Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that he has remained loyal to party president and Prime Minister Najib Razak, but this does not mean he must ignore grouses from the grassroots.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin was responding to Datuk Seri Najib's policy speech on Thursday at the annual assembly of Malaysia's ruling party. Mr Najib hit out at Mr Muhyiddin and said the deputy president's job is to assist him.
In a post on Facebook yesterday, Mr Muhyiddin said he has helped his chief with "many problems" but was rewarded instead by being ousted from the post of deputy prime minister.
"I heard from the grassroots about problems relating to the party leadership, and felt it was my duty to advise the president to listen to the voice of party members and correct the situation," he wrote.
CARRYING OUT DUTIES
I heard from the grassroots about problems relating to the party leadership, and felt it was my duty to advise the president to listen to the voice of party members and correct the situation.
TAN SRI MUHYIDDIN YASSIN, Umno deputy president and former deputy prime minister
The thrust and counter-thrust between the two top leaders of Umno this week is a continuation of a leadership tussle that broke out following twin financial scandals that hit the Prime Minister.
Mr Najib, 62, has been struggling to explain the discovery of RM2.6 billion (S$850 million) in his personal bank accounts, as well as the debt troubles of state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
He sacked Mr Muhyiddin, 68, in late July as deputy prime minister, but the latter remains the No. 2 leader in Umno.
Mr Najib, in his policy speech, also said Islam emphasises loyalty to the leader. Mr Muhyiddin's response to that yesterday could be seen as harsh in the gentlemanly manner of Malay politics, where criticisms are often couched in softer words.
He said: "The leaders who deserve loyalty are those who are true to Allah's commands, are trustworthy, honest, clean and who have shunned from what is forbidden."
Mr Najib's critics have been hoping that the 5,700 delegates gathered at the five-day Umno assembly that ends today would raise the issues surrounding 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion "political donation".
But yesterday, 16 delegates who took to the rostrum were mostly keen to back Mr Najib, as they are wary of another tussle at the top that could weaken the party. These leaders, who are representatives of the various states and federal territories, had been pre-selected to address the congress.
A delegate from Perak who started criticising former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Mr Muhyiddin from the rostrum was booed by other members, who asked him to move on.
"The appeal from the ground is for the party to consolidate," Perak Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir told The Straits Times, when asked about the delegates' mood. "The issues have to be tackled, no doubt about it, but at the same time at the party level we must be united."
Meanwhile, reflecting the intra- party tensions, Umno vice-president and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday admitted that there was "burning anger" at the party's supreme council meeting on Wednesday.
He released a statement on YouTube in response to a Suara TV report on Thursday that said Mr Muhyiddin had used expletives in front of him after the supreme council meeting. Suara TV said Mr Muhyiddin was angry that the council broke tradition by barring him from speaking at the assembly.
Datuk Seri Hishammuddin did not say specifically what Mr Muhyiddin had uttered. But he urged members to focus on the interest of the party, said news site Malaysiakini.