems and that he would either look for a political or legal way to resolve the matter.

Thirteen of 15 Umno division leaders from Kedah attended the meeting, held two days after the state deputy Umno chief Ahmad Bashah Md Hanifah had told a press conference that 14 Umno division leaders had lost confidence in Datuk Mukhriz's leadership.

Mr Mukhriz, who is the Jerlun division chief, did not attend the meeting.

"The Prime Minister only spoke in general about the two solutions. He did not offer any specific solution," said a leader who declined to be quoted following the Umno president's gag order.

A political website had speculated that Datuk Seri Najib would offer Mr Mukhriz a federal post if he would voluntary step down, failing which, a legal solution would be sought by calling for a special sitting of the state legislative assembly to institute a vote of no confidence against him.

Another division head said that Mr Najib had asked that he be given time to resolve the issue.

"He also stressed that he wants us to keep our spirits up and to be loyal to Umno's top leadership," said the leader who declined to be identified.

Another Kedah Umno leader said the party president had invited six representatives from each division to the meeting - the division head, the deputy, secretary and leaders of the three party wings.

It is understood that 54 out of the 260 who were invited, attended the meeting.

Another state Umno leader said there was talk that there would be some new development tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is expected to be in Langkawi tomorrow where he is expected to attend two functions.

There is speculation that Mr Najib would seek an audience with the Sultan of Kedah during his visit to the state to discuss Mr Mukhriz's position.

"We do not know if the audience with the Sultan will take place or otherwise. But the general feeling is that something will happen on Sunday," he said.

Those seen at the meeting yesterday were Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor; Ahmad Bashah who is Alor Setar division chief; and four other Kedah division chiefs - Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom (Jerai), Datuk Johari Baharom (Kubang Pasu), Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (Baling), and Datuk Nawawi Ahmad (Langkawi).

Sik Member of Parliament Mansor Abdul Rahman and Kedah Wanita Umno chief Maznah Hamid who were among those approached by the media after the meeting ended said they were not allowed to make any statements regarding the meeting.

According to sources, the meeting started with Ahmad Bashah addressing those present before Mr Najib spoke.

The closed door meeting yesterday started at 4.50pm and Mr Najib left at 5.20pm, at which point the meeting continued without him.

The participants left separately in small groups, with the last few making their exit at 7.30pm.