PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has questioned the decision by the Malaysian party's supreme council to deny deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin the right to speak at the launching of the party's wings at its general assembly next month.
In a statement on Thursday (Nov 26), Shafie said it is not appropriate for the supreme council to defy tradition by doing so as it had always been the practice for the deputy president to voice his thoughts when opening the Youth, Wanita and Puteri assemblies.
Shafie recalled attending his first Umno general assembly in the 70s when he followed his uncle Tun Sakaran. He said the members then were able to accept ideas and criticisms openly.
"We were fed with constructive speeches and though there were stern remarks made, I could see that every Umno member who attended the meeting was able to accept the speeches and remarks with an open heart," he said.
"Umno is approaching 70 years old and it should be more open... to certain individuals. Umno does not belong to one member; it belongs to three million members who have defended this party together," he said.
The 3.4 million-strong Umno is Malaysia's biggest political party. It holds its annual general assembly for five days from Dec 8.
On Tuesday (Nov 24), the Umno supreme council decided that the party's wings assemblies would be launched separately by their respective chiefs. Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also Umno president, had said the council made the decision because it wanted to ensure a cordial and positive assembly.
But the move was seen by some as a way for the party to contain hot-button issues that could be raised by Muhyiddin at the assembly. Both Muhyiddin and Shafie have turned against Najib over his handling of the debt-laden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the discovery of RM2.6 billion (S$867 million) in Najib's personal accounts.
In his statement, Shafie also reminded Najib about his plans to reform the party.
"Not long ago, the party president did voice out and call for Umno to reform; every member at the grassroots had to change to ensure that Umno is always relevant with the times," he said.
"But unfortunately, the process of renewal is incomplete and cannot only happen at the lower levels. It needs the commitment and support at every level, especially from the higher-ups who have the capability to determine this party's direction," he added.
Shafie said that while he respected the decision of the party, he said the deputy president and the vice-presidents should at least be allowed to speak during the winding-up speech at the Umno general assembly.
Muhyiddin had also responded on his Facebook post Wednesday (Nov 25), saying that he would not keep quiet and would continue to talk about his rights though he was not allowed to deliver any speech at the assembly.