PUTRAJAYA - With just a few days to go before Barisan Nasional names its candidates, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak held an important meeting, reminding the coalition’s serving lawmakers to remain loyal – no matter how disappointed they may be if they are dropped in the general election.
The meeting, which started at 9am yesterday, is among the last few steps to be taken before the candidate list is finalised.
The meeting to remind MPs on loyalty is particularly important in light of past cases when the coalition lost owing to sabotage.
The Barisan chairman gathered its 130 lawmakers at his official residence Seri Perdana here in what was seen as the last “pep talk” with them to stress loyalty and continuous support for Barisan and their respective parties before going full steam ahead to the polls.
Najib held a similar meeting back in 2013 when he first led Barisan into the 13th General Election.
Sources said this was his gentle way of telling some of them that they might not be contesting.
The majority of Barisan’s lawmakers made it to the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes.
Najib addressed them in a group, followed by breakfast together.
Sources said the incumbents appeared calm as they listened to his speech. Nobody else spoke.
“But it was obvious that they were anxious. On Najib’s part, there was no hint whatsoever on who is in or who is out,” said a source.
Those who attended described Najib as a picture of calm, which party insiders said belied the “headache” he was facing in trying to ensure that those who were dropped would not resort to sulking – or worse, sabotage.
While political onlookers expected him to inform those who had been dropped, this did not happen, nor did Najib inform anyone in Umno or Barisan that they had been picked for the polls.
“The message at the meeting was clear – accept any decision on candidacy. This is the time to put Barisan and party matters above self-interest,” said the source.
According to another source, Najib told those present: “Those among you who are dropped, I hope you will still be my friend.”
Barisan secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor poured cold water over speculation that Najib had met incumbents to tell them that they were out.
“No, the meeting was not held for that purpose. It was to remind our lawmakers not to sabotage Barisan if they are not fielded this time.
“It was also to drive home the message that they should not boycott if a seat is given to another component party.
“If we want to win, the Barisan chairman’s message must be adhered to,” he said.
In 2013, Najib met Barisan’s incumbents on April 11, nine days before nomination day, which fell on April 20.
During that closed-door briefing at Putra World Trade Centre, he told Barisan candidates who were about to be dropped that they had 24 hours to sulk and then return at once to help with the campaigning.
In 2008, then Barisan chairman Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said that sabotage by Umno members caused the coalition to lose Perak and Kedah to the Opposition.
In Negri Sembilan, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan also blamed sabotage in the 2008 elections as the cause of Barisan’s loss in three safe seats in the state – Paroi, Sikamat and Ampangan.
In 2013, 28 Umno members from Penang were suspended for allegedly sabotaging the party during the polls.