KUALA LUMPUR - Umno wings rallied around embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak on Wednesday (Nov 30) while pouring scorn on long-serving former leader Mahathir Mohamed, as Malaysia's ruling party sought to consolidate before an election expected next year.
The 3,000 delegates attending the youth, women and Puteri (young women) wings' annual assemblies cheered wildly when their respective chiefs called for undivided loyalty to party president Najib, and jeered Tun Mahathir who has quit the party after leading calls for his successor to step down over graft allegations, a two-year-long campaign that has battered Umno.
Women's chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil called on her wing - the backbone of the party due to its well-oiled election machinery - to defend Datuk Seri Najib as he is "the best party president I have ever served".
"Only Umno sticks to its original principle," she said in her policy speech, calling for undivided loyalty to the party and to Mr Najib.
Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also Youth and Sports Minister, savaged Dr Mahathir for hypocrisy in allying with those he once vilified.
Using video footage, he showed youth delegates how the former premier - who was in power for 22 years until 2003 - had changed his stance on opposition leaders and parties. He said Dr Mahathir had in the past accused Bersih of being violent, but is now urging Malaysians to attend the electoral reform group's rallies calling for Mr Najib to step down.
"Now is not the time for divided loyalty. In politics, kill or be killed. We are at war," Mr Khairy said when opening the youth assembly.
Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin - sacked as Mr Najib's deputy - have formed a new opposition party as they continue to push for the premier to resign over allegations that US$700 million (S$997 million) found in his personal accounts came from state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Mr Najib has insisted the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family.
The Prime Minister only has to face polls in Aug 2018, but speculation that elections will be called next year has swirled after new electoral boundaries were revealed in September, and cooperation between Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia continues to sow discord among opposition parties.