No surprise, BN leaders say on Zahid’s return as Umno chief

Party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at last year’s Umno general assembly. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders say there is nothing surprising about Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s return to active duty following six months of garden leave which he said had been to keep the party united.

MIC president M Vigneswaran said Zahid would have given thought to his decision and that he was “coming back after doing what he needed to do”.

“He wanted to sort out a few things which are personal to him,” he added. “It’s good in a sense because Umno is moving well within BN as well as with PAS.”

Zahid went on garden leave on Dec 18 last year, reportedly to stem the tide of Umno representatives leaving the party. His duties were taken over by his deputy, Mohamad Hasan.

Vigneswaran said Mohamad had always maintained that he was only doing the work of the president, not holding the post.

“They have been very clear on that from day one.”

Adding that it had been Zahid’s decision to go on garden leave, he said there was not necessarily a “good time” to go or return.

He acknowledged the laundry list of charges against Zahid but said the Umno president had not been convicted of any of the offences.

“In my personal opinion, he has very strong grassroots support,” he added. “He also has the support of former prime minister Najib Razak.”

MCA vice-president Ti Lian Ker agreed that there was nothing surprising about Zahid’s decision to resume his duties as Umno president, especially given the growing political cooperation between Umno and PAS.

He said the people were by and large tired as the economy was faltering and political discontent was on the rise.

He also noted what he called a growing political divide along racial lines.

“The next general election will show a clear and distinct divide along racial lines, irrespective of who the party leaders are.

“With the new political ecosystem of PAS and Umno gaining ground and momentum, it is not surprising that Zahid has decided to resume his duties as Umno president,” he told FMT.

On what Zahid’s return might mean for BN, Ti said: “It’s party over personality.

“If the party can go back to the original spirit and intent of the formation of BN, the people will be more receptive to the old model of tolerance, compromise and nationalism.”