TWO Umno supreme council meetings in a week – it was obvious that Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had a lot of things to sort out before Parliament sits on Monday.
For a start, the Umno president wanted it known that his party has every intention to support the Budget which he sees as crucial for the people and the country to get through the pandemic.
He wanted to dispel rumours that Umno might use the Budget meeting of Parliament to derail the government of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
As such, Thursday night’s supreme council meeting signalled that Umno MPs would ensure that the Budget goes through.
It was the most distinct declaration of support for the ruling coalition to date from the Umno president who often reminds everyone that the support for the government is by Umno MPs rather than by the party.
There have also been doubts about where former premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak stands in all this after his attempt to get Barisan Nasional MPs to support Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
However, there are clear indications that Najib will not sabotage the Budget even though he is not with Muhyiddin.
Zahid was also concerned about the non-stop speculation out there over Umno’s candidate for the deputy prime minister post.
This was one of three demands that Umno presented to the Prime Minister. The party had also asked for more significant portfolios for its ministers, as well as the setting up of a presidential council comprising party leaders of the ruling coalition.
The Prime Minister is reportedly open to the idea of a presidential council but there is little sign that he wants to appoint a deputy prime minister or to reshuffle his Cabinet.
As some have pointed out, the present system of having four senior ministers is more suitable given the tenuous circumstances under which Muhyiddin’s government was formed.
However, this has not stopped the media from speculating, and memes identifying various Umno leaders as the next deputy prime minister have been flying around.
A decision on the candidate for the deputy prime minister party post will be made by the supreme council when the time comes.
The supreme council also instructed its ministers in the Cabinet to stay put amid talk that a number of them were contemplating resigning their post.
Those who attended the meeting, especially the ministers, declined to comment but well-placed sources said the Umno ministers were upset after coming under fire from their Cabinet colleagues on the failed Emergency order.
It is understood that this happened during the zoom Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The Umno ministers were apparently criticised for defending Umno’s support for the royal decision against the Emergency order.
It is believed the Umno ministers were so aggrieved that they “zoomed out” of the Cabinet meeting in protest.
The flare-up was in connection to the press statement issued after the supreme council meeting on Monday which praised and declared unequivocal support to the King and the Malay Rulers Council for rejecting the Emergency proposal.
A source said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin later met the Umno ministers in his office and explained that he haf no issues with Umno opposing the proposed Emergency.
However, given that the Emergency move was a Cabinet decision, he had expected all his ministers to stand by him in a united front.
The Umno president has since slammed those who questioned Umno’s decision to uphold the royal decision as “irresponsible”.
Pahang politician and supreme council member Datuk Seri Sharkar Shamsudin said Umno would defend the sovereignty of the Malay Rulers.
“People are surprised because this is the first time the King did not act on the advice of the Prime Minister. But it opened the eyes of Malaysians that the Palace plays an important check-and-balance role in our society.
“Tuanku was Regent of Pahang for over 40 years, almost as long as Prince Charles of England. He knows his role, he understands politics and public opinion, ” said Sharkar who is also a Pahang state exco member.
Muhyiddin’s government is on the edge of a cliff. There are a total of 16 motions of no-confidence lined up against him in Parliament, and that is not good even though the motions are unlikely to see the light of day.
Supreme council member Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad has been lobbying Perikatan leaders not to be held ransom to the opposition’s demands in return for their support to pass the Budget.
“This Budget is for the people and to tackle the pandemic. Anyone who does not support is going against the people’s well-being, ” he said.
The marriage between Umno and Bersatu is in tatters but Umno will wait for the pandemic to ease off, after which it will start to push for a general election.
Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said it would be better for Umno to keep calm and consolidate during a crisis.
“You do not take the boat out fishing when the sea is choppy. You stay in port and repair the nets and boat. The typhoon cannot last for ever, ” said the Rantau assemblyman.