Umno denies issuing letter pledging support for Anwar

It says it is committed to boosting existing BN coalition and pact with Malay-Muslim PAS

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says at least 120 members of the federal legislature support him in taking over as prime minister. PHOTO: REUTERS
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says at least 120 members of the federal legislature support him in taking over as prime minister. PHOTO: REUTERS
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says at least 120 members of the federal legislature support him in taking over as prime minister. PHOTO: REUTERS
FOREIGN MINISTER HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says at least 120 members of the federal legislature support him in taking over as prime minister. PHOTO: REUTERS
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION MINISTER KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN

Malaysia's largest ruling party Umno yesterday denied it would work with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, despite reports and letters surfacing hours earlier that purportedly show party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak pledging support for Mr Anwar to take power.

Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said that he, along with Zahid, "still holds to the existing stance of the Umno supreme council" to strengthen their existing coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and pro-Malay-Muslim pact with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

"No DAP, no relations with leaders that are allied with DAP such as Anwar Ibrahim and Tun Mahathir Mohamad," Ahmad posted on Twitter, referring to the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party.

Umno has often accused the DAP of undermining Malay-Muslim interests.

The DAP is the largest bloc of MPs in Mr Anwar's Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition pact which shockingly won the 2018 election, allowing Dr Mahathir to be installed as premier for 22 months before it collapsed in February.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as premier on March 1 after cobbling together 113 out of 222 MPs to form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

But PN is now wobbling after its biggest component Umno said last Tuesday it wanted better terms to remain in the pact.

Umno's demand came just hours after Mr Anwar had an audience with the King last Tuesday, claiming later he had the support of at least 120 members of the federal legislature.

The two letters, seen by The Sunday Times, indicated that Mr Anwar asserted to Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah that he had the backing of leaders in his PH, as well as Umno, totalling 131 MPs.

One of the letters appeared to be signed off by Zahid and former premier Najib, saying Umno was withdrawing support for PM Muhyiddin and instead backing Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar.

But Umno executive secretary Sumali Reduan denied that the president's office had issued such a letter.

Umno secretary-general Ahmad also tweeted photos of Zahid meeting his PAS counterpart Abdul Hadi Awang last Friday night in a "cordial discussion to strengthen" their Muafakat Nasional (MN) alliance.

"Definitely no DAP and those that support DAP," said Ahmad.

Zahid also pinned a tweet from August that stressed cementing MN with a handshake photo captioned "do not release this grip".

Meanwhile, two Umno ministers in the PN government yesterday denied pledging support for Mr Anwar.

Said Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in a Facebook post: "I want to state here clearly that I do not support Anwar as prime minister. I'm consistent - No Anwar, No DAP."

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted: "I am not supporting Anwar to become prime minister. I hope other Umno MPs will make their position clear."

DAP, on its part, has said that its 42 MPs will back Mr Anwar to lead the country, but it would not form a government with an Umno led by either Najib, who is appealing against a 12-year sentence for graft involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, or Zahid, who is also facing corruption charges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2020, with the headline 'Umno denies issuing letter pledging support for Anwar'. Print Edition | Subscribe