Lokman wants Asyraf out as Umno youth chief for his call to Zahid to go on leave.
Umno Youth has requested party president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to go on leave until his court cases are settled.
“We are requesting him to take leave and rest, but that does not mean we are saying he is guilty or that he must let go of his post as party president.
“Our principle is that as long as he has not been found guilty, it is not fair of us to ask him to step down,” said the movement’s chief Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.
Last Friday, Zahid claimed trial to 45 charges of money laundering involving RM72 million and criminal breach of trust and accepting bribes involving RM42 million.
Asyraf said it would be unfair for Zahid to be burdened with the many duties as party president while facing court cases in the current political situation.
“Umno Youth sympathises with Dr Ahmad Zahid and is saddened with the many charges being levelled against our president.
“We want him to be given a just trial in the court and not a trial by media. However, it seems he has already been sentenced before he has been put on trial.
“We want the rule of ‘presumption of innocence’ and rule of law to be applied,” said Asyraf.
He said Umno Youth would convey this request to Zahid himself during their retreat with him this weekend.
On whether Zahid can issue statements as Umno president while on leave, Asyraf said it had yet to be decided.
“We will leave it to the party’s supreme council to decide if anyone should take Dr Ahmad Zahid’s place should the president decide to go on leave,” he said.
Voicing his agreement with the call made by Umno Youth, Umno Supreme Council member Noh Omar said this was in line with the party’s convention that if any leaders/members are charged, they should take leave to focus on their trial until it is over.
“If we look at Umno’s convention, its culture and practice, what Umno Youth has said is true.
“We respect the views of those voicing out their opinions.”
Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa refused to comment on the matter, saying that he didn’t wish to interfere.
“I have no view at all, nothing to say. It is their view.”
He said there were no rules stating that any members or leaders should take leave if they are charged.
“That is from the view of Umno Youth.”
Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin disagreed with Umno Youth’s proposal, saying there was no reason for Zahid to take leave.
“My stand is that he is innocent until proven guilty. So, we should all support him.
“If Umno is in power, that’s different. Now, we are in the opposition and have no power. If he is found guilty, then that is a different story. Then, we will decide.”
His son, Mohamad Kurniawan Naim Moktar, who is the Kinabatangan Umno Youth chief, had said the call by Asyraf was unbecoming of the wing’s reputation as a “strong bastion of the party”.
“Umno Youth should aggressively defend the leadership and the party,” Kurniawan said.
Umno Youth’s stand comes days after Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who heads the party’s council of advisers, said it was best for Zahid to either take leave or resign from his post.
He said this was the practice of previous Umno leaders who had been charged in court.
However, Umno has since said it was never a practice for leaders charged in court to take leave.
Meanwhile, Umno supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam has challenged Asyraf to resign from his position so that he can take on the latter in a fight for the post.
In a strongly-worded Facebook live session, Lokman said Asyraf was not fit to hold the position following the latter’s call that Ahmad should go on leave.
“The Umno Youth wing led by Asyraf is supposed to be at the forefront to defend the Malays, the Malay language, Islam and the Malay rulers.
“Unfortunately, when our president is being bullied by the Mahathir-DAP regime today, we have become ‘bastardised’ and ask for the president to go on leave. Whose agenda is this, Asyraf?” Lokman asked.
He claimed that people were swarming to join the Umno fold even those who were not former members.
“At a time when we are trying to ensure Umno stays relevant, you have failed in your duty to be an effective youth chief. Can’t you see this will cause a split within Umno? Why did you do this?” he asked.
Lokman maintained that all was well in Umno, citing Zahid and other senior leaders’ plan to go on a nationwide roadshow in a bid to regain support for Umno.
He further added that if a new leadership can help put the party back on track, then Asyraf should dissolve the party’s youth wing.
“I dare you to resign or conduct a re-election. I will resign from the Umno supreme council and challenge you for the Umno Youth chief’s post.”
Lokman also said that if the supreme council does decide that Zahid should go on leave pending the latter’s court proceedings, he too would resign from the council as he did not want to be associated with a “cowardly” establishment.
“Where were you, Asyraf, when we protested against the current government’s policies? But now he appears out of nowhere to ask our president to go on leave,” he chided.
Top Umno leaders have been publicly debating whether Zahid should go on leave for now.
Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan argued that this was necessary to protect the party’s image.
Zahid, however, does not appear to be entertaining the idea of going on leave.
When a reporter asked him two days ago if he was doing so, Zahid replied: “What right do you have to ask this question?”