Umno wings issue statements in support of party unity

Umno vice-presidents Hishammuddin Hussein (centre left) and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (centre right) with delegates at Umno's General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Umno vice-presidents Hishammuddin Hussein (centre left) and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (centre right) with delegates at Umno's General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY

Women and Young Women chiefs call for solidarity with leadership, but Youth chief gives more measured backing

Umno president Najib Razak's efforts to get the party behind him saw the three wings issuing statements in support of unity yesterday, with Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin saying those who refused should leave the party.

Their backing is important for Datuk Seri Najib as he fights to strengthen his grip on Malaysia's biggest political party.

There have been calls for his resignation over financial scandals involving a mystery RM2.6 billion (S$854 million) donation and the debt-heavy state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Mr Najib sacked Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Cabinet minister Shafie Apdal in July for asking questions about the donation and 1MDB, but they remain Umno deputy president and a vice-president respectively.

Yesterday, Women's wing chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil called on members to follow party tradition in supporting the president and leadership. She asked the 993 women delegates to get up on their feet and pledge their loyalty for Mr Najib's continued leadership.

CLEAR RESOLUTION NEEDED

The issue of 1MDB does not only need the reduction of its debts, but it is just as important to convince the people that no misappropriation of funds has occurred.

YOUTH WING CHIEF KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN

Datuk Seri Shahrizat urged the women to give strength to their president so that the opposition and Umno dissenters cannot weaken Mr Najib.

"As long as we (women) are standing and wearing red head scarves, God-willing president Najib, we women will be the main stronghold (of the party)," she exclaimed in a rallying cry to rousing cheers.

Puteri (Young Women) chief Mas Ermieyati Samsudin also called for unity and solidarity with the party's leadership, saying that members who are disloyal and greedy for power should be purged.

In a party proud of its longstanding tradition - Umno is 69 years old this year - the opening speeches of the three wings were made in three separate ceremonies in three different halls.

This is a big departure from Umno's convention of having the deputy president speak at the simultaneous opening of the three wings, as the party prevented Tan Sri Muhyiddin from bringing his grouses about Mr Najib's leadership to the assembly.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Khairy was more measured in giving his backing to Mr Najib, saying it was not a "betrayal" to voice concerns and questions about the leadership.

Still, the Youth chief told a news conference later that the leaders should "find common ground to fix the problems faced by the leadership today".

"However, should this reconciliation fail and should there be those who still attempt to destroy the party institution, the Youth will ask that those involved in the movement leave the party," he said, without naming whom he was referring to.

On the donation and 1MDB issues, Mr Khairy said the party president must ensure a clear resolution to both problems.

"The issue of 1MDB does not only need the reduction of its debts, but it is just as important to convince the people that no misappropriation of funds has occurred," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Umno wings issue statements in support of party unity'. Print Edition | Subscribe