By Md Izwan
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 ― Umno plans to weed out internal saboteurs to prevent what party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak called a repeat of the sabotage in Election 2008 that led to Barisan Nasional’s (BN) worst ever electoral performance.
In Election 2008, BN lost its traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority and ceded five states to parties that eventually formed the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact. It later regained control of Perak following a series of defections.
Soon after the general election, former prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi had singled out predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as among those who helped undermine BN by campaigning against the ruling coalition.
Najib did not name any saboteur today in a press conference after his party’s supreme council meeting, but unlike in 2008, Dr Mahathir is now firmly in the premier’s camp as he prepares to lead BN for the first time in elections expected within months.
“Today the supreme council agreed to accept a proposal from the management committee to give power to a special panel to monitor and take action against any party member who betrays and sabotages the party of any Barisan Nasional candidate,” Najib told reporters.
He said the special panel would be led by individuals without any interests in the election as well as those in Umno’s disciplinary committee.
The committee will be chaired by Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen, who also chairs Umno disciplinary panel.
In April 2008, then-prime minister Abdullah had lashed out at Dr Mahathir for his criticism of the former’s leadership.
Stressing that he was not a “lembik (soft)” leader, Abdullah said there were many things that were not right in his predecessor’s reign, citing the 1987 Operasi Lalang crackdown, the erosion of confidence in the judiciary, and lack of freedom in the media as examples.
He also said Umno was deregistered under Dr Mahathir’s leadership (in 1988) “but we never asked him to step down”.
Dr Mahathir in turn said the reason why voters switched to the opposition parties was because of their dislike for Abdullah’s leadership, which he alleged had bred nepotism and corruption.
He had also urged Malaysians not to vote for BN in the run-up the Election 2008.
Despite his resistance, Abdullah was eventually forced to make way for Najib.
This time around, however, Dr Mahathir has been actively campaigning for Najib’s Umno and recently urged party members not to sabotage BN’s chances in the coming polls.