Se­lan­gor politi­cian Muham­mad Taib back in Umno fold

The Straits Times - - TOPOF THE NEWS - Nadi­rah H. Rodzi Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur

One of Malaysia’s most colour­ful politi­cians in the 1990s re­joined Umno yes­ter­day af­ter be­ing with the op­po­si­tion for four years, with Tan Sri Muham­mad Muham­mad Taib say­ing he has re­alised that “the strug­gles of the op­po­si­tion par­ties are a waste”.

Mr Muham­mad, who is widely known as Mike Tyson due to his po­lit­i­cal box­ing skills to get out of trou­ble, said he has had enough of the op­po­si­tion.

The for­mer teacher, 72, was the Men­teri Be­sar of Se­lan­gor be­tween 1986 and 1997 and a for­mer Cab­i­net min­is­ter for a year un­til 2009.

He joined op­po­si­tion Parti Is­lam SeMalaysia (PAS) in 2013, and Parti Kead­i­lan Rakyat in 2015. His move shocked the rul­ing party as he was once Umno’s vice-pres­i­dent and a po­lit­i­cal star.

Yes­ter­day, Mr Muham­mad played an old tune at Umno head­quar­ters: “In the (op­po­si­tion) meet­ings that I at­tended, there was no dis­cus­sion about the Malay agenda. There­fore, I feel there is no other path for me other than Umno.”

In his hey­day, the lanky Mr Muham­mad, who was chief min­is­ter of Malaysia’s rich­est state, at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion and, at times, con­tro­versy.

The politi­cian an­gered the Sul­tan of Se­lan­gor when it was found that he had se­cretly mar­ried the ruler’s daugh­ter in 1987 in Thai­land. The late sul­tan later ac­cepted his apolo­gies.

In 1993, Mr Muham­mad and two other top party lead­ers then – Mr An­war Ibrahim and Mr Muhyid­din Yassin – con­tro­ver­sially formed Vi­sion Team to shake up the Umno in­ter­nal elec­tions and won.

In 1997, Mr Muham­mad re­signed af­ter he was charged in Aus­tralia with mak­ing false cur­rency dec­la­ra­tions af­ter mil­lions of dol­lars were found in his suit­case as he was leav­ing the coun­try. He was found not guilty, af­ter say­ing he could not un­der­stand the dec­la­ra­tion forms which were in English.

Yes­ter­day, his re­turn was an­nounced by Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak. Datuk Seri Na­jib had Malaysia on ten­ter­hooks af­ter he sum­moned top party lead­ers on Saturday to Kuala Lumpur for a “ma­jor an­nounce­ment”.

The meet­ing led to wild ru­mours about the gen­eral elec­tion be­ing called, the de­fec­tion of top Sabah op­po­si­tion politi­cian Shafie Ap­dal back to Umno, or that PAS is form­ing a for­mal al­liance with the rul­ing party.

Said Mr Na­jib: “He re­alises that the strug­gles of the op­po­si­tion par­ties, es­pe­cially PKR, are a waste.”

The Malaysian leader also said that Mr Muham­mad’s re­turn was not about get­ting a top post.

Mr Muham­mad was not the only top leader who had re­joined Umno, as for­mer pre­mier Ma­hathir Mo­hamad had U-turned twice.

The op­po­si­tion sighed with re­lief as Mr Muham­mad was not an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure.

“We wish Umno well for see­ing the re­turn of Muham­mad Taib as such a huge event that they must call an ur­gent press con­fer­ence that raised all kinds of spec­u­la­tion,” said op­po­si­tion Parti Amanah Ne­gara youth chief Mohd Sany Hamzan.

Still, Mr Muham­mad’s de­fec­tion could be use­ful for Umno ahead of the gen­eral elec­tion as he sat in many lead­er­ship meet­ings of PAS and PKR.

PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak, who is also Umno pres­i­dent, shak­ing hands with for­mer Se­lan­gor men­teri be­sar Muham­mad Muham­mad Taib as he wel­comes the lat­ter back to the rul­ing party.

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