KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders said former chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak had been open to their ideas and opinions, backing his assertion that dissenters should have come forward to express their disagreement.
Umno supreme council member Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said the former prime minister had been receptive to BN leaders as well as his own party, and urged members of the defeated coalition to stop scapegoating over the 14th general election result.
“I used to talk to him personally. Even in forums, like myself being part of the (Umno) supreme council, we would convey any issues to him.
“The members should regroup together and do some rebranding of Umno. Back then we used to have collectively responsibility in the party. BN has its flaws, but we don’t play the blaming game,” he told Malay Mail when contacted yesterday.
In an exclusive report Saturday, Najib told Malay Mail that Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and other BN leaders should have spoken up earlier if they thought there was a problem with his leadership of the coalition and government.
Najib led BN to its first and only general election defeat on May 9, prompting those such as Khairy to later say that the coalition allowed its hubris to blind it to problems obvious to Malaysians who voted it out.
Former deputy transport minister Aziz said it was time for BN to regroup as it still commanded a significant portion of Parliament and could be rebuilt into a credible alternative to Pakatan Harapan.
Others such as Wanita Umno executive councilor Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid and Umno supreme council member Datuk Mohd Puad Zarkashi expressed similar views.
Rosnah said that when she was Puteri Umno chief, she and Najib had always engaged in exchanges of perspectives and advice.
“I never faced a problem communicating with him... he always answered my text... I am surprised after all that has been done, everyone is pointing fingers at him.
“The blaming game should stop, everyone should shoulder the blame equally. It is everyone’s fault and it is something we should learn from. Everyone should play the role in rebuilding Umno,” she said.
At the start of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal, Najib sacked Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as his deputy and dropped Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal as a minister over their criticism of the probe into the corruption scandal.
While this led many to view Najib as ruthless in handling dissent, Puad said the Pekan MP is known for his soft character and never scolded anyone who directly criticised him.
As such, he questioned why Khairy claimed as he did and why the latter did not use the “many channels” of communication available to him as Umno Youth chief.
“What he should be doing is find out the root cause behind the reduced support from young grassroots and why the youth machinery had failed to attract the young voters,” he told Malay Mail.
Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang said that to his knowledge, there were no limits imposed on the dissent within BN.
Although he was never a direct part of the administration, Tan said he had been able to provide input about the government’s cost-cutting moves.
While Najib spoke about his desire to help rebuild Umno, the Gerakan man said it was more imperative to salvage what was left of BN.
However, he felt that BN was no longer tenable in its current form.
“I still believe BN should be made into a single party instead of a coalition. If each party only takes care of itself, that will be the end of BN,” Tan said.
For MIC Youth chief C. Sivaraajh, Najib’s failure to accurately read the pulse of the nation may have been due to his insulation by his close advisors.
He said that while Najib was not closed off to feedback, getting the message to him proved challenging.
“We never felt that there was any restrictions, but not everyone had direct access to Najib. Some had to channel their messages through his advisors, and he may have been misguided by them,” he explained.
In the 14th general election, BN suffered the first election reversal in its history, winning just 79 seats from the 222 available. The coalition also received just over 36 per cent of the popular vote, the lowest in all the polls it has contested.
Its rivals campaigned primarily against the 1MDB corruption scandal and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), both of which are intimately linked to Najib.