Keen interest in Umno supreme council meeting

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PETALING JAYA: All eyes will be on today’s Umno supreme council meeting as the party’s highest policy-making body gathers for the first time since party polls last month.Of particular interest will be who the new president Datuk Seri Najib Razak will pick for key appointed party posts like the secretary-general, treasurer, information chief as well as state chiefs.The council will also decide if Umno will contest the Penanti state by-election in Penang.Incidentally, the Election Commission, which had earlier said that it would reveal the date of the Penanti by-election today, has pushed the announcement to Monday.Umno sources say it is very likely that Tengku Datuk Seri Adnan Tengku Mansor will be retained as party secretary-general, especially since the Putrajaya member of parliament was not selected as a cabinet minister. First appointed in 2008 following the resignation of Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, Tengku Adnan was Tourism Minister from 2006 to 2008. The 59-year-old was implicated in the Lingam video clip investigation and had testified before the Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2007.Sources say that new faces are expected to fill the positions of information chief, treasurer and executive secretary. The posts are currently occupied by Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib, Datuk Seri Abdul Azim Mohd Zabidi and Brig Jen (R) Datuk Husainay Hashim respectively.Muhammad, who lost in the contest for the deputy president’s post to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, will likely be replaced by Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, who is the Minister of Information, Communication, Culture and Arts in the new cabinet.There is, however, talk that former vice-president and Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam could be given the position to “compensate” him for being denied the right to contest the post of deputy president by Umno’s disciplinary board just before last month’s party elections.If he is appointed as the new information chief, it would be seen as a way to placate his supporters and ensure that he remains in the supreme council. His fate as the state liaison chief remains unclear.Bank Simpanan Nasional chairman Abdul Azim, who was appointed as treasurer by former party president Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is not expected to be retained by Najib, sources say.They say Najib loyalist and former minister Datuk Jamaluddin Jarjis is being pushed forward by some people as a candidate for party treasurer. However, Najib is likely to want a less controversial person as treasurer and this could tip the scale in favour of low-profile businessman Datuk Al Amin Abdul Majid.A former Perak Umno Youth chief, Al Amin is a close confidant of Najib from the time the latter was Umno Youth chief in the late 1980s. He dropped out of active politics more than 10 years ago to focus on business and sports. He is currently a vice-president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia.Al Amin is chairman of the Small and Medium Industries Development Corporation (Smidec) and director of several listed companies. He was also chairman of the Chemical Industries Council of Malaysia. Sources say Al Amin is non-controversial, affable and most of today’s Umno leaders are his contemporaries. He is also said to harbour no political ambitions.As for state chiefs, except for Pahang, Sabah and Johor, the other states could see a change.It should be noted that the menteri besar of Johor and Pahang failed to get elected to the supreme council, which could mean they have to be appointed as members of the supreme council.Grumblings from Selangor and Perlis and the rebellion of sorts in Terengganu against Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said could see Najib appointing new leaders to stabilise the situation in those states.Najib, who took over the Perak state chief role following Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali’s resignation, is widely expected to appoint a new chief there. Vice-president Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and new Perak MB Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir are favourites to lead Perak.Najib himself is rumoured to take over the reins in Terengganu where there is a standoff between Ahmad and 10 Umno assemblymen.In Selangor, following Muhammad’s loss last month, division leaders have called for Muhyiddin to lead them while Perlis’ former MB Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim has also put in a similar request for a senior Umno leader to lead the state in order to appease the warring factions there.Changes are also expected in Penang and Kedah.Although Kedah chief Datuk Mahadzir Khalid managed to secure his seat in the supreme council, his position is not safe yet after losing the state to PAS in the last general election.Due to the dearth of leaders there, Mahadzir may well keep his state liaison chief post although newly appointed International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s name has been bandied about as the new Kedah vice-chief.For Penang, Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia believes that the injection of new blood is necessary following the retirement of former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was also the state chief. In the Federal Territory, Raja Datuk Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, the Lembah Pantai division chief who was surprisingly made a senator and appointed as FT Minister, is set to replace Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique as state chief.Tan Sri Annuar Musa is expected to retain his position as liaison chief in Kelantan but there are those who prefer Datuk Mustapa Mohamad, who garnered the highest vote in the race for a seat in the supreme council. Mustapa is also the International Trade and Industry Minister.Negri Sembilan’s Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan is expected to retain his position although he was one of the menteris besar defeated in last month’s party elections and is said to be a strong supporter of Abdullah. If he is axed, Rais could be appointed state chief.