Bangsar, 1 April: Booed and 'parasited' at the last Umno general assembly didn't kill Annuar Musa. And what doesn't kill him makes the seasoned politician stronger.
"I will continue to serve the people, especially in Wilayah Persekutuan. And discharge my duties as Minister of FT to the best of my ability," he told friends after leaving the PWTC, the Umno headquarters where he and several other Umno leaders labelled as Bersatu-lickers had been given hell by delegates to the party's general assembly last weekend.
"And less politics, more work," he added.
The last line, no doubt, is meant as an indirect swipe at those in Umno, not least the party's president (criticizing the party president directly/openly can be costly, as Annuar's own press officer Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz found out last week), who have put the party on a warpath with its two Malay partners in the ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition - PAS and the hated Bersatu led by PM Muhyiddin Yasin.
At the assembly, Umno announced it was going to severe ties with Bersatu come the next general election, whenever that is (GE15 must be held by 2023). It was also decided that Umno leaders who hold Cabinet positions in the current government will eventually resign from their posts and leave the Government. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who's facing multiple corruption charges in court, said the party would also go after "traitors" within the party. A clear warning to those who'd rather serve Bersatu or the government than the party.
Annuar, 65 next month, is one of nine Umno leaders who serve as Cabinet Minister in the PN government. He is also the most senior and in recent months has become probably the biggest critic of Zahid.
The other thorn on Zahid's bud is Khairy Jamaluddin, 45, the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister and MP for Rembau. Observers are expecting more fireworks on the way after his post-assembly call to the Umno Supreme Council to "do the right thing" and ensure that party elections, due later this year, are not delayed.
KJ had given Zahid a run for his money at the last Umno elections in 2018. At the same elections, Annuar Musa, ironically, contested as Zahid's running mate but lost to former Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan for the deputy presidency. At last weekend's general assembly, Zahid and Tok Mat, normally not chummy with each other, were seen as a cohesive pact together with Umno's former president Najib Razak. Party insiders said that was the plan. They took pains to make sure the trio were seen to be on the same side in the face of the so-called parasites and traitors.
Another Umno minister in Bersatu's Cabinet, Reezal Merican Naina Merican, has also spoken up. In If we quit, Umno's image will be tarnished, the 48-year old Youth and Sports Minister said Umno ministers in the PN government are doing their best to help the people and country. "There's no end to our duties and responsibilities. If we desert our responsibilities now, it will tarnish Umno's name," he said.
The Umno general assembly did not require Annuar, KJ, Reezal or any of the other Umno ministers in Muhyiddin's Cabinet to resign as Ministers immediately. But all know they are hanging by a thread which is held by Ahmad Zahid. The party president also decides where they contest in GE15, if they get to contest at all.
The only way to change that is to dislodge the president in the next party elections. As I see it, there will not be a shortage of willing candidates. But most probably, it will be either KJ again or Zahid's ex running mate Annuar Musa.
Read also: The biggest losers if Umno leaves PN - Rocky's Bru, 18 Oct 2020; No DAP, No Anwar, No Bersatu, Mahupun No Umno, Sukan milik semua - Getaran, 1 April 2021; PAS, Pribumi to stay together - The Mole, 1 April 2021