BN coalition suspended as Umno explores new partnerships

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arriving at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday, where his application for a gag order on the media was dismissed. Responding to Umno's latest move, Najib said in a Facebook post that the party's new lead
Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arriving at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday, where his application for a gag order on the media was dismissed. Responding to Umno's latest move, Najib said in a Facebook post that the party's new leadership should be given the space to lead and not carry his burden.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

With only three component parties left in pact, Umno seeks to move beyond Najib era

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's oldest coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), has been suspended temporarily to explore partnerships with other political parties, said Tan Sri Annuar Musa, the secretary-general of Umno which chairs the pact.

The former minister told The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site that Umno is going through a new phase, and the BN component parties must be pragmatic and look at the possibility of working with others.

"We have decided that component parties must take care of themselves for the time being.

"BN, for the time being, needs to be suspended for a little while. Let us try a new approach," he said.

The country's longest-serving coalition governed Malaysia for 61 years until its shock election defeat in May, when it won only 79 of the 222 seats in Parliament.

From a grand pact of 13 parties, BN is now left with three parties - Umno, the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress.

The departure of several parties, mainly from Sabah and Sarawak, after the election loss has left BN with 54 parlia-mentary seats, 51 of of them held by Umno MPs.

"We need to be very pragmatic. We cannot afford to sit on our past successes, still thinking of the glorious days of BN. We need to instead make a practical as-sessment," Mr Annuar said, according to TMI.

Umno has been cosying up to Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in the past two years, saying they must work together to protect the rights of Malays and Muslims.

The BN suspension came a day after three Umno leaders, including Mr Annuar, said the Malay nationalist party must move beyond its ex-president, former prime minister Najib Razak, in order to regain the trust of Malaysians.

"We are not going to waste our time defending Najib," Mr Annuar said. "We in Umno cannot carry this baggage forever. There must be a cut-off."

In his response yesterday, Najib said Umno's new leadership should be given the space to lead and not carry his burden.

"I have no intention of being Umno president any more. The new Umno leadership should be given the trust and space to prove their leadership in gaining the trust of the people," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"All the allegations are against me, and not Umno. It is unfair for them to bear this burden."

Najib, now an MP for a Pahang ward, is facing seven charges in court linked to alleged inflow of millions of dollars into his personal bank accounts from SRC International, a former subsidiary of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Malaysia's High Court yesterday set the trial dates for Najib's case and dismissed his application for a gag order on the media to prohibit it from discussing the merits of the criminal cases against him.

In his decision, Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said that the gag-order application is un-sustainable as there are existing laws available.

"Those who overstep (in reporting) risk action being taken - such as contempt of court - and these remedies are readily available," he said.

The High Court fixed Feb 12 to Feb 28 and March 4 to March 29 next year for Najib's trial for criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'BN coalition suspended as Umno explores new partnerships'. Print Edition | Subscribe