UMNO expels former Malaysian health minister Khairy, suspends ex-defence minister Hishammuddin
The moves, announced after a party supreme council meeting, are part of a "mass cleansing" threatened by UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to get rid of "saboteurs".
SINGAPORE: The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has expelled former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, while former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein was among a number of politicians suspended from the party.
According to a statement issued on Friday night (Jan 27) following a party supreme council meeting, UMNO secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said former youth chief Mr Khairy and supreme council member Noh Omar have been sacked for breaching party disciplinary rules.
“UMNO members who have been sacked based on disciplinary breaches … due to wrongdoings during the 15th General Election (GE15) are Tan Sri Noh Omar and Saudara Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar,” he said.
Mr Hishammuddin, former UMNO information chief Shahril Hamdan as well as UMNO leaders Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, Maulizan Bujang and Salim Sharif have been suspended for six years, he said.
Others who have been sacked include five party members from the Pasir Gudang division, nine from the Putrajaya division, two from the Tanjung Karang division, and 26 members from UMNO’s Pahang chapter.
“Among their wrongdoings are becoming independent candidates, candidates for parties other than Barisan Nasional (BN) and being involved in helping opponent parties during GE15,” Mr Ahmad said.
The Friday supreme council meeting was keenly watched after UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said a day earlier that the party will undergo “mass cleansing" to get rid of "saboteurs" and those who have "shot themselves in the foot".
He said this included members who allegedly sabotaged the party and its candidates during GE15, 10 of whom Ahmad Zahid identified by name during the party’s recent general assembly from Jan 11 to Jan 14.
The 10 politicians, who included Mr Hishammuddin, had sided with Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin in forming the new government, Ahmad Zahid said.
Mr Shahril had resigned as information chief in the immediate aftermath of GE15, urging Ahmad Zahid to take responsibility for the party’s defeat by stepping down.
Mr Noh resigned as the chief of UMNO’s Selangor chapter in November after saying that he no longer had confidence in Ahmad Zahid.
Mr Khairy had been a vocal opponent of a motion tabled during the recent party general assembly. The motion was to block UMNO’s top two posts - party president and deputy president - from being challenged at the party’s internal elections, which must be held by May.
Rumours of such a motion had swirled as some prominent party members came out to say they preferred for the posts to remain uncontested, citing the need to maintain party unity as it rebuilds following its dismal performance at GE15.
Ahmad Zahid said during his party policy speech on Jan 13 that he was confident in the democratic process and would leave it to the delegates to decide on the issue. He had consistently maintained that he was ready to defend his position.
When a no-contest motion was first tabled by an UMNO delegate from Negeri Sembilan later that day, it was met with boos in the convention hall.
But the motion was passed by the general assembly the next day in a majority vote, paving the way for Ahmad Zahid and his deputy Mohamad Hasan to serve at least another term.
Mr Khairy alleged in a TikTok video on the same day that some delegates’ seat tags at the convention hall were removed, to be replaced with those of "imported" delegates who would push through the motion.
This prompted a rebuke by UMNO Sungai Besar division chief Jamal Yunos, who told reporters on Saturday that Mr Khairy was tarnishing the party by spreading baseless claims.
UMNO’s most recent leadership contest, in 2018, saw Ahmad Zahid fend off challenges for the presidency from Mr Khairy and former veteran MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
Mr Khairy was a three-term MP for Rembau, Negeri Sembilan before he was moved to contest in the urban constituency of Sungai Buloh in Selangor during the GE15 on Nov 19. Urban seats are considered Pakatan Harapan (PH) strongholds. Mr Khairy eventually lost in a seven-cornered contest.
In a tweet after the party’s announcement on Friday night, Mr Khairy wrote: “Tonight I was sacked by the party I loved, that I was loyal to.
“Unbowed, unbent, unbroken.”
The BN coalition - led by UMNO - emerged a distant third in the election by winning only 30 seats, behind PH’s 81 seats and PN’s 74 seats.
But PH, BN and other parties have formed a unity government while PN - comprising Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and other parties - is in the opposition.