Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin is allegedly muscling his way to the party’s top leadership post through the wing’s state heads, according to party insiders. Sources told Malay Mail that the plan initiated by Khairy’s camp was to call for Najib to step down, as the Youth wing insists on its choices of young guns to take over in the face of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) defeat, with blame mainly going to president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“There is talk to call for Najib to step down, failing which action will be initiated to remove him by other means,” said a grassroots leader.
“Many realise that Najib cannot be in the picture anymore, and he has become too much of a liability to the party and the coalition, and the results of the general election are proof of that.”
The source added the plan included pushing Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein for party presidency, with Khairy taking a spot as a vice-president.
Word also was that the main goal was for Khairy to transition and lead the party eventually, or immediately step in if Hishammuddin were to refuse the responsibility.
“The rationale is that it is the only way to save Umno, by having fresh, young faces as part of its comeback,” the source added.
Khairy had issued a rallying call on Facebook earlier today to save the party as it celebrated its 72nd anniversary.
“I ask you, my friends, who wish to rebuild Umno from the collapse we see today, to join me as this change has to begin immediately. We cannot delay this any longer,” read Khairy’s post.
And the purported plans to hijack the party from jaded leaders appear to be in motion as the Youth faction immediately became more vocal in urging Najib to step down.
An Umno Youth exco member, Arman Azha Abu Hanifah, openly called for Najib to resign willingly, “so a transformation of Umno can take place.”
“We demand Najib resign immediately. We believe Najib has to be responsible for BN’s defeat in the 14th general election. We don’t hate Najib, but we prioritise the party’s interests to ensure its survival.”
The Federal Territories and Selangor Umno Youth wings have also joined calls from their Penang, Kedah and Terengganu counterparts in calling for Najib to step down.
Federal Territories Umno Youth chief Razlan Rafii had reportedly asked the party’s top leadership to take full responsibility for the disaster and “step down and make way for new faces to lead this party.”
Berita Harian also reported Jelebu Umno division chief Jalaluddin Alias as calling for the resignations of Najib and Negri Sembilan Umno chief Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.
A whispering campaign calling for a change in Umno’s leadership is spreading from Kedah, tempered only by members’ quandary over who can and should take over.
The matter is expected to come to a head after the Muslim holy months of Ramadan and Aidilfitri, when the Umno branches will hold their annual meetings ahead of the party’s assembly.
Party veterans said the issue cannot be buried any longer. There is already a danger of open revolt among the 192 division leaders who may no longer toe the line about how to vote and what to say come the general assembly.
A committee member of a Johor Umno division said the appetite for change had begun building early this year, but was suppressed or ignored by local leaders for fear that such dissent might cost them the chance to contest the general election.
In Selangor, another party leader said the ripples of discontent have grown into waves, with agitated members struggling to accept the alien notion that their Umno was now an Opposition party.
“But our problem is: Who can we pick to lead because the grassroots voiced their anger against not just party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak but also acting deputy president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor.
“They are even angry at Wanita chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Jalil… but they did not pinpoint who they want as replacement,” he added.
Umno members’ dilemma now is that they are caught between a glorious past and a painful future, and cannot decide if there should be wholesale changes, partial changes, no changes or to simply leave the party.
Some such as the Kedah Umno Youth have already decided, calling yesterday for Najib to step down and make way for the next generation to try and restore the party.
The state movement’s chief, Datuk Shaiful Hazizy Zainol Abidin, said swift action was needed to salvage remaining loyalty among the grassroots that are now directionless.
“Umno needs to wake up and transform as a whole, at a time when the people have delivered their judgment on the party, and as such, we have to look at ourselves and move forward as a team,” he added.
Shortly after, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin invited the movement to rally around him for an immediate bid to reform the party, but stopped short of openly calling for the president to go.
“I call on my comrades who wish to rebuild Umno from the collapse we have seen today, to stand with me as change must begin immediately.
“We cannot delay any further as Umno’s contribution to religion, race and country is too great for us to allow this sacred party to be destroyed and disappear forever,” he said in a statement on Facebook.
Party veterans said Kedah Umno Youth bit its tongue when Najib removed Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as MB in 2015 and replaced him with Datuk Seri Mohd Badshah, as they believed the move was in mistake.
“They stood by Najib’s side in the spirit of party unity and loyalty, but when Barisan Nasional and Umno were rejected in the just-concluded general election, its members could no longer stand with folded arms and watch the party be destroyed,” said a Kedah veteran.
Whether the rumblings among Umno Youth will gain further traction is still unknown. However, one older member believes there will be fireworks after Hari Raya, but not in celebration.