PUTRAJAYA(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysian minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Tuesday (July 17) said that he remains loyal to Umno, dismissing talk that he might be quitting the party.
“I am loyal to my party,” he told reporters in the Parliament lobby on Tuesday (July 17).
He refused to join his party members in a protest walkout during the first sitting of the 14th parliament on Monday (July 16).
Umno party members are questioning if Khairy is a team player after he refused to join his party members in the walkout.
Lawmakers from Barisan Nasional, now in the opposition, and Parti Islam SeMalaysia staged a brief walkout as retired judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof was being sworn in as Speaker. It was the parliament's first sitting since the May 9 general election.
The opposition said the appointment process was not transparent.
Khairy, a former youth and sports minister, said he remained seated because he chose to respect the Speaker's swearing-in ceremony.
Umno leaders pointed out that his failure to toe the party line came at a time when a show of unity is vital.
Although they are unsure if the three-term MP's decision not to walk out was "politically motivated", Khairy's seniors in Umno said he should have respected the will of the majority and be part of the protest move, even if he did not agree with it.
"I am an Umno member and I know my limits. But when I am required to give my opinions, I will give them according to what I think it is right," Khairy said on Monday, adding that he was only speaking for himself.
Of late, Khairy had been publicly critical of his own party.
In a series of tweets last Thursday, he pointed out that Umno had failed to listen to the voices of the people despite a shock defeat in the general election.
Two days later, he lambasted Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali's appointment and subsequent withdrawal as Umno Supreme Council member, calling the episode "just embarrassing" and "amateur hour".
While some Umno leaders said Khairy, Rembau MP, seemed to behave as if he was inviting reprimand, a source close to him said since Khairy has no party position, it is easier to openly express his opinions.
When asked if the party would act against Khairy after he stayed out of Monday's walkout, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the matter would be left to the party's disciplinary board.
"Let the board decide," he told The Star.
Khairy was not the only opposition MP who stayed put when the rest left the hall.
Kimanis lawmaker Datuk Seri Anifah Aman too was seen surrounded by vacant seats.
However, Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Opposition Leader, claimed that Anifah later walked out as well.
"You should ask (about) KJ (Khairy). Anifah walked out eventually," he said, clearly identifying Khairy as the odd man out.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said he was more surprised than disappointed that Khairy did not join the others in leaving the hall.
"If a team member does not follow the party's decision, it reflects badly on our unity. People are watching. One cannot be selfish and only think of oneself," said the Bera MP.
Although Umno supreme council member Datuk Hasni Mohamad does not believe that Khairy's move was politically motivated, he cautioned against a repeat of such an incident.
"A team must act in unison. The decision of the majority must be respected. At this point, we need a team player, not a rebel.
"Even if it was not his intention to rebel, I'm afraid that was the perception," he said of Khairy, who lost his bid for the Umno presidency in the recent party polls.
He contested against Dr Ahmad Zahid and Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is Gua Musang MP.
Datuk Ahmad Maslan, another supreme council member, said Khairy, as the former Youth and Sports minister, should be well aware of the importance of team spirit and unity in securing victory.
"We have just witnessed the conclusion of the World Cup. If a team is in disarray and doesn't play as one, it will not win. I hope that after this, he will be a good team member.
"In the next five years, I'm sure there will be more moments that need us to be united in facing the Pakatan Harapan government and lawmakers, so Khairy needs to be on the same page as the rest of us," said the Pontian MP.
In an apparent reference to what Khairy did in the Dewan Rakyat, Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa issued a reminder that no one is bigger than the party.
"There is no superhero, no Superman, and as far as we (Umno) are concerned, no one is indispensable. We can be considerate, we can tolerate, but there is a limit to everything," he told a press conference at the Umno headquarters.
He added, however, that since Khairy had not attended a meeting of Barisan MPs on Sunday night, it was possible that he had not been aware of the walkout plan.
"Maybe Khairy was busy preparing to watch the World Cup final. Let's give him the benefit of doubt," said Annuar.
He continued with the football references: "As far as Khairy's action is concerned, the ball is at his feet because the president (Dr Ahmad Zahid) has been very tolerant. It is up to Khairy whether he wants to shoot into the opponent's goal or score an own goal."