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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 ― Umno will be further weakened and even more divided if its leadership entertains demands to remove Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as Kedah mentri besar, deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has warned.
Muhyiddin, whose removal as deputy prime minister last year caused a rift within Umno, pointed out that Mukhriz played a major part in helping the party win Kedah from PAS in the last general election and that the first-term MB was an approachable leader free from “corruption.”
“I fear that if the demands for Muhkriz to step down is entertained by the party leadership, Umno will lose the respect of the people and face even tougher challenges in the coming days.
“My biggest concern is that the split in Umno will become more apparent and that Umno will become weaker,” Muhyiddin said in a statement.
The Umno deputy president said that Mukhriz should be given a chance to continue as MB as he still needed time to be able to carry out his duties and responsibilities, and that Kedah Umno leaders should continue supporting the latter's leadership.
“Mukhriz is an Umno leader with calibre and is liked by party members and the people. One of the factors leading to BN's victory in Kedah is Mukhriz's character as an Umno leader to the point that the prime minister himself promised Mukhriz the Kedah MB post if BN won the state,” Muhyiddin said.
“Even more so, he is a mentri besar who is clean, liked by the people and is not embroiled in any claims of moral misconduct, breach of trust or corruption which can affect the people's trust towards the party and the state government under his leadership,” he added.
Muhkriz said last night whether he stays or leave office will be decided by the people.
The first-term MB acknowledged an ouster call from his fellow Kedah Umno leaders, but did not say if he would seek a meeting with the state ruler on the matter.
Yesterday, Kedah Umno leaders expressed their loss of confidence in Mukhriz as state mentri besar.
Kedah Umno deputy chairman Datuk Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah held a press conference in Alor Star listing three reasons for the ruling party’s move against the son of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who has been publicly criticising Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The reasons they gave were Mukhriz’s purported failure to unite Umno and the party machinery in Kedah, the lack of a strategic plan for Umno to face the 14th general election, and his purported failure to govern the state.
Among the Umno leaders present at the press conference were Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, Kedah Wanita Umno chief Datuk Maznah Abd Hamid, Kedah Umno Youth chief Datuk Shaiful Azizy Zainal Abidin and Kedah Puteri Umno chief Datin Norashimah Md Nowar.
According to Ahmad Bashah’s statement, about 100 people attended the press conference comprising Kedah Umno leaders and the majority of state and federal lawmakers from Kedah Umno.
In an immediate response, the state PAS opposition leader called on Mukhriz to advise the Kedah sultan to dissolve the state legislative assembly to pave the way for fresh elections.