The corruption case involving land matters could be a precusor for a battle in Umno, claims the opposition.
However, a Johor Umno parliamentarian denied the claim, saying the opposition was merely playing up the issue.
According to Johor PKR deputy chief Jimmy Pua, state exco Abd Latif Bandi, whose son and special officer have been arrested over the matter, is close to Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin.
He claimed that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak might use the case to make a move against Khaled, a first term menteri besar.
“I think a showdown between the Umno leadership and Johor Umno is imminent. Everyone knows that Khaled has two right hand men in his cabinet, and Abdul Latif is one of them,” he told Malaysiakini.
The opposition believes Khaled and Najib have not been on the same page since the menteri besar did not appear to be supportive of the prime minister over the 1MDB case.
Echoing a similar stand, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) deputy president Salahuddin Ayub, who hails from Johor, said: “I have a feeling that the graft investigations could lead to a power struggle between the Umno leadership and local Johor Umno leaders.”
“Khaled and all Johoreans would be the victims if that happens,” he added.
On the other hand, Johor DAP publicity secretary Wong Shu Qi speculated that Khaled might have to make sacrifices to maintain his grip on power.
“Khaled has put in a lot of resources to spruce up his image. He won’t let Abd Latif spoil everything,” said the Senai assemblyperson.
However, Umno Sekijang MP Anuar Abdul Manap said the internal struggle did not arise in the party.
“The opposition did not have issues already. Johor government is well liked not only by the people but also by the sultan.”
He asked the opposition to ask Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is currently charged for graft, to emulate Abd Latif to go on leave.
“The case involved Abd Latif’s son, not himself, but he (Abd Latif) chose to take leave, DAP should learn from him.”
Khaled’s press aide Mohd Asri Kalbi, when contacted on the matter, referred to the Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar’s recent remark, which is not to meddle in the affairs of others.
Prior to 2013, Khaled was part of Najib’s federal cabinet in Putrajaya.
Since becoming menteri besar of Johor, he has established close relations with the ruler, who has praised the menteri besar on numerous occasions.
When Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked as deputy prime minister, Khaled publicly adopted a sympathetic tone.
At the time, he even urged Umno to speak up against corruption, which was seen as a veiled attack on 1MDB-related controversies, given the timing.
Eventually, Khaled appeared to have severed ties with Muhyiddin, after the latter was sacked from Umno.
Last Friday, MACC seized 21 luxury cars, five high-powered motorcycles and RM500,000 cash. Apart from Abd Latif’s son and special officer, a lawyer and two property developers were also arrested.
Several BN-linked media organisations have also shown an unusual interest in the case, and this too has fueled speculations.
The New Straits Times cited anonymous sources claiming that Sultan Ibrahim was furious over the matter, while The Star reported on the relationship between Abd Latif’s son and the special officer.