Najib’s pardon issue puts pressure on BN-PH relationship

Najib's pardon decision implication will be a virus if not curbed.

05 Feb 2024 08:37am
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attends the Unity Government National Convention at the World Trade Centre. Bernama FILE PIX
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attends the Unity Government National Convention at the World Trade Centre. Bernama FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM – Former Umno Supreme Council member Isham Jalil does not rule out the possibility that the tensions are high between Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN)'s relationship with Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the unity government.

He said that this was following the 'letdown' of the unity government through the Royal Pardons Board on Jan 29 to give proper recommendations to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, leading to the failure of former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to receive a full pardon.

Isham, who was known as a strong supporter of Najib or Bossku, also questioned the commitment and seriousness of the Umno-BN ministers in the unity government in proposing the recommendation for Najib's release.

He added that this was because the majority of them including the Umno President himself, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, had previously been loud and promised the Umno grassroots to immediately propose for Najib’s release after the party became part of the Federal government party.

"Many Umno-BN members are of the view that to save Umno, they need a reliable and influential leader.

"So, for now, they see Najib as more trustworthy than Zahid who apparently made a mistake by dragging the party to cooperate with PH to face the election after the establishment of the unity government.

"The majority of Umno leaders and members also believed that the main key to the party's recovery is to return Najib to the leadership ranks.

"With the different fates received by Najib and Zahid in the court case facing them, I do not rule out the possibility that the majority of pro-Najib leaders who are still in the MKT will mobilise efforts to replace Zahid from his position of Umno President," he told Sinar on Saturday.

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Commenting further, Isham also projected that Zahid, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, would face great pressure from many Supreme Council members and Umno leaders who supported Najib to find an immediate solution for the release of the former Pekan Member of Parliament (MP).

He added that the Umno leadership's assurance that they would work on a second royal pardon appeal was also not expected to be well received by the majority of the party's grassroots.

"The second royal pardon appeal will definitely take a long time and this situation will further increase the suspicion of Bossku's supporters towards the sincerity of the unity government to release Najib.

"My suggestion is to ease the anger of the Umno’s grassroots members, the unity government should immediately give permission for Najib to be immediately allowed to serve his remaining sentence under house. This is important to enable him to be able to return with his family," he said.

Meanwhile, National Professors Council Research Fellow Dr Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali said the implications of Najib's failure to receive a full pardon could change the leadership landscape of Umno-BN, thus causing a domino effect of the fall of the unity government if not dealt with properly.

He added that this was because of the understanding of the majority of Umno's mid-level leaders over the years that the agreement to give Zahid a mandate to establish political cooperation with PH after the 15th General Election (GE15) was based on the hope that it would be paid for with the release of Najib.

Thus, Asri saw that when the expectations of the pro-Najib leaders were not met, Umno had to face the pressure of great internal turmoil where the Bumiputera Economic Congress, which was supposed to be held on Saturday, ended up having to be postponed at the last minute.

"I understand that the majority of Umno grassroots leaders refused to attend, a symbolic of their dissatisfaction with the implications of Najib's decision.

"Apart from that, the Umno Supreme Council meeting following Najib's pardon also indicates that the party is facing internal turmoil.

"Whether this upheaval will lead to a change in the leadership, is still too early to project but if this turmoil leads to a change in the leadership of Umno-BN, there will be a big direct impact that will be received by PH and the unity government," he said.

Meanwhile, a DAP leader who refused to be identified described the implications of Najib's pardoning decision as actually revealing the true fragility of the unity government where there is no space for a sustainable bond of understanding between the parties in it.

Although the support for the unity government appeared strong, the DAP leader insisted that the reality at the level of internal relations between parties was that each party moves based on its own political agenda.

"Therefore, even though the government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has its own strength, his hands are still tied in realising various institutional reform agendas. This is because the internal strength of the unity government has proven to be weak with the impact of the Najib case.

"Worse, the majority of PH supporters and leaders themselves have been disappointed and fed up with the 'flip flop' attitude of the unity government in managing the perception of kleptocracy and corruption leader cases. I believe this will definitely shake the relationship between PH and BN.

"PH supporters now see the leaders of Umno-BN holding the party as 'hostages' to tie Anwar's hands instead of carrying out national administrative reforms. If this situation continues, I fear that Pas and Perikatan Nasional will receive the biggest benefits in GE16," he said.