KUALA LUMPUR - Two leaders of Umno have said that the party must forge ahead without its former president Najib Razak, as his corruption cases would cloud the plan to renew the opposition party.
Umno's secretary-general Annuar Musa and a Kuala Lumpur division chief Johari Abdul Ghani spoke just days after Najib failed to make an impact in a Selangor by-election despite leading the campaign and putting up his former aide as a candidate.
Former prime minister Najib was on Wednesday (Aug 8) slapped with three charges of money laundering in court, linked to an alleged inflow of millions of dollars into his personal bank accounts from SRC International, a former subsidiary of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
This is in addition to three criminal breach of trust charges on July 4 and one for abuse of power that were also linked to SRC.
Not mincing his words, Tan Sri Annuar, a former Najib loyalist, said on Thursday (Aug 9): "We must continue this journey. We are not going to wait. We are not going to waste our time defending Najib."
Mr Annuar was quoted as telling The Malaysian Insight news site: "We in Umno cannot carry this baggage forever. There must be a cut-off. It is entirely his (Najib's) responsibility."
He added that the focus must be on the party not on an individual.
"Najib is one person, no one is indispensable. Najib is no longer the president of the party. To me, he is just a party member. Whether people support him or not, it is immaterial," Mr Annuar said.
Najib stepped down as Umno president three days after the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition was toppled from power in the May 9 general election.
He is the Umno MP for Pekan constituency in Pahang.
Meanwhile, another Umno leader, Johari Abdul Ghani, said it was a mistake to have allowed Najib to campaign in the Sungai Kandis by-election.
"We need to forget the era before the May 9 election. Umno has a new president and new leadership," said Datuk Seri Johari in an open statement on Wednesday.
"The past president's era is history. If Umno doesn't change and defend its legacy - the cause of our rejection in GE14 (14th general election) - then it is possible that Umno too will become history," he warned.
Their remarks differed from the stance taken by new Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Asked by reporters on Thursday to comment on what was said by secretary-general Annuar, Datuk Seri Zahid said: "I hope he (Najib) is not hurt or affected by such opinions.
"I also hope that he won't feel emotionally distraught and will undergo the court process with calmness and fortitude."
On Wednesday, Mr Zahid, when asked to comment on the statement by Mr Johari, had said: "For me, one should not stomp on someone when he is down."
The Umno candidate for the Sungai Kandis contest, Datuk Lokman Adam, is a member of Umno's supreme council and was Najib's former communications director at the Finance Ministry.
Najib was leading the campaign in the by-election though he does not hold any top position in Umno.
Mr Lokman polled 38.1 per cent of the valid votes cast in last Sunday's polls, with Pakatan Harapan retaining the seat with its candidate receiving 61.4 per cent of the votes.