Zahid on garden leave in bid to stem Umno exodus

Umno President Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi speaks during a dialogue session at Menara Dato Onn, Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Umno President Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi speaks during a dialogue session at Menara Dato Onn, Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today he has handed over his duties as Umno president to deputy Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan, in an attempt to prevent more party members from quitting the party.

The decision takes effect immediately, but the Bagan Datuk MP insisted that he has not quit as party president.

“I hope all polemic regarding the leadership will end and I want grassroots leader to focus on strengthening the party,” he said in a statement right after a dialogue session in Menara Dato’ Onn here.

“I hope that there will be no more move to quit the party by MPs and state assemblymen,” he added.

Later at a press conference, Zahid denied that he was under pressure by anyone to hand over his duties.

“If it’s true that I am the main reason [behind Umno members leaving], then I believe the best decision is to entrust the duties of the party president to my deputy Datuk Mohamad Hassan.

“This is in line with Umno’s constitution whereby if the president doesn’t receive [guidance from Allah], the best step he should take is to entrust the deputy president to conduct the duties of a president,” said Zahid.

He also said Mohamad will have full powers and authority as president for a certain period of time, backed by the party’s three vice-presidents, the three wing chiefs, and the Supreme Council.

However, he did not specify the time frame that Mohamad, also fondly known as Tok Mat, will lead the party in his absence.

“Well [he will hold the reins], until Tok Mat feels he doesn’t want the responsibility anymore or he believes I can continue the job. I have informed him and the other two vice-presidents. For the time being, I am still the president without any duties,” said Zahid.

As far back as October this year, Umno Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki had urged Zahid to take leave and rest while focusing on his pending court cases.

 

This comes after Zahid claimed trial to 45 charges ranging from offences under the Penal Code, to the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing, and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009.

However, the Puteri wing had backed Zahid, pledging its support to the man its members see as their “father”.

Former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin had on Saturday demanded that Zahid step down as party president, just hours after he urged for the party to hold fresh elections.

Khairy and a growing number of party strongmen have openly accused the Umno president of failing to provide leadership after taking over from scandal-plagued Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Zahid has repeatedly said he will not entertain any calls for him to leave his post, and had just earlier today insisted he will serve out his term as president until 2021.

Just last week, six Umno MPs quit the party to become independent lawmakers, joining three high-profile names who earlier left to join Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

There are only 37 Umno MPs left now, down from the 54 after the May 9 polls.