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SEMPORNA, Aug 15 ― Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Tan Sri Shafie Apdal were both given a rousing welcome replete with song and thunderous applause by Sabah delegates at the opening of the Semporna division meeting here today even as another party senior warned of treachery from within, some 1,800km away in Kuala Lumpur.
The district community hall on Sabah’s east coast shook from the roars of some 2,000 supporters who leapt to their feet waving their mini party flags in the air as the duo took to the stage.
“It's a meaningful day today. We are glad he is here, it is not right if Najib came now, people are still angry that our leader was dropped for no good reason,” a woman delegate for the party’s Wanita wing told Malay Mail Online.
The division had initially planned for party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak to grace its meeting but rescinded the invitation after the latter dropped Muhyiddin and Shafie from his Cabinet in an abrupt reshuffle last month.
In his address, Muhyiddin echoed a similar sentiment as he told the delegates it was a meaningful day for him to join the “sacked ministers’ club”, which drew much laughter from the audience.
“I’m 68 years old, but coming here, to your support has made me feel young and alive. I am grateful to be here and will continue to fight for our struggle and principles,” he told the audience.
Muhyiddin’s replacement as deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, had told Ampang delegates at their divisional meeting in Kuala Lumpur earlier today that an Umno leader was conspiring with the opposition to topple the Barisan Nasional government through a no-confidence vote in Parliament.
The political rumour mill has gone into overdrive especially as Zahid refused to name the Umno insider, with some speculating that it might be Muhyiddin.
Semporna division chief Shafie said that Muhyiddin’s presence would strengthen the grassroot’s confidence in the party.
“We are just a small district, remote and occupied by pirates, so it is an honour for us,” he said in a thinly-veiled rejoinder to Khairy Jamaluddin.
The Umno Youth chief had recently said that the only “safety” threat in coastal Semporna were from “pirates”, a barbed reminder of the coastal town that was menaced early last year by sea invaders from the southern Philippines that attempted to reclaim the north Borneo state as its own under the now defunct Sulu sultanate.