(Updated 7:23pm; 19 March 2009)
PUTRAJAYA, 19 March 2009: There are no elements of sabotage in the Umno Disciplinary Board’s action on party vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam for involvement in money politics, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
The Umno deputy president said the board acted based on information and Mohd Ali was not made a scapegoat in the party’s efforts to fight money politics.
“We cannot question the disciplinary board’s intention and must place our confidence in it if we want to clean up Umno,” he told reporters after launching the Inland Revenue Board’s electronic service campaign here.
Najib was asked to comment on reports that some members had questioned the credibility of the board and also political talk on the possibility of sabotage and on Mohd Ali being made a scapegoat.
He said the board was set up as a result of a special conference and its members were appointed by the party.
The board announced on 17 March that 15 of the 29 Umno members investigated had been found guilty of involvement in money politics.
Mohd Ali, who is an Umno vice-president, was found guilty because three of his agents had indulged in money politics and he was banned from contesting the deputy presidency in the party elections next week.
Asked whether the government’s decision to retain Mohd Ali as Malacca chief minister would send the wrong message to the public that a “corrupt” leader could still lead the state government, Najib said no.
“The facts in his case are different in that the work (money politics) was done by certain people. Because this is based on facts, the Disciplinary Board decided that he could hold the post,” he said.
Asked to comment on former prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that the appeals of those found guilty by the board should not be entertained to show that Umno was serious about fighting money politics, he said Umno could not deny them their right of appeal and it was up to the Appeal Board to decide.
On the confusion among some members over the fact that some members were charged in court for money politics while others who were found guilty by the board were only given a warning and could still contest in the party election, he said: “That is the Disciplinary Board’s consideration. It is independent. We won’t interfere.”
Later, at a function in KUALA LUMPUR, Mohd Ali said there was no conspiracy in Umno to topple him.
“Umno is a clean and good party,” he said when asked again to comment on the action taken against him. He said he had lodged an appeal against the decision and “Anything is okay. Let the board decide.”
Asked whether he had a legal team to deal with the appeal, he said he had received “one or two legal opinions but I wrote my own appeal letter.”
On a suggestion that he go to the Registrar of Societies to stop the Umno elections if he had been unlawfully prevented from contesting, he was only appealing through the party channel.
On another suggestion that he table a motion for the abolition of the disciplinary board because there are other bodies that could perform the same function, he said: “We have aleady set it up and we repsect the board that we have set up.”
On who he would endorse as deputy president, Mohd Ali said it was up to the delegates.
“If I cannot run, then my supporters are free to choose anybody they think is right. All candidates are equally good.”
He said he met Najib yesterday and Prime Minsiter Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today over the matter.