KUALA LUMPUR • A top Umno official has slammed the party's Supreme Council for defying tradition and denying deputy party president Muhyiddin Yassin the right to speak at the launch of the meetings of the party's wings at next month's general assembly.
Party vice-president Shafie Apdal was sacked from the Cabinet along with Tan Sri Muhyiddin in July. They are sharp critics of party leader and Prime Minister Najib Razak.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Shafie said it had been the practice for the deputy president to voice his thoughts and beliefs during speeches at the opening of the Youth, Wanita and Puteri assemblies.
He recalled attending his first Umno general assembly in the 1970s. He said the members then were able to accept ideas and criticisms openly.
PARTY FOR ALL MEMBERS
Umno does not belong to one member; it belongs to three million members who have defended this party together.
UMNO VICE-PRESIDENT SHAFIE APDAL
"We were fed with constructive speeches and though there were stern remarks made, I could see that every Umno member who attended the meeting was able to accept the speeches and remarks with an open heart.
"Umno is approaching 70 years old and it should be more open ... Umno does not belong to one member; it belongs to three million members who have defended this party together," he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.
Mr Shafie also reminded Mr Najib about his plans to reform the party. "Not long ago, the party president did voice out and called for Umno to reform; every member at the grassroots had to change to ensure that Umno is always relevant with the times.
"But unfortunately, the process of renewal is incomplete and cannot happen only at the lower levels. It needs the commitment and support at every level, especially from the higher-ups who have the capability to determine this party's direction," he added.
Mr Shafie said that while he respected the decision of the party, he said the deputy president and the vice-presidents should at least be allowed to speak during the winding-up speech at the Umno general assembly.
On Tuesday, the Umno Supreme Council decided that the party's wing assemblies would be launched separately by their respective chiefs.
Mr Najib said the council made the decision because it wanted to ensure a cordial and positive Umno general assembly from Dec 8 to 12.
Mr Muhyiddin responded on Wednesday with a Facebook post saying that he would not keep quiet and would continue to talk about his rights, although he was not allowed to deliver any speech at the Umno general assembly.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday said no party should rule forever, adding that the country needed a strong opposition to ensure the government did not abuse its power, Malaysian media reported.
"The opposition plays a very important role but if it is too small, it will not be effective to ensure the government does not abuse its power. No party should rule forever," he said in a keynote speech to international Muslim delegates at an event in Kuala Lumpur.
The 90-year-old, who is Malaysia's longest-serving leader, later clarified that his comments were made in the context of Muslim countries worldwide.
Tun Dr Mahathir said he was giving his views as Malaysia was a country generally seen by the Muslim world as a place where democracy had been successful, the Malaysiakini website reported.