KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob denied on Tuesday (Aug 30) that he had been threatened with expulsion from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) if he refused to bow to the party’s demands to call for a general election this year.
Speaking to reporters after an event in Putrajaya, Mr Ismail Sabri said that the atmosphere during the UMNO supreme council meeting last Saturday evening was “mesra” (Malay for friendly).
Earlier on Saturday afternoon, Mr Ismail Sabri had reportedly been the target of jibes and jeers from UMNO grassroots leaders who attended a special briefing organised by party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Mr Ismail Sabri, who serves as one of the three UMNO vice-presidents, was not present during the special briefing.
The gathering was called by Ahmad Zahid to show support to former prime minister Najib Razak. The latter was jailed last week after the Federal Court upheld his 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)-linked conviction.
According to media reports, at some point during the Saturday gathering, boos could be heard after Ahmad Zahid referenced the prime minister in his speech.
On Tuesday, Mr Ismail Sabri was asked for his comments on the supposed pressure that UMNO leaders have been piling on him to dissolve parliament soon.
Mr Ismail Sabri insisted that there was no such thing, adding that the discussion in the supreme council meeting last Saturday was friendly.
“There is no issue. Sometimes, people outside look at things differently whereas the situation inside is different,” he was quoted as saying by the Star.
Mr Ismail Sabri also maintained that there were no internal problems in UMNO and played down any differences of opinion.
“There is no issue in UMNO; we respect differences of opinion,” he added.
According to Malaysian media reports, UMNO leaders have increased their pressure on Mr Ismail Sabri to call for the general election as soon as possible, with Ahmad Zahid repeating the call during the Saturday UMNO special briefing.
“We are firm on our stance that the general election must be held immediately,” said Ahmad Zahid, adding that an advisory was sent to the prime minister for the general election to be held after the COVID-19 herd immunity has been achieved.
“Now that all this has been achieved, the COVID-19 pandemic is over, so now when (will the GE be called)?” he added, to roars of “bubar” (dissolve) from hundreds of UMNO members in the audience.
Meanwhile, UMNO deputy president Mohamad Hasan said that the next general election would be held soon as indicated by Mr Ismail Sabri.
Mr Mohamad said that while Mr Ismail Sabri did not give a date, he had indicated that the 15th General Election would not be held next year.
“He did not give a date, although he did say that he won’t drag it until next year,” the Star quoted Mr Mohamad as saying in his speech to Pahang’s Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties in Kuantan on Monday.