KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Nooryana Najwa, the daughter of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has vowed to use Umno’s Puteri wing as a platform to bolster support and keep Umno in power, even as she suggested the party must be cautious about its new allies in the unity government.
Delivering her maiden speech as a delegate from the wing, Nooryana spent half of her time reminding delegates of her father’s contribution and sacrifice for Umno, and how he has purportedly suffered because of it.
To her, Najib’s leadership was emblematic of Umno’s struggle, adding that to forget the man is to forget what the party stood for.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we should never be complacent and careless. If we run off the course we’ll forever become a mere complimenter of any political coalition. Yes we accept [to become a part of the unity government] but only because of the changing political landscape ... but being in the unity government does not mean we abandon the principles that Umno uphold,” she said.
“We must never rely on the strategy that makes us dependent on the support of other parties. We must forever defend our own strengths,” she added.
Before her father’s incarceration, she mostly kept her distance from the political fray. Now she has become the poster girl of the party’s “Free Bossku” drive, using the Puteri wing as a platform to seek what she described as justice for an innocent man who was convicted because he did not receive a fair trial.
“Bossku” is the popular moniker Najid adopted during an offbeat nationwide campaign to court voters after Barisan Nasional was ousted.
An Umno member poses for a photo with a large portrait of former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, during the party's 2023 general assembly at the World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur June 9, 2023. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The decision to let her speak was likely deliberate. Najib’s freedom remains a key agenda within the party nearly a year after the former Umno president was convicted and jailed for embezzling funds of a 1MDB subsidiary, SRC International.
Yesterday, thousands of members and delegates chanted “Free Bossku” when Umno chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi delivered his policy speech to officiate this year’s congress.
Najib’s freedom was also a key issue in the speeches of many key speakers, including the newly-elected Umno Youth chief Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh who conferred the wing’s Youth Leadership award to the former Umno president.
Zahid is now one of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s two deputies. Twenty-two years after his sacking from Umno, Anwar returned to the World Trade Centre yesterday as the party’s most important guest, accompanied by other top leaders from Pakatan Harapan, now ruling together with Umno.
Anwar had said he would not interfere with the judiciary but Zahid himself is leading the party’s push for Najib to be granted a royal pardon, which analysts believe is creating friction at the grassroots level.
PH’s votes are primarily from voters who are unrelenting about eradicating graft and putting corrupt powerful people behind bars, while a bulk of Umno’s core supporters have explicitly called for Najib’s release.
In her speech, a teary Nooryana said Najib remains a selfless leader who preoccupied himself more about Umno and its poor members than his own family, but suggested his sacrifices were quickly ignored once Umno lost.
At the end of her speech, Nooryana wept as she recited a line from her father’s journal, which to her illustrated Najib’s dedication towards his party.
“In court, I noticed Bossku always held a black book. I always wondered what was in that black book. Once, he went to the toilet, I quietly went through the pages and I accidentally came across a line from Bossku that touched on Umno,” he said.
“To end my speech, let me cite that line: Protect our home. Protect our struggle. Protect our race because Umno is our duty,” she said, weeping.
“Allah, we beg of you, please give Datuk Seri Najib justice. Release him immediately from jail. Return him to me and our family.”