KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today claimed to have been "threatened” in 2018 about what would happen to him if he did not comply with then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s request to dissolve Umno.
Claiming that his ongoing corruption and money laundering trial is a politically-motivated persecution, Ahmad Zahid in testifying in his own defence said that he had privately met with Dr Mahathir sometime in June 2018 at the insistence of two individuals.
In that meeting, Ahmad Zahid said that Dr Mahathir had asked him to dissolve Umno and hop over to the latter's then party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
Ahmad Zahid said he however told Dr Mahathir that he would not dissolve Umno.
"After the meeting with Tun Mahathir, I was threatened, that if I don’t jump to PPBM and if I don’t dissolve Umno, something would be done to me,” he told the High Court.
Ahmad Zahid also told the High Court today that investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) into him started after his June 2018 meeting with Dr Mahathir, saying that it was in July 2018 that he was first called in for an MACC probe in relation to this case involving 47 charges being tried against him in court today.
Ahmad Zahid said he had in September 2018 brought the top five leaders of Umno including himself to meet with Dr Mahathir, who asked them to dissolve Umno.
These top five leaders were Ahmad Zahid himself who had won party polls on June 30, 2018 to be the party president, deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, vice-presidents Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khalid Nordin and Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.
"We made the decision to continue becoming an Opposition political party, and it was agreed I would be Opposition Leader in Parliament,” he said.
"Officially, I was charged in this court on October 18, 2018, meaning about five months after Umno and Barisan Nasional did not become the government, meaning we became the opposition.
"And at that time when the I was slapped with the charges, I had given up my position as Opposition Leader in Dewan Rakyat,” he said, adding that the role of Opposition Leader in Parliament was at that time given to Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri as he was an MP while deputy president Mohamad was only a state assemblyman and not an MP.
Following the 14th general elections on May 9, 2018, the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition — which Umno is a part of — was replaced by the Dr Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan coalition as the federal government.
On May 12, 2018, Datuk Seri Najib Razak resigned as Umno president and BN chairman, and these duties were then given to Ahmad Zahid to handle. At that time, Ahmad Zahid was still a vice-president in Umno who had been carrying out the duties of the party's deputy president, since Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's 2016 sacking as deputy president.
Ahmad Zahid had on May 30, 2018 won a three-corner party election to become Umno president, a role which he continues to hold until today.
Ahmad Zahid today claimed that the first three MPs to leave Umno and BN — which he said initially had 54 who won seats in May 2018 — after GE14 were allegedly attempting to save themselves, by hopping over to PPBM which was part of the new government.
"Besides these three MPs who crossed over to PPBM, I was threatened that there would be more MPs who will cross over if I continue to hold the position as Umno president and BN chairman.
"I took the middle path by taking garden leave, but the next day after announcing my leave, 12 MPs from Umno and BN crossed over to enter PPBM, which was led by the home minister now who at that time was Larut MP, Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin. So from 54 Umno and BN MPs, we were left with only 43 MPs, and one of the MPs, Gerik, died, so until now only 42 MPs from Umno and BN were left," he said.
Ahmad Zahid claimed that this showed that there was a "conspiracy" to "divide and rule Umno" throughout the six months and 12 days he was on garden leave from his Umno positions.
Ahmad Zahid also claimed that when Muhyiddin was home minister — a position Muhyiddin held between 2018 AMD 2020 — that there were efforts to have Umno deregistered, claiming: "I have proof and I have information that there were efforts to make Umno illegal."
Ahmad Zahid said that when Dr Mahathir stepped down as prime minister in early 2020, the 43 Umno and BN MPs had agreed together with 18 PAS MPs to support Muhyiddin to replace Dr Mahathir as prime minister, while then PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali had also led several MPs in defecting PPBM to similarly support Muhyiddin.
Muhyiddin was then sworn in on March 1, 2020 as the new prime minister, with Ahmad Zahid denying today that he had asked the former for help to secure his release from two criminal trials which are being heard separately at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur and in Shah Alam.
"When Tan Sri Muhyiddin was sworn in as prime minister, we discussed to determine that the government which is formed must be composed of members of parties who had given support to him, therefore a new group was formed and named Perikatan Nasional.
"A meeting was held in Tan Sri Muhyiddin's house, besides him, I was in his house, Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang was there and YB Azmin was also there, and there were no discussions in that meeting for me to apply to Tan Sri Muhyiddin to drop my cases in this court and in the High Court in Shah Alam. Far from it for me to bring stacks of files which I purportedly sought for Tan Sri Muhyiddin who had just been sworn in as prime minister for me to ask for my cases to be dropped," he said.
According to Ahmad Zahid's testimony today, Muhyiddin had allegedly claimed while campaigning for the Johor state elections this year that Ahmad Zahid had gone to see him to plead for his criminal cases to be dropped.
"I deny this in this court," he said, adding that he had later filed a legal action against Muhyiddin over this matter.
Among other things, Ahmad Zahid had also told the court today about his political journey in Umno, starting from the 1970s, as well as his various party roles in the past including Umno Youth leadership roles while Dr Mahathir was the party president.
Ahmad Zahid also spoke of how he had in 1996 won party elections against three other candidates --- including Dr Mahathir's favoured candidate Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik ---- to become the new Umno Youth chief, and how Dr Mahathir's hatred against him had allegedly "snowballed" with him having to face various obstacles after party delegates voted him in to the position.
Ahmad Zahid said it was in 1998 after Umno's annual general meeting that he was accused of conspiring to topple Dr Mahathir, noting: "Purportedly, I had a conspiracy together with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who wanted to topple Dr Mahathir. That matter did not happen, because it did not cross my mind to do any conspiracy, but that was Dr Mahathir's accusation against me."
It was also in 1998 that Ahmad Zahid said he received a warrant for his arrest under the now-abolished Internal Security Act (ISA) which provides for detention without trial, adding that he was told by the police's special branch that he was detained as he had in a speech in the Umno annual meet claimed that Dr Mahathir as the Umno president was practising cronyism and nepotism. At that time, Dr Mahathir was both the home minister and the prime minister.
Ahmad Zahid said other politicians from Umno were also detained under ISA then, including political leaders considered to be siding with Anwar, saying: "But in reality, political differences do exist, but not to the level that there existed a conspiracy which I was accused of through questions posed by the investigating officer throughout the time I was detained under ISA."
Ahmad Zahid claimed he was released from ISA detention after he agreed to write two letters to say that he was willing to quit as Umno Youth chief without being under duress to resign, noting that Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who was vice president of Umno Youth then had the chance to be acting Umno Youth chief when he resigned.
He also said that he was not given any position in government when he won as Umno Youth chief in 1996, while his vice president in Umno Youth then was initially working as a parliamentary secretary and then promoted to be a deputy minister, suggesting in court today: "This could be because the Umno president then and prime minister then did not support me, so my vice president received position and I was not offered any position."
Having been Bank Simpanan Nasional chairman since 1994, Ahmad Zahid said he was also forced to quit this position. He served in this position until 1998. "This means I did not have any position in government agencies or politically."
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is a former deputy prime minister and former home minister — is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow, with the prosecution expected to begin its cross-examination of Ahmad Zahid.