Speeches at the Umno general assembly in support of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi were not the natural result of delegates voicing support for their top leaders, MalaysiaNow can now reveal, on the back of an intense campaign by the party president for Umno to quit the Perikatan Nasional (PN) bloc led by Muhyiddin Yassin.
It is learnt that several moves were put in place to ensure that no speaker behind the Umno general assembly rostrum levels criticism against party leaders.
One way to ensure that is to stop state Umno chiefs from being given a slot to speak, amid fears that many are unhappy with Zahid.
Veteran Umno leader Shahrir Samad, who also heads the Johor Bahru division, admits as much.
He said a move to allow all state chiefs to speak at the ongoing general assembly was abandoned at the eleventh hour.
“There was in fact a discussion to allow the state liaison chief to speak. It is not something out of the ordinary, and who else more qualified to talk about the situation in the state?” Shahrir told MalaysiaNow when met on the sideline of the general assembly yesterday.
But he said the current situation warranted the change.
“The situation today is quite different,” said Shahrir, once seen as a maverick Umno leader who held the Johor Bahru parliamentary seat for four decades before being defeated in 2018.
He said Umno’s strength lies with its grassroots, whose sentiments are carried by the state chief.
“Since each state holds different views, it could influence the delegates.
“So when we allow the state liaison chief to speak, it could paint a true picture of the varying strengths among the states.”
The remarks confirm a claim by Ketereh Umno chief Annuar Musa, who said the list of speakers and the contents of their speeches had been vetted by the Supreme Council.
“The spokesman was replaced. Only those appointed by the president can speak,” said Annuar, who recently fell out with Zahid over the latter’s plans to work with PKR.
Perlis and Sabah Umno have so far broken ranks with the Supreme Council’s decision to cut ties with Bersatu.
In a recent interview on MalaysiaNow’s online programme Talk, Now, Perlis Umno chief Shahidan Kassim questioned the move by Umno not to work with PN, and threatened to take the state chapter on its own if such a decision is reached at the current general assembly.
Zahid and former president Najib Razak have been at the forefront of attacks against the PN government.
At the heart of their grievances is that Muhyiddin, who formed the splinter party Bersatu after his fallout with Najib in 2015 over the 1MDB scandal, had sidelined Umno for key government posts.
Yesterday, Shahidan questioned the claim by Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan that Umno had been relegated to playing second fiddle in the current administration.
“That is the deputy president’s view but the fact is that is Umno has nine ministers, almost 20 deputy ministers, more than Bersatu, PAS and GPS.
“PAS has three (ministers), GPS has three, Bersatu has eight, BN (including Umno) has 11,” Shahidan had said.