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Patience running out in Umno as Anwar faces renewed pressure on Najib's fate in prison

This comes after the prime minister made a stance on the former leader's request to serve time at home.

3 minute read
Loyalists of Najib Razak has renewed a campaign to get the former leader out of jail, increasing the pressure on Anwar Ibrahim who has been avoiding the issue.
Loyalists of Najib Razak has renewed a campaign to get the former leader out of jail, increasing the pressure on Anwar Ibrahim who has been avoiding the issue.

Umno is believed to have recently launched a new campaign for the release of Najib Razak, with loyal supporters of the former prime minister having met several times in recent days to press the government on his fate.

Sources told MalaysiaNow that Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor has also met several Umno leaders where her husband's freedom was discussed.

"Patience has obviously run out in Najib's camp. That is essentially the message being conveyed," an Umno leader who admitted to having met Rosmah told MalaysiaNow on strict condition of anonymity.

Rosmah Mansor
Rosmah Mansor

This comes at a time when Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is facing tough questions over his recent remarks on the former leader's bid to be placed under house arrest to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Since then, both Umno leaders and opposition critics have urged him to come clean on the matter.

Anwar had refused to comment on the Pardons Board's decision to halve Najib's prison sentence and reduce his fine to RM50 million.

He had also distanced himself from the controversy over the existence of a "royal addendum" penned by the former Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, requesting that Najib serve the remainder of his time at home.

The addendum is now at the centre of Najib's judicial review to bring to light the royal directive to the Pardons Board, which lawyers say was concealed by the government.

On Tuesday, Anwar for the first time stated his stance on the request for house arrest.

He said he would advise the current Agong, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, to consider house arrest for Najib only after the conclusion of the 1MDB trial against the former prime minister.

"Whether he should be given house arrest, our position is, at present, you go through the process and let the king decide," he said during an interview with Bloomberg at the Qatar Economic Forum.

Najib loyalists were incensed by the remarks: Puad Zarkashi, a member of Umno's Supreme Council, accused the prime minister of trying to delay Najib's release.

"After that, there will be other excuses such as waiting for the conclusion of the 1MDB suit, the SRC suit, the RM1.6 billion tax arrears and other cases," Puad said in a statement, wondering if Najib would have to wait for several general elections.

Zaid Ibrahim, the former justice minister who briefly acted as Najib's lawyer in the corruption case against SRC International, said it was better for Anwar to refrain from commenting on the issue.

"Wasn't he the one who promised the nation he would not to get involved?" he told MalaysiaNow, adding that Anwar is sending conflicting messages.

Zaid had earlier urged the government to take Najib's application seriously.

"It should not be tampered with or made amenable to the opinions of uncomfortable politicians who may be worried about Najib’s departure from prison."

Najib was sentenced to 12 years' jail and fined RM210 million for the misappropriation of SRC International funds totalling RM42 million.

In February, after months of speculation, the Pardons Board granted him a reduction in sentence, allowing him to be released after serving six years.

However, Najib filed a judicial review, citing a royal order from Sultan Abdullah that his sentence should be served at home, a claim  supported by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who cited a copy of the sultan's note shown to him by Investment, Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz.

Former DAP leader P Ramasamy took Anwar to task for "saying different things to different audience".

"If Najib is entitled to house arrest, Anwar should say so. There is no need to beat about the bush by saying things like he would only advise the king if he was asked and that he would prefer Najib to exhaust the other charges before seeking house arrest," he said.

Many see Anwar's vague stance on the matter as a balancing act to avoid antagonising his Pakatan Harapan (PH) base, namely DAP and its close ally Amanah, who have spoken out against any pardon for Najib.

Ramasamy said Najib's arrest would not please Zahid as he might see the former leader as a threat to his leadership in Umno.

"Zahid being entrenched in his position has probably lost interest in freeing Najib. It is all about his own political survival," he said, adding that he was convinced Anwar was aware of the plan to place Najib under house arrest.

"By saying that he would render his advice to king only if he was asked, Anwar is pretending to be statesman, a man above petty politics of the mundane world."