Malaysian PM extends olive branch at close of UMNO general assembly

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak gestures as he speaks during the 8th Malaysian Student Leaders Summit at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on August 24, 2014. The Malaysian Insider/Najjua Zulkefli

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak extended an olive branch just before the three-day general assembly of the ruling UMNO party came to a close on Saturday night (Dec 12).

The move came as he strove to unite the deeply fractured party to face the coming election due in two-and-a-half years.

The final day of the party’s AGM on Saturday focused on the uneasy standoff between the party’s number 1 and number 2.

In the end, UMNO leaders shook hands and sang party songs in the spirit of unity despite intense standoffs over the past months. After all, the party that is seven decades old does have a way of handling its own internal problems.

Despite his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin’s refusal to apologise for his public outburst against Prime Minister Najib, the party president extended an olive branch in his closing remarks before about 3,000 delegates who stood up and cheered .

Mr Najib said: “I choose to open my heart and be magnanimous, and extend my hand of friendship to all, so we can unite and strengthen UMNO. But if there is any party who still rejects and fights on, understand this – this is no longer a personal matter, you are not just against me, Najib Razak, as party president.”

Instead, the whole party’s wrath will be on those who continue to fight on, warned the 62-year-old party president, whose support appears rock solid.

Speaking to the media just before he left the UMNO building after the president’s closing remarks, Mr Muhyiddin said he is open to working with the president to ensure people’s complaints are resolved.

Mr Muhyiddin Yassin, deputy party president, UMNO, said: “My stand remains firm. It’s good that the president says he’s magnanimous. So I will see what measures are being taken to address the problems I have raised. They are people’s problems, not mine.”

Mr Muhyiddin still faces possible disciplinary action for publicly urging the prime minister to step aside till the investigation over troubled state fund 1MDB is resolved. A special committee within UMNO is investigating the case.

Mr Adnan Mansor, Secretary General of UMNO, said: “We will see. We will see what happens.”

As the UMNO AGM drew to a close, party elders were secretly glad it was over, but they said the damage to the top leadership has been done.

Mr Razaleigh Hamzah, former UMNO treasurer, said: “I don’t care about personality. I just want UMNO to be united and strong again.”

But as far as Prime Minister Najib is concerned, he has explained and cleared the air on 1MDB and political donations in his accounts. Critics, he said, have no proof and were bent on creating a war of perception. He said the party must unite to face the next big fight – the GE 14.