WHEN very little information comes out from yesterday's meeting of the UMNO supreme council, we all know that much was said, discussed, debated and argued during the long meeting.
This was the council's last meeting before Hari Raya Puasa and the first since the announcement that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak swapped Cabinet portfolios.
Words that filtered out from the party headquarters at the PWTC were few and far between. The press conference which was held after the meeting was an anti-climax. The press corp had expected more news pertaining to the transition plan, but was instead made to go back and write only about the sacking of four party members who contested the March 8 general election on different platforms.
Scan today's newspapers and there was hardly much hard news on the meeting. Today, word got around that Najib had deferred his departure for an overseas trip to next week, apparently heeding his friends' advised that it's best he remain in the country for now.
The main item on the agenda was a revisit of the transition plan which had earlier been agreed by the supreme council to take place in 2010. The issue resurfaced with much urgency when vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin spoke about it on the sidelines of an international conference in Singapore.
Leading the call for a review of the plan, Muhyiddin insisted that the execution date be brought forward. The veterans group in Umno under Mubarak rallied behind Muhyiddin and the matter is now the subject of intense argument within the council and everywhere else where you find Umno members having their private caucuses.
One source said top party leader/s came under severe criticisms. There were calls for immediate execution of the transition plan, meaning Abdullah should make way for Najib as soon as possible in the interest of the party.
Many points were raised to back this call: delaying it could subject the party to more stress and cause much damage; delaying it would strengthen the opposition; delaying it would also heighten the political uncertainty that ails the country now.
The majority of council members were inclined to persuade Abdullah to step aside. In fact, some even hinted to him that he may find it very embarassing if he fails to secure sufficient nominations to defend his post! (One needs at least 30 per cent nominations to be eligible to bid for the post of president. Party election is in mid December).
The Umno divisional meetings start on Nov 9 and last for about one month. This is when nominations are filed. I recall some years back when the late Tun Ghafar Baba faced what was perhaps his biggest political embarassment when he couldn't secure sufficient nominations to defend his post of deputy president.
His adversary then was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who, in dramatic fashion, criss-crossed the country to drum up support and take significant steps towards realising his dream of becoming Umno president, and, Prime Minister. The rest, as we all know, is history.
Pak Lah had said that he would defend his post, and Najib his. Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah insisted that he has enough nominations to make a bid for the top post. Ku Li, as the Gua Musang MP is fondly referred to, has been busy meeting divisional chiefs in trying to secure the 30 per cent rule.
His backers are whispering that he has the support of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, once a bitter foe when the two slugged it out in 1987. Dr Mahathir won by only 43 votes.
Muhyiddin and others who share his views believe that any delay in changing the party leadership will cause Umno to deteriorate, surely and quickly . Allies in the Barisan Nasional have been making veil threats that a weak Umno would cripple the BN. Expect a change in federal government at the next general election if nothing concrete is done quickly to restore faith and order in Umno and the BN.
In the next few days, Umno leaders will be huddled in various corners seeking to find a dignified way out of their present predicament. The call for Abdullah to make way is getting louder and with increasing frequency.
A Government radio talk show where listeners called in to voice their opinion had a healthy airing yesterday. The transition plan and the fuel price were the two hot topics presented. Despite the PM's orders to everyone to stop talking about the transition plan, the opposite is happening.
Can Abdullah withstand the mounting pressure for him to step down? Can he draw upon his deputy's support to stop the tide? Is Najib willing to take the risk of siding with Abdullah, knowing the guns would turn to him if he does so? We need to figure this out over the weekend.