Political pundit Wan Saiful Wan Jan does not believe that leaders within Umno will worsen their working relationship before the upcoming general election.

His observation comes in response to the opposition’s claim that the corruption case involving land matters in Johor could be a precursor for internal battles within the ruling party.

Pointing out that state executive councillor Abd Latif Bandi – whose son was arrested in connection with the case – is close to Johor Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin, PKR assemblyperson Jimmy Puah claimed that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak might use the case to make a move against Khaled.

The opposition believes Khaled and Najib have not been on the same page since the menteri besar has not appeared supportive of the prime minister in the 1MDB case.

However, Wan Saiful does not think that both Najib and Khaled would want to the situation to spin out of control.

“I wouldn’t call it war. After all, Khaled was put in that place by Najib,” Wan Saiful, the chief executive of think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), told Malaysiakini.

“In any case, we must remember that Najib holds a significant say in who becomes the menteri besar of any state, and he can make these appointments after the general election.

“So there is no need for any war before (that),” he added.

Wan Saiful also finds it interesting that posters of Khaled can be seen all over Johor, but the same cannot be said for pictures of Najib in the state.

“The menteri besar even has his own branding and slogan, ‘Muafakat’, as if carving an image of himself separate from the prime minister.

“So I wouldn’t be surprised if the two have different strategies as they prepare for the 14th general election.

“After all, Johor may face a real challenge from (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president) Muhyiddin Yassin’s team, which is supported by Parti Amanah Negara.

‘Khaled must answer to the people’

Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia professor Ahmad Atory Hussain said the corruption case had implicated Khaled, although indirectly, due to his position as Johor menteri besar.

“When this issue cropped up, the rakyat wanted to know what was the role of the menteri besar in this,” he said.

Atory also pointed out that there had been no response from the menteri besar on the matter. Khaled, he said, must also explain the matter to Najib as the issue has political implications.

“If this issue is not solved, then the rakyat’s support for Umno could be affected. Najib has a right to ask the Johor menteri besar about this because even if Najib does not interfere, the rakyat will be asking.”

Should the issue persist, Atory believes that this could be exploited by the opposition.

“If it affects support for Umno, the party must remove Khaled or do something about it,” he added.

Before 2013, Khaled was part of Najib’s federal cabinet in Putrajaya.

He has established close relations with the Johor ruler since becoming menteri besar, gaining praise from the sultan on several occasions.
When Muhyiddin was sacked as deputy prime minister, Khaled urged Umno to speak up against corruption, which was seen as a veiled attack on 1MDB-related controversies.

However, he appeared to have severed ties with Muhyiddin after the latter was sacked from Umno.

Last week, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized 21 luxury cars, five high-powered motorcycles and RM500,000 in cash in connection with a land corruption scandal.

Apart from Abd Latif’s son and special officer, a lawyer and two property developers were also arrested in connection with the matter.

– M’kini