KUALA LUMPUR - A group of branch leaders from Malaysia's Umno party have come together to form a movement seeking to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak ahead of the party's annual general assembly next month, the Malaysian Insider news portal reported on Saturday (Nov 28).
The group, calling itself the "Gabungan Ketua Cawangan Malaysia" or "Coalition of Branch Chiefs Malaysia" (GKCM), urged Datuk Seri Najib to resign from his position as party president, saying he had created issues that burdened the people.
"We would like to repeat, the party president has done many things that have burdened the people, and we want him to step down. Otherwise, we, the whole country, will force him to step down," the group's spokesman, Said Amidon, was quoted telling a press conference in Selangor, on Friday evening (Nov 27).
The Railway branch chief and Puchong Umno division grassroots leader said Umno branches across the country were working together to force Najib to abandon his party post.
Najib's leadership has been under scrutiny as he tries to control the hot potato issues of the debt-laden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the discovery of RM2.6 billion (S$867 million) in his personal accounts which he said were political donations.
"We would like to inform you the leaders of all branches across the country are joining the movement, it is getting bigger," Amidon added.
The report also cited another of the group's spokesman, Umno Taman TKK branch chief Kamarul Azman Habibur Rahman, as saying that the movement was seeking to restore Malaysia's biggest party and denied that they had been employed by certain quarters.
"It is now up to the branch chiefs and grassroots to save Umno," he said.
Reading a statement of declaration drafted by the group, he added: "First, the Umno president must step down. Second, there should be no sacking of Umno members who criticise or condemn leaders to improve them. Third, the Umno elections must go on."
The party's Supreme Council defied tradition on Tuesday (Nov 24) when it decided that the party's wing assemblies would be launched separately by their respective chiefs. The move, in effect, bars deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin from addressing delegates at the joint opening of its three wings.
Muhyiddin has previously voiced criticism of Najib's leadership.
The group's announcement on Friday (Nov 27) comes after several Umno branch leaders earlier declared they had lost their faith in Najib over his handling of 1MDB and other issues.
Umno holds its annual general assembly for five days from Dec 8. The meeting is the country's most-watched annual political event, with hundreds of media personnel thronging the party's headquarters to report on the speeches and debates.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has questioned the Supreme Council decision, saying it is not appropriate for the party to break from a longstanding tradition of having its deputy president officiate the party wings' meetings.
Muhyiddin said on his Facebook post on Wednesday (Nov 25) that he would not keep quiet even though he was not allowed to deliver any speech at the assembly.