Umno, once a mighty party, hit by more defections and court cases this week

Umno's former Puteri (Young Women) chief Mas Ermieyati Samsudin joined the political party of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Dec 13, 2018.
Umno's former Puteri (Young Women) chief Mas Ermieyati Samsudin joined the political party of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Dec 13, 2018.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/MAS ERMIEYATI SAMSUDIN

KUALA LUMPUR - Umno is having a very bad time this week.

Five of its six MPs in Sabah, nine out of 10 assemblymen in the state along with two Senators on Wednesday (Dec 12) quit Malaysia's once-mighty party.

The defections have effectively caused the collapse of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) in the East Malaysia state, according to observers.

On Thursday, Umno's former Puteri (Young Women) chief Mas Ermieyati Samsudin joined the political party of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

She is the second high-profile former Umno leader to join Tun Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), after former Cabinet minister Mustapa Mohamed in October.

And on Thursday too, two pictures going viral are of a hitherto unknown meeting at Dr Mahathir's house in October involving senior Umno elders including deputy president Mohamad Hassan.

They were served dinner by Dr Mahathir, a leader whom they had attacked just months earlier as a man out to break Malay unity and oust Umno from power.

"The Prime Minister that they castigated back then, was having dinner with them. If this was back in the age of kings, (they) could already die of poisoning," wrote Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, Dr Mahathir's adviser on media and communications, on his Facebook on Thursday.

 
 
 

And then there are the court charges involving senior party men this week.

Umno's former president Najib Razak was on Wednesday charged in court over tampering with final audit document of 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a state fund he started that is the focus of investigations in more than half a dozen countries.

And on Friday, a former Umno vice-president Isa Samad is expected to be charged over an inflated property deal in Sarawak when he was chairman of land development agency Felda. Tan Sri Isa has said he had left the party, when he was contesting the Port Dickson by-election in October, against Umno's wishes.

These court appearances add further turmoil to the party.

Already, Umno's new president after Najib, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, is facing corruption charges in court, as is former secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, while Umno's supreme council member Shahidan Kassim has been charged with molesting a 15-year old girl.

Umno won 54 seats in the federal Parliament in the May general election.

But it has been hit by defections since then, including by Datuk Ermieyati, who opted to become an independent MP in July. She defected on Thursday to Dr Mahathir's PPBM.

With the five Sabah MPs quitting Umno on Wednesday, the Malay nationalist party now has 43 MPs.

Dr Mahathir, who is chairman of PPBM, has said that his two-year old party is willing to accept former Umno lawmakers but they must first cut all ties with the party.

"We have to see how they behave. If they are supportive and didn't do anything wrong in the past we will accept them," the Prime Minister said on Thursday. "They have to stay as independents and support the government first."

Speaking about the exodus, Umno's supreme council member Rahman Dahlan said, as quoted by New Straits Times, on Wednesday: "There have been different signals from different (Umno) leaders and this has confused the grassroots members. Six months have gone by, yet Umno still cannot give a clear signal as to the direction in which it will head."