KUALA LUMPUR – Sept 10, 2015: No one knows for certain if Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has made the right decision not to rid his critics in the party.
Political analysts who talked to The Mole however agreed that it was a calculated move to seal cracks within the party.
Such was the analysts’ views in regards to yesterday’s Umno supreme council meeting where speculation that deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, along with several others were to be axed was put to rest.
Muhyiddin and the others have been critical of Najib’s handling of the controversial state-own investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which had accumulated debts of RM42 billion in six years of operation.
Associate professor Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said Najib’s decision to retain particularly Muhyiddin and Shafie was important in order to quell the grassroot groundswell against him.
“It helps to counter the negative public perception that Umno under Najib’s leadership is a ‘yes-man’ party.
“If he had sacked them (Muhyiddin and Shafie) Umno would be ripped apart and we will witness another ‘Team A vs Team B’ political crisis,” he said.
The ‘Team A vs Team B’ crisis in 1987 has had Umno members and leaders divided. Team A was led by the then-Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Team B by then-vice-president Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Ku Li).
Both contested the party’s presidency with Dr Mahathir and his team eventually winning the face-off. Umno was however split as Ku Li was left unsatisfied with the result.
The split led to a case being filed in court and Umno subsequently declared as illegal. Shortly after the court ruling, Dr Mahathir re-established Umno as Umno Baru (New Umno).
Samsul said Umno would suffer greatly in the next general election (GE), which is only two and half years away, if Najib had decided to sack Muhyiddin and Shafie.
Associate Professor Dr Mohd Azizudin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia shared similar view on the backlash that Umno would face in the next GE if Najib had sacked the duo.
He, however, told The Mole that he did not expect Najib to be so “forgiving” towards Muhyiddin and Shafie, who have been blatant in voicing out their criticism against his leadership.
“Though I did not see it coming, I believe that Najib has indeed set aside his pride and is really committed in beefing up Umno.
“But right now, I am puzzled over Muhyiddin and Shafie’s roles…both of them hold high-ranking positions in Umno and yet they have no ministerial posts. This is not the norm in Malaysia,” said Azizudin.
He perdicted that if Najib does not reinstate the duo back into the Cabinet, it would eventually further fuel the “anti-Najib” sentiment.
“They (the anti-Najib faction) will claim that retaining Muhyiddin and Shafie was mere smokes and mirrors done in order to fool the duo’s supporters so that they would not revolt against Najib.
“They will substantiate such claims by pointing out that even though Muhyiddin and Shafie were not sacked the duo no longer have any influence to be involved in any government affair,” he said.