JEDDAH • Umno will move forward and is not affected by the resignation of former party president Mahathir Mohamad, said party president Najib Razak, in his first comments on the matter.
Speaking to Malaysian reporters in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Najib said of Tun Dr Mahathir's resignation on Monday: "Usually if you want to resign, the biggest impact will be the first time. Many believe that it will not have a big impact or affect Umno's position."
Dr Mahathir resigned from Umno in 2008 to protest against the leadership of then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi but rejoined in 2009 when Datuk Seri Najib took the reins.
PM Najib was in Jeddah to deliver a speech on Tuesday at the Jeddah Economic Forum. He is in Saudi Arabia on a four-day official visit that ends today, and met Saudi King Salman Abdulaziz yesterday.
Mr Najib said his mission now is uniting party members. "We must understand that I was elected via the most democratic and open process in Umno's history from more than 160,000 delegates.
"I was not appointed based on the old Constitution that requires at least 56 nominations from divisions to be nominated for the post," he said, taking a dig at an old rule in Umno started by Dr Mahathir to protect the president's post. "I believe Tun Mahathir is not someone who will easily abandon something that he wants to do. However, it is his decision to resign," The Star newspaper reported him as saying.
Dr Mahathir's resignation on Monday came about after months of attacks by him on Mr Najib's alleged mismanagement of the country, including his handling of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
A part of the controversy surrounding 1MDB revolves around some US$681 million (S$956 million) deposited into the personal accounts of Mr Najib. His visit to Saudi Arabia is closely watched as the Saudis have been dragged into the 1MDB scandal after the Malaysian authorities exonerated Mr Najib in their probe into the funds. The money, Malaysian Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali had said, was donated by the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz, King Salman's predecessor and half- brother.
Statements from the Swiss and Singapore authorities had indicated that there were large sums misappropriated from 1MDB.
Mr Najib's speech at the forum was released to the media, in which he thanked "the royal family of Saudi Arabia for all their support over many decades. We will always appreciate it, and we will never forget it".
He added: "From custodian of the two holy mosques His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and his esteemed predecessors, we in Malaysia have been so very fortunate to have constant and trusted friends."
After his meeting with King Salman yesterday, Mr Najib did not mention the one thing many people wanted to know - whether he and the King discussed the claimed US$681 million donation.
Mr Najib also visited Malaysian troops involved in military exercises in Saudi Arabia.