‘Do not conflate Free Najib and collab with PH’

UMNO members should not conflate the party’s collaboration with Pakatan Harapan (PH) for next month’s state elections and its efforts to seek a pardon for jailed former leader Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today said party members should be mindful that the two were separate issues and not to be mixed.

“Datuk Seri Najib said through his children that all Malaysians, including his supporters, should focus on the unity government.

“So there is no reason to have any thoughts of not freeing him,” Zahid, who is also deputy prime minister, replied reporters who asked about calls from certain Umno grassroots members who demanded its party leaders show their commitment to free Najib or face their wrath at the six state elections.

“Even Najib’s daughter is committed to the Madani government currently,” he said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

During this year’s Umno general assembly, Umno leaders made it clear that they would not back down from the push to free Najib, now serving a 12-year jail sentence for embezzling funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a 1MDB subsidiary.

In his opening speech, Zahid expressed implicitly to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the AGM’s guest of honour, that party grassroots see Umno’s membership in the unity government as leverage to set Najib free.

This suggests Najib remains highly influential in the party, and that his faction could mobilise the ground to put pressure on Zahid, who is one of Anwar’s two deputies.

Analysts believe this could set off tension between Umno and PH, which would likely heighten if the alliance fails to perform well in the state polls.