Umno chiefs publicly pledge support for PM Najib

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) yesterday dismissed Dr Mahathir Mohamad's movement, saying the "Citizens' Declaration" did not represent the views of most Malaysians.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday dismissed Dr Mahathir Mohamad's (above) movement, saying the "Citizens' Declaration" did not represent the views of most Malaysians.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) yesterday dismissed Dr Mahathir Mohamad's movement, saying the "Citizens' Declaration" did not represent the views of most Malaysians.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (above) yesterday dismissed Dr Mahathir Mohamad's movement, saying the "Citizens' Declaration" did not represent the views of most Malaysians.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Division leaders turn up at party HQ to counter Mahathir-led declaration with their own

KUALA LUMPUR • A majority of Umno division leaders yesterday publicly backed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as he took a swipe at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, charging that the former leader had put together an alliance and a "Citizens' Declaration" for his personal agenda.

At least 147 Umno division chiefs - representing more than three- quarters of the ruling party's 191 divisions - turned up at its Kuala Lumpur headquarters to support the Prime Minister, countering the Mahathir-led declaration with one of their own.

The six-point declaration of the Umno division chiefs also called for disciplinary action against party members who had signed the Citizens' Declaration and condemned Dr Mahathir for allegedly conspiring with opposition parties to topple Datuk Seri Najib.

The Batu Gajah Umno chief, Datuk Mohd Yusof Kassim, led the group with a pledge of "full and undivided support" for Mr Najib.

In a separate event yesterday, Mr Najib dismissed Dr Mahathir's movement, saying that it did not represent the views of the majority of Malaysians.

"Don't make a people's declaration to confuse the people. Don't make a personal agenda a people's agenda. It is not about the people, it is about your personal agenda," he was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

"That declaration was neither determined, written nor agreed upon by the people of Malaysia. A large portion of Sarawakians, for instance, do not agree with what has happened," he added.

Mr Najib, who was speaking at the launch of the Inclusive Malaysia, A Digital Nation programme in Kuching, cited his own policies - such as building the Pan Borneo Highway in East Malaysia - as the real "people's agenda".

The move by the Umno division leaders came a day after the government sacked Dr Mahathir as adviser to state oil company Petronas, fanning political tensions between Mr Najib and those who seek his ouster.

Dr Mahathir's alliance, known as the Save Malaysia movement, comprises Umno rebels such as suspended party deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, vice-president Shafie Apdal as well as civil society leaders and veteran opposition figures Lim Kit Siang and Mohamed Sabu.

Jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has also expressed his support for the alliance, even though he was sacked from the deputy prime minister's post by Dr Mahathir in 1998.

The group, which launched the Citizens' Declaration on March 4, aims to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures nationwide to pressure Mr Najib to step down.

While the government has turned up the pressure on Dr Mahathir, his sacking from the Petronas adviser post is not expected to hurt him financially, The Star reported. The adviser role reportedly comes with an allowance of between RM12,000 (S$4,000) and RM16,000.

But the newspaper also noted that he would lose perks such as a futuristic-looking office on the 86th floor of the Petronas Twin Towers, as well as other perks that come with the prestigious post usually reserved for former prime ministers.

Further rubbing salt to the wound, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who succeeded Tun Mahathir as Malaysian prime minister, is tipped to fill the adviser post, The Star reported. Dr Mahathir played an instrumental role in ousting Mr Abdullah, Mr Najib's immediate predecessor.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'Umno chiefs publicly pledge support for PM Najib'. Print Edition | Subscribe