KUALA LUMPUR – December 2, 2015: A debate erupted in the local cyberspace following the announcement by former Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday that he will be attending the party’s annual general assembly next week
Dr Mahathir, who is now known as the most prominent critic of Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak surprised many quarters when said he will attend the party gathering between Dec 8 and 12.
His announcement raised many eyebrows as many had presumed that he would shy away from the assembly due to his very vocal opposition to Najib’s leadership.
“I am going because I have been invited. This party is mine and also for all Malays.
“No members should be barred from attending the assembly,” said Dr Mahathir, who was formerly the country’s prime minister for 22 years.
He had made the announcement in response to what he described as a verbal invitation by Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Prominent blogger Jailani Harun, who commented on the matter said it will be interesting to see Dr Mahathir at the party gathering after all the “bashing he handed to Najib.”
“While it is a formality for the party to invite former presidents and other ‘former’ to the assembly, Umno members and Malaysians as a whole are expected to give some attention to it.
“And the question of whether he (Dr Mahathir) will ‘bite’ Najib during the assembly or turn a bit sober, does arise,” Jailani wrote.
In another posting on the matter, Jailani expressed hope that Dr Mahathir along with Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is also known to be a critic of Najib’s handling of the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue will not attend the party gathering.
“Although Dr M had said he would attend, he lashed out at Najib in his latest blog post by asking Umno members to stop supporting the prime minister and instead pressuring him to step down before the next general election.
“Muhyiddin too has lambasted Najib and his administration for the dwindling support for Umno and the BN government.
“I rather take it that both – Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin – will not be attending the general assembly,” he opined.
As for those who believed that Dr Mahathir will really attend the assembly, many were of the opinion that he will do more than merely be a spectator.
One of them even said that Dr Mahathir will not stop “demonising Najib until things have gone according to his whim”.
However, some argued that Dr Mahathir will not cause any disruption if he does turn up at the event.
Commenter Naked Spur wrote that Dr Mahathir is just an honorary invited guest to listen to what is going on at the assembly.
“Do you (Dr Mahathir) think Zahid will give you the microphone to speak as a key speaker when the key speaker is the Umno president?
“You can speak in your Facebook after that,” the commenter wrote at a comment section of a news portal reporting Dr Mahathir’s intention to attend the assembly.
An anonymous commenter at one of Jailani’s blog posts on the issue wrote that Dr Mahathir’s attendance at the party gathering will not make much difference to the party.
“Dr Mahathir had made his intentions very clear that the only thing he wanted to do right now is to bring down Najib.
“If he attends, he will try to find a forum to whack Najib. If he doesn’t attend, he will still want Najib to step down,” wrote the anonymous commenter.
Another commenter deemed that Dr Mahathir should attend the assembly for the sake of the party, and not to attack anybody.
“The invitation is a symbol of respect and recognition given to past Umno presidents.
“This is the best avenue to close all ranks and it will be the remedy for Umno’s internal strife,” the commenter wrote.
Anonymous blogger Dr Novandri, also echoed similar sentiment on the need for all Umno members to forgive each other so that party can be effectively consolidated.
The blogger who blog at ‘Analisis Dr MiM’ wrote that despite its internal problems, all Umno members wanted a peaceful solution to end the bickering.
“Even though the party is indeed cracked, Umno is currently not as shattered as the opposition coalition.
“MiM believes that it is possible to end the quarrel especially in the upcoming annual general assembly,” the blogger wrote.
However those who took an anti-Najib stance were adamant that Dr Mahathir should speak his mind when attending the assembly.
Peb Wjc contended that if Umno is a democratic party then Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin should be allowed speak at the assembly.
“If Umno’s invitation is really sincere and the party is democratic, just let Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin go on the stage to address the members on the 1MDB and RM2.6 billion issue,” the commenter wrote.
Another commenter Cj Lee, inferred that Najib will order a lock down at the assembly so as to deter Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin from attending the assembly.
“Maybe they will also instruct the guards not to allow the oldest ex-PM (former prime minister) to enter,” Cj Lee wrote.
Some even went as far as deducing that Najib and his supporters will be so spooked of the duo’s attendance up to the point that they will virtually attend the assembly through Skype.