KUALA LUMPUR - Former prime minister Najib Razak has been appointed chairman of the Barisan Nasional (BN) advisory board even as he faces a slew of charges linked to one of the world's biggest financial scandals.
BN secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the appointment on Tuesday (July 9) was the unanimous decision of the former ruling coalition's Supreme Council.
"The decision to make Najib Razak the advisory board chairman is unanimous. He will assist BN in its efforts to win back the people's support," he said.
Najib is facing 42 criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power charges in connection with the scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), but these have barely dented his political career.
Instead, he has found renewed fame and popularity, arguably even more than when he was in power, thanks to an aggressive social media campaign that rebranded him as "Bossku" (my boss), complete with a theme song that is played at his events.
"He (Najib) has the highest social media profile so they need him," said Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania, University of Tasmania.
Appointing him as chairman would also prevent him from criticising the current Umno leadership, he added.
However, many grassroots Umno members are not happy, Prof Chin said.
Former BN secretary-general Nazri Aziz on Wednesday slammed the decision.
"I think it is regressive," Datuk Seri Nazri told reporters, pointing out that BN lost power in last year's general election under Najib's leadership.
"We (BN) lost under whom? What kind of advice can he give us?" he said.
But Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Najib should be given a second chance.
"He has just been appointed, so we should give him a chance," he said.
Datuk Seri Ismail said he believes Najib is not a liability to BN, despite his ongoing trials related to the 1MDB scandal.