KUALA LUMPUR • A former deputy minister, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, has left Umno to join the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), saying he was attracted to PKR's multiracial model and was frustrated with how the scandal involving state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is being handled, the Malaysian media reported yesterday.
Mr Saifuddin, 54, was deputy minister for higher education between 2008 and 2013 during Datuk Seri Najib Razak's first term as Prime Minister.
Mr Saifuddin became chief of the Global Movement of Moderates non-governmental organisation backed by PM Najib after losing his Parliament seat in Temerloh, Pahang, in the 2013 General Election.
Mr Saifuddin increasingly became a lone voice of moderation in Umno as Mr Najib and the party veered to the right after the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition narrowly won the 2013 polls.
Mr Saifuddin was recently issued a show-cause letter by Umno for attending a roundtable discussion of opposition parties on Sept 21.
Asked at a news conference at PKR headquarters why he left Umno, he replied: "(Because of) the way they deal with the 1MDB and RM2.6 billion issues."
He was referring to alleged money transfers involving Mr Najib's personal accounts.
"I was drawn to PKR which made serious attempts to achieve true multiracialism… Although other friends and parties tried, in this context, PKR was my choice," he said.
Umno leaders said yesterday that they were glad the former MP had abandoned the Malay nationalist party.
"Even the people of Temerloh don't want him, so you (PKR) can take him. We don't want him. We don't want all this rubbish in Umno," party secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider website.