Friday, February 12, 2021

As calls grow against Zahid, focus returns to ‘secret letter’ to Agong

Leaders at divisional levels are questioning the silence of the disciplinary board.

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Calls have emerged from among Umno grassroots leaders for the party to launch an investigation into a letter sent by its president to the palace last year to express support for PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim.

MalaysiaNow, which first revealed the contents of the letter just days after it was sent to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah in October, has now learnt that pressure is also growing for the party’s disciplinary board to take action against Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid and his predecessor Najib Razak had co-signed the letter to state their support for Anwar’s bid to become prime minister, ahead of the PKR leader’s audience with the Agong.

The letter was sent without the knowledge of key party leaders, resulting in Umno ministers expressing shock that the party president was backing an opposition leader despite being part of the ruling bloc.

With Zahid facing an increasingly vocal rebellion bent on his removal, several division leaders are calling for the party’s leadership to come clean about the letter.

Irwan Rizal Ali Napiah

They include Setiawangsa Umno’s deputy chairman Irwan Rizal Ali Napiah, who accused the party’s disciplinary board of failing to do its job.

“I will write to the secretary-general to form a special committee to investigate the validity of the letter,” Irwan told MalaysiaNow.

Zahid and Najib have neither commented specifically on the letter nor confirmed its validity, although both have ramped up their criticism of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in recent weeks, with Najib last year openly urging Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs to consider backing Anwar for the top post.

Earlier this month, former BN secretary-general Annuar Musa said Zahid had written such a letter, following his fallout with the party president.

Irwan questioned Zahid’s silence on the matter.

“Zahid has not made any official response. As long as he remains silent, or delays giving answers, there will be all sorts of perceptions and many quarters will raise suspicions,” he added.

Zahid has come under attack from several Youth leaders who have called for his removal.

The calls went up a notch when the Paya Besar Umno division in Pahang openly called for Zahid’s resignation, saying his multiple corruption charges have burdened the party and scuttled promised reforms since its fall from power in 2018.

Irwan said Zahid’s credibility is at stake, and questioned the absence of disciplinary action against him.

He said he understood that the disciplinary board only acts based on complaints.

“But I feel the disciplinary board should be proactive and not wait for a complaint, especially when it involves the credibility of its president.

“There must be an investigation, if not a special committee,” he said.

A Puteri Umno exco member agreed that Zahid should come clean with members on his support for Anwar’s bid to topple the government.

“We in Puteri Umno only request that the president of the party be forthright,” she told MalaysiaNow.

She added that the uncertainty of the country’s politics demands that leaders ignore their personal interests.

Ruby Abdul Rani

A Puteri Umno leader from Kuala Lumpur said party leaders should be focusing on helping the people as they struggle through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Umno is not the property of any individual. So come help the people and quit politicking when other parties have been busy impressing voters by helping them,” said Ruby Abdul Rani, who is the Bukit Bintang Puteri Umno chief.

In the past week, Pontian Umno Youth chief Helmi Buang and his Seremban counterpart Zool Amali Hussin openly called for Zahid’s removal, while the party’s Federal Territories Youth chief Mohamed Nizham Abdullah Hamidi called for a shake-up at the top.

Irwan said Zahid had proven to be a weak leader, adding that the president had flip-flopped on the party’s stance.

“For example, Zahid said he respects the Agong’s decision to declare an emergency, but secretary-general Ahmad Maslan issued a circular urging MPs to press for a parliamentary session.

“This is what the grassroots are questioning, the constant change of positions. So there is basis for asking the president to resign.

“The party is above individuals,” Irwan said.

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