KOTA KINABALU: An Umno Supreme Council member expects Najib Razak’s conviction of corruption to see party leaders becoming targets for the opposition although he also believes there is a silver lining to the situation.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the opposition would likely seize the opportunity to run down Umno leaders, especially given the fact that Najib had been prime minister.
“The ruling in Najib’s case will have an impact, particularly for Umno, because Pakatan Harapan (PH) and its allies will take the chance to say ‘Umno leaders are most definitely corrupt’,” he told FMT.
However, he said this would also spur party members to close ranks.
“Although it is seen that there are warlords in the upper echelons, they and their supporters will band together to fight against certain issues that could be detrimental to the party.
“This Najib case is one example where I think the people at various levels in the party will be united.”
In any case, he added, Najib still had two more chances to clear his name at the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.
The former prime minister was found guilty yesterday of seven counts of corruption in relation to RM42 million belonging to former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International. He was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 million.
However, the judge allowed a stay of the jail term pending Najib’s appeal to the appellate court.
Najib is the first former prime minister to be tried and convicted of criminal charges for actions taken while in office.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Council member said he did not expect the conviction to affect Najib’s support in Umno.
“At the moment, there are no signs that he is losing influence.
“His supporters will not switch allegiance to other leaders as many are in solidarity with Najib (due to the court ruling),” he said.
He also vowed that Umno would not abuse its position as part of the ruling coalition to seek favours from the judiciary.
But an Umno division leader in Sabah who also asked to remain anonymous said the party might shift its support from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin because of the court ruling.
“If this happens, the government will collapse for the second time this year,” he added.
“Umno is a party that supports the voices of its members. If they are calling for the party to withdraw its support for the present government, the Umno leadership must listen.”