Commentary Politics

A quarrel Umno can do without

Tan Sri Annuar Musa and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaacob

Tan Sri Annuar Musa and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaacob

Shahrum Sayuthi
Written by Shahrum Sayuthi

The immediate suspension of Tan Sri Annuar Musa as chairman of  Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) and Pelaburan Mara Berhad (PMB) on Tuesday apparently came as a shock to many in Umno.

Annuar is, after all, the party’s information chief, an important position to which he was appointed almost a year ago by party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

His appointment as Mara chairman in July 2013 was also approved by Najib.

Although there were rumblings within Mara when Annuar’s tenure was extended in August 2015, few expected those who opposed him to move the way they did earlier this week.

Mara council member Datuk Dr. Yusof Yacob said the unanimous decision to suspend Annuar was made at a special meeting he had chaired on Tuesday.

The suspension is to enable the agency’s internal auditors to look into several matters, including the sponsorship by PMB and Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) of the Kelantan football team, a team Annuar has been involved in for many years.

Annuar, who was in New Zealand the day of the meeting, said he accepted the decision but signs were there in his statement that he was unhappy with the way the decision was made.

According to him, the council meeting was originally scheduled for February 14 and he had planned to raise several issues.

“But it looks like the minister (Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaacob) has given his consent for this meeting to be held earlier and without my presence,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.

Annuar’s statement has without doubt confirmed the suspicion of many that everything was not well between him and Ismail Sabri.

Just last week, Ismail Sabri cancelled out Annuar’s decision to allow the Unified Examination Certificate to be used as an entry qualification into Mara’s UniKL.

The problem between the two Umno leaders, however, seems to be personal, as not even Annuar’s close aides were willing to freely tell others what it was exactly about.

“It’s almost certain now that they are not on the best of terms, but it can’t be because Annuar is a threat to the minister,” said an aide.

The aide claimed that the Ketereh Member of Parliament has no plan to contest for the Umno vice-presidency, a post Ismail Sabri is known to be keen on.

“As far as I know, Tan Sri (Annuar) is only interested in doing his best as the party’s information chief for the coming general election. Anyway, he knows he can’t go beyond that even if he wants to,” he added.

Whatever the real motives of those involved, it looks like the matter has gone beyond the point where the two can still sit and discuss what could be done to avoid an ugly fallout.

One thing for sure, the move against Annuar seems well coordinated.

On the day he was suspended the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission opened investigation papers against Annuar on allegations of misappropriation and abuse of power.

The investigation is focused on corruption and abuse of power.

Investigations on claims of wrongful governance by him will be conducted by Mara’s internal audit.

Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor later told national news agency Bernama that Annuar’s post as information chief will be decided by Najib.

“His post in Umno was appointed by the president while his suspension is in a government agency. It does not involve his post in Umno. It is up to the president,” Adnan was quoted as saying.

Many within Umno are hoping that Najib can somehow put a quick end to the issue as it has the potential to disrupt preparations by the party and its BN allies for the next general election.

Najib obliged, stating on Wednesday that the suspended Mara chairman will remain as information chief for now.

“He is willing to be investigated by the MACC, so give him a chance to clear his name. We cannot make assumptions…. due process must take place,” Najib said.

What that really means, however, is that Annuar must not expect any special favours from the prime minister and Umno president. 

He is on his own, for now at least.

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Shahrum Sayuthi

Shahrum Sayuthi