Umno tainting ‘unity government’ with push for Najib’s release – analyst

Prisoner Najib Razak

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By Amirul Aiman

Umno’s relentless push to secure former prime minister Najib Razak’s release from prison could taint the “unity government’s” image and jeopardise its prospects in the next general election, says a political analyst.

Azmil Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia [and Aliran] said the party’s strategy is likely to harm the unity government, particularly if it aims to stay in power after the general election.

Voters, especially supporters of Pakatan Harapan, would be deterred by Umno’s “single-minded effort to free Najib”, he said.

Azmil said this is particularly because the Anwar Ibrahim-led coalition had campaigned hard to eradicate corruption in the run-up to the 2018 polls that ended Barisan Nasional’s 61-year stranglehold on power.

As a result, PH supporters may abstain from voting out of disillusionment, he warned.

“Even if Najib was freed, it’s unlikely to bring Malay voters back to Umno’s fold. The reason they voted against Umno in GE14 and GE15 was (to protest) deep-rooted corruption within the party,” Azmil told FMT.

He said Umno’s continued push for Najib’s release showed the party to be solely focused on its own interests, rather than those of the coalition as a whole.

Azmil was commenting after Umno president Zahid Hamidi said over the weekend that the party was exploring every possible means to ensure its former leader is reunited with his family.

Najib is currently serving his sentence, which was recently halved to six years, for abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

Last month, he submitted an application to the High Court seeking to compel the production by the government of a “supplementary decree” purportedly issued by the former Yang di-Pertuan Agong which permits him to serve his sentence under house arrest.

READ MORE:  Promise you won't drop Najib's pending cases, group urges attorney general

Meanwhile, Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia agreed that Umno’s efforts to free Najib from incarceration have dented PH’s image as vocal critics of the 1MDB scandal.

However, he said PH could manage the issue by making it clear that it had no role in the various legal cases involving the former prime minister.

Mazlan said PH could argue that it is within Najib’s rights to pursue the judicial review.

“The message conveyed to the public must be that the government does not interfere (in the judicial processes), nor does it employ illegal means to free Najib.” – Free Malaysia Today

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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Azmil Tayeb
Dr Azmil Tayeb, the honorary secretary of Aliran, is a political science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is the winner of the 2019 Colleagues' Choice book prize (social science category) awarded by the International Convention of Asia Scholars for his book Islamic Education in Indonesia and Malaysia: Shaping Minds, Saving Souls
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