'Good M'sia leaders have to be whiter than white': Syed Saddiq steps down as MUDA president following corruption conviction

Saddiq is likely to appeal his sentence.

Tan Min-Wei | November 09, 2023, 06:42 PM

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Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Member of Parliament for Muar in Johor, has said that he will step down as leader of Malaysian youth orientated political party MUDA.

Saddiq's announcement comes on the same day as his conviction on corruption charges, including criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of property, by the Malaysian High Court.

berMUDA Triangle

MUDA was founded in the aftermath of the 2020 Sheraton move, which saw the Pakatan Harapan government of Mahathir Mohamad collapse.

Saddiq was Minister for Youth and Sport in that government, part of the Bersatu component of the coalition. And although Bersatu would go on to lead the government under Muhyiddin Yassin, both Saddiq and Mahathir would be expelled from the party.

Saddiq would then start the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA, also the Malay word for youth), a youth-orientated multi-racial political party, a significant departure from the Malay-centric Bersatu.

MUDA's first electoral outing was in the 2022 Johor State Election with the party's Deputy President, Amira Aisya Abdul Aziz, winning one out of the six seats it contested.

MUDA would also contest the 2022 General Election, independent from any of the three major coalitions. Saddiq would be the sole victor from that campaign, retaining his Muar seat, also in Johor, although with a reduced majority.

CBT and other charges

On Nov. 9, Saddiq was found guilty of four charges involving criminal breach of trust, misappropriation of property, and money laundering, related to RM1.2 million (S$325,000) of his former party Bersatu's youth wing's funds.

Saddiq's defence has said that the politician had taken the money to conduct party business, distributing the money as part of Bersatu's Covid-19 assistance, as well as for Ramadan and Hari Raya activities.

They have also said that Saddiq received no monies from the withdrawal of party funds.

But Saddiq has failed to convince the Malaysian High Court, who has found him guilty of the four charges, sentencing him to seven years in jail, two strokes of the cane, and a RM10 million fine (S$2.9 million).

Stepping down

When leaving the High Court, Saddiq was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying that the leaders of Malaysia needed to be "whiter than white", a phrase often associated with Singapore's own anti-corruption drive in the early days of independence.

Saddiq has campaigned strongly on an anti-corruption platform, even to the point of quitting the government of Anwar Ibrahim when Deputy Prime Minister and President of UMNO Zahid Hamidi was cleared of his own corruption charges, in a discharge not amounting to acquittal, earlier in 2023.

He repeated the phrase later in the day during a MUDA press conference, where he was flanked by MUDA leadership, with Deputy Party President Amira Aisya to his immediate right.

Saddiq said that his resignation as party leader was a matter of principle, and that he owed it to the people of Malaysia and his party to clear his name before continuing his involvement in the party.

To do otherwise and remain in place would be "hypocritical".

"It is important to send a clear signal and message, that Malaysians deserve better in politics.

And while it might still hurt me... at least I will still be true to my word."

He did not say if he would be resigning his seat.

As seen in Najib's case, a convicted Member of Parliament still retains their seat if they apply for a royal pardon within 14 days of their sentence commencing.

28-year-old Amira Aisya Abdul Aziz to take over

Saddiq said that MUDA's goals and its leadership was about more than himself.

He added that it was for Deputy President Amira Aisya Abdul Aziz, who is 28, and the remaining MUDA leadership team to decide what to do next.

However, he said that there was still currently a stay of execution of the sentence, and a stay of conviction.

He would speak with his lawyers about future steps regarding his conviction, and that he intended to appeal.

Saddiq would leave the final word to Amira Aisya, who reiterated:

"MUDA is bigger than Syed Saddiq.

MUDA is bigger than one individual."

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Top image via MUDA/Facebook