Ismail Sabri as DPM: The 7.7 promotion that could further widen rift in Umno

Seasoned Umno members say the right decisions must be made at the party’s Supreme Council meeting tonight – including the possibility of turning its back on Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin – despite Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob being made deputy prime minister.

In fact, by virtue of Ismail Sabri, an Umno leader, taking up the position, the move could further strain ties within senior party officials.

A Supreme Council member said the crux of the discussions tonight should be on whether the party would still want to be associated with Muhyiddin and his government.

“If you ask me, we should look at decisions that will benefit the party as a whole, and not just one or two individuals. Should Umno continue to be part of a government that has been labelled as kerajaan gagal (failed government), bendera putih, bendera hitam (white and black flags) and so on?” asked the senior party leader.

“It’s about what the people want. It’s about the people. The number of suicide cases has gone up, the economy remains gloomy, we’ve been in a state of emergency since January and the number of (Covid-19) cases isn’t going down. These are the real concerns; it’s not about who gets what position.”

Muhyiddin, had at 4.46pm, posted a statement on his Facebook page, saying Ismail Sabri, who is also the Defence Minister, had been appointed deputy prime minister.

The statement added that Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who is the Foreign Affairs Minister, would now be a senior minister.

Talks of Ismail Sabri being made deputy prime minister had surfaced repeatedly in the past. In fact, this news website had, in August 2020, quoted a ranking Umno member who likened Ismail Sabri to former deputy prime minister Tun Ghafar Baba, adding that Ismail Sabri could play the housekeeping role, and “has done it well throughout the Covid-19 battle”.

On July 2, Twentytwo13 reported on a special meeting between Umno leaders ‘friendly’ to Perikatan Nasional and party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at Jalan Bellamy in Kuala Lumpur.

Another senior Umno leader, who will be involved in tonight’s Supreme Council meeting, said the decision would strain ties among the senior leaders in the 75-year-old party.

“Offering Hishammuddin a senior minister’s position? Hishammuddin doesn’t need a menteri kanan or menteri kiri position. He has always been viewed as a senior leader in the party and in the Cabinet, even when Barisan Nasional (BN) was in power. There is the prime minister’s position, the deputy prime minister, or a Cabinet minister. That’s it.

“I don’t know how Hishammuddin has reacted to this. One thing is for sure, such an appointment will only widen the rift between the party leaders. Let’s not forget about the party president (Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) and (Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) who believe they have what it takes to lead the country.”

Ahmad Zahid and Najib have been dogged by their court cases and this was seen as a major stumbling block towards the party moving forward. Najib, however, has managed to turn the tide and has been gaining plenty of support from the grassroots despite leading BN to it’s historical defeat at the 2018 polls.

“Those who attended the meeting in Janda Baik in February will remember that the decision then was not to discuss the deputy prime minister’s post anymore and for the party to move forward and to regain the trust of the people.

“This move (of making Ismail Sabri deputy prime minister) is just to pacify certain Umno leaders. It’s temporary. Let’s see what the Supreme Council decides tonight,” the senior party leader added.