The Umno Supreme Council meeting yesterday saw many leaders agreeing with the move by their president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to revoke support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin although there were also passionate and even heated arguments by some senior leaders who stated their opposition.
Those who were vocal against Zahid included Kelantan Umno strongman Alwi Che Ahmad, Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, as well as Kepala Batas MP Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Selangor’s Noh Omar and Sabah’s Bung Moktar Radin.
MalaysiaNow, which has been furnished with specific details of the discussions by each of those present at the four-hour meeting, can also confirm that Zahid had clearly given MPs from the party the choice to remain in the government despite his call for Umno to withdraw its support for Muhyiddin.
The Umno president however failed to mention this apparent leeway given to MPs when he read out a statement late last night announcing the party’s immediate revocation of support for Muhyiddin.
“Who will be the new PM? We want Umno to be the government. The candidates (for PM) should be from Umno. As to the method of how this appointment is done, we will have a special discussion later,” Zahid said at the meeting attended both physically and online by 55 of the 56 Supreme Council members.
Kedah’s Mahdzir Khalid, who was unwell, was the sole absentee.
Zahid said 53 of the 56 Supreme Council members were supportive of the proposal to “disassociate” the party from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, while some of them supported the move with conditions attached.
His speech was followed by one by his deputy Mohamad Hasan, one of the main proponents of a government “dominated” by Umno.
Mohamad said Umno should revoke support for Muhyiddin, adding however that the move should not result in the downfall of the government.
“I think the government must be led again by Umno,” he said.
“Umno’s policy is to withdraw support for the PM. It is up to the MPs to later debate in Parliament,” he added.
He also warned of “bad consequences” if any of the party’s decisions was ignored by its members, adding that Umno must be firm or risk being mocked for “having no balls”.
“It is high time for Umno to make a decision, and tonight we must pull back our support. Whatever happens, happens.”
The discussions that ensued saw several council members voicing full support for Zahid’s proposal.
Puad Zarkashi criticised Ismail Sabri Yaakob for accepting the deputy prime minister’s post, saying this went against the party’s decision in the matter.
Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the government had failed to manage the pandemic, and that it was time to say “enough is enough”.
“The party is bigger than other positions,” he said.
‘If government fails, we fail too’
But it was Alwi Che Ahmad who strongly argued against any move to revoke support for Muhyiddin.
He also questioned the repeated claims by some Umno leaders that the government had failed to manage the Covid-19 crisis, saying such accusations would backfire on the party as their own men were ministers critically involved in the fight against the pandemic.
“So we say they failed, and we quit. Aren’t we also part of that failure, if it’s true this is the case?” Alwi asked.
He also reminded the council that Umno, with only 38 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, was not in a position to make demands as it had in the past.
“What we are doing now is unprecedented,” he added.
He said it did not make sense for Umno to call for the prime minister’s resignation yet expect the government to remain. He added that the government would collapse if the prime minister resigned, as shown by the resignation of Dr Mahathir Mohamad which brought down Pakatan Harapan’s 22-month government.
“That part, I cannot understand. I have argued with the president. But the president said, ‘Trust me, we will have the numbers, we will do it’, and that it is not going to be other than Umno,” he said.
Alwi said any move to disrupt the administration was also unfair to Umno ministers who were working hard in the battle against the pandemic.
“At this time of the year, I think you are being unfair to our ministers. The party is being unfair to our ministers, friends who sit in the government due to our own decision.”
He also said there was no guarantee that the pandemic would be better managed under a government led by Umno.
“Are we doing the right thing at the right moment? Will it benefit the party, will we benefit the Malays?
“How do we explain to the people that we only wanted to bring down the prime minister because he failed?”
Meanwhile, Reezal Merican Naina Merican warned against any rash decision, saying Umno ministers had done well in their respective portfolios in the fight against the pandemic, even as criticism was levelled against ministers from other parties.
Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub from Kelantan expressed strong support for Zahid, saying Umno must emerge from its support for the government, a stand echoed by Ahmad Said from Terengganu who said the people wanted Umno back in power, urging ministers to put party interests first.
However, Sabah’s Bung Moktar Radin questioned the timing of the call for a change in leadership, saying Umno could end up losing whatever power it still had by deciding to revoke its support for the prime minister.
“We should think carefully about what we will achieve tonight. There are signs that it could be for the total good of the party, or otherwise.
“I agree with Reezal. If we want to do it, we do it wisely.”
Musa Sheikh Fadzir of Penang lashed out at MPs who questioned the party decision, saying it was disrespectful of them to go against the president.
Ab Rauf Yusoh of Melaka meanwhile spoke of the need to ensure that any decision would result in a better way forward with the party having the upper hand.
Johari Abdul Ghani and Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, both strong allies of convicted former leader Najib Razak, also expressed support for Zahid.
Johari said Umno had only supported Muhyiddin following the collapse of the PH government, adding that there had been no PN at the time as the coalition was only registered five months later.
He said he could not accept that not one of the 38 Umno MPs could hold the prime minister’s office.
‘Umno loses if Covid-19 situation improves’
Abdul Rahman Dahlan meanwhile said Umno must act now, when the Covid-19 situation is still bad, as any improvement would not favour the party in its push for power.
“But when Covid-19 cases go down, we will also lose because we won’t get the credit. Instead, the prime minister will claim credit. I am worried, when the situation calms down and the economy improves, what will happen to Umno?
“If Covid subsides, I’m afraid we won’t get any credit. When they are comfortable, we will face more problems,” said Abdul Rahman.
“In politics, it’s all about striking while the iron is still hot.”
Noraini Ahmad and Zahida Zarik Khan both made general statements saying they would stand by the party.
Tajuddin: ‘You think the govt will collapse?’
In a surprise move, Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, who was recently sacked from the government-owned Prasarana, warned against revoking support for Muhyiddin, saying it would not result in the collapse of the government.
“If we pull out now, do you think the government will collapse? They may go to DAP, to get an understanding. DAP will support, it does not have to join the government, they just give their vote.
“What will happen to Umno then?”
Tajuddin also said there was no guarantee that Umno could solve the problems of Covid-19 and the economy.
“If we fail after taking over, it will be worse,” he added.
“There were many decisions that we made in the past. All gone wrong,” he said, citing Umno’s decisions to join Muafakat Nasional and to support PN as well as the recent move to cooperate with PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
Turning to Zahid, Tajuddin said his disagreement was nothing personal.
“I have been supporting you, working hard for you. This time I beg to differ.”
Noh Omar warned that Umno MPs would not heed Umno’s decision and would damage the party’s image.
He said it was better for Umno to air its grievances against Muhyiddin when Parliament convenes at the end of the month, by voting against the emergency ordinance.
He said there was always the possibility of the PN government giving more allocations to opposition MPs, in the hope of filling up the vacuum caused by Umno’s withdrawal.
Similarly, Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said spoke of moves by opposition parties to quietly support the government, saying there was talk that the PN government could increase allocations to opposition MPs beyond the RM300,000 recently announced.
Johor Umno’s Razali Ibrahim and Khaled Nordin called on the party to make a clear decision, while Perak’s Zambry Abdul Kadir said any decision should be viewed by the people in a positive light and not based on a “power struggle” narrative.