KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak defended himself against allegations that he has been interfering in the administration of Umno since stepping down as president in May.
“I don't think there's a problem since I left as president, I have not interfered in the administration,” he said.
He said current Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is given a free hand to decide on party matters as he sees fit.
“Zahid is very free to decide, for example, on the question of Umno office bearers, the candidate for Sungai Kandis and all that. I am backing him as president and giving full cooperation,” he said when met by reporters at the Parliament lobby today.
Najib, however, said it is his “inalienable right” to defend himself against criticisms levelled against him when he was the prime minister.
“I am entitled to defend my policies and to clear the misconceptions and some of the manipulation of facts and figures by the current government. I think to be fair self defence is a right given to any individual and citizen, that's why I'm exercising my rights to explain my policies and reasoning why we have done certain things … because I am also a member of Parliament and I will speak in Parliament,” he said.
He said as far as the Umno administration is concerned, “they are free to do as they deem fit” and he will toe the line of the party. “I will support the decisions of the new leadership of Umno,” he said.
When asked about his involvement in campaigning in the Sungai Kandis by-Election, Najib said he was implored by BN candidate and Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Adam to campaign for him.
“I was not keen to go down to Sungai Kandis but he implored me to come, because he has stood by me I decided to go down but it was not my original plan,” he said.
On Tuesday, former tourism and culture minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said that Najib needs to distance himself from the party or risk seeing its image tainted further.
The former Umno supreme council member pointed out that both Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had distanced themselves from Umno when they stepped down, and that Najib should do the same and allow new president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to carry out his duties freely.
Najib responded to this saying that when Badawi and Mahathir were not questioned on their past decisions once they were no longer in power.
“I need to explain if we compare the past in Mahathir's time, when he quit we never questioned the things he had done even though there is things that we don't agree but we stood by it, same with Pak Lah we also didn't question,” he said.
“The difference is now they they want to find our faults, so my responsibility is to defend myself, it's an inalienable right. I will use that right to give a clarification on our past governments policies. Especially when there's a manipulation of facts,” he said.
Najib, who is currently facing corruption and power abuse charges, stepped down as Umno president on May 12 after Barisan Nasional (BN) suffered a defeat to Pakatan Harapan on the May 9 General Election.
The Pekan MP has, however, remained active in the party, particularly campaigning for Umno's candidate during the recently-concluded Sungai Kandis by-election.
Nazri, who had been vocal supporter of Najib, said he agreed with recent statements by several Umno leaders for the former premier to distance himself from Umno, and that it would be hard for the party to move on if he refused to do so.
“Don't wait until we are the ones telling him. That wouldn't be nice. He must understand. Umno has sinned him. The question of action against him is all not by the party,” he said.