KUALA LUMPUR – Was the political cooperation between Umno and its splinter, Bersatu, destined to fail when the parties chose to become allies in the name of race and religion almost a year ago?

According to a political observer, the parties were bound to come to a head due to their conflicting agendas and lack of shared vision, marked by a tendency to poach defectors.

The comment came less than a day before the rift culminated in Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin securing a nationwide emergency, essentially tightening his hold on Putrajaya by suspending Parliament and state assemblies, as well as holding off elections for the foreseeable future.

Mohd Sayuthi Omar, a prominent political author, said the two Malay parties never melded as a cohesive bloc despite forming a government under the Perikatan Nasional banner in March last year.

Because of this, he said, they will continue to be at war with each other.

“The idea (of political cooperation) on the basis of upholding the Malays… is a myth and merely a rhetoric purposely created to scare the Malay community and Malaysians into thinking that they will lose out (if certain people are not put in power),” he told a webinar, titled “Umno-Bersatu awaiting divide?”, hosted by the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) on Monday night.

The event, moderated by KLSCAH chief executive Ooi Heng, also featured Alor Star MP Chan Ming Kai of PKR and political analyst Hasmi Hashim.

Chan noted that the friction between Umno and Bersatu stems mainly from the latter occupying most of the ministerial posts that are strategic to Malays, while Hasmi said the relationship between the parties is “peculiar” as they have the same target voter group.

Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz two days ago withdrew his support for Muhyiddin’s government, making him the second Umno lawmaker to do so following a similar decision by Machang’s Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub on Saturday.

Umno veteran and Gua Musang MP Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah abstained from the Budget 2021 vote last month, a move seen as the de facto test of the Muhyiddin-led administration’s leadership.

Two Umno MPs have withdrawn their support for the prime minister in recent days. – The Vibes file pic, January 14, 2021
Two Umno MPs have withdrawn their support for the prime minister in recent days. – The Vibes file pic, January 14, 2021

Muhyiddin, who is also Bersatu president, on Tuesday announced the implementation of emergency rule until August 1, or earlier if Covid-19 is brought under control sooner, after getting Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s consent.

The prime minister’s move, however, is seen by critics as a manoeuvre to avoid relinquishing power.

In response to the emergency declaration, the Pakatan Harapan presidential council voiced concern that Muhyiddin has been accorded unfettered powers.

In a statement signed by PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, the council said the suspension of Parliament and state assemblies was made when the executive and judiciary can still function normally.

This will disrupt the functioning of checks and balances, inhibit national democracy and deny the people’s voice, they said.

Sayuthi, who echoed the other panellists’ sentiments, said Umno and Bersatu have instilled fear that the Malay rights guaranteed under the federal constitution, along with the position of the Malay language, are under threat, while the institution of Malay rulers is being dragged into politics.

These, among other issues, are constructs made to prevent people from voting against the likes of Umno, he said.

“If Bersatu today came up with a new slogan on defending and upholding the Malays by joining up with Umno, it would be a continuation of an old myth and rhetoric to be sold to the Malays.”

He likened Muhyiddin’s rise as prime minister as a “betrayal” of his previous allies in PH, which is also a form of “coup d’état” that goes against Malay and Islamic values.

“He (Muhyiddin) said it (usurping PH) was due to the unavoidable circumstances in staging the coup d’état, even though that is something immoral in politics, regardless of race,” said Sayuthi, adding that the late PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and other muftis had labelled coup d’état governments haram.

“He (Muhyiddin) also said he was forced to do so, as the situation required saving, but what kind of ‘rescue’ was he making? Was Malay politics so much under threat and in a very precarious situation at the time that he needed to take over (as prime minister)?

“All of the (major political) positions and appointments are held by Malays. But if all of this (Muhyiddin’s reasoning) is true, why is there currently no strong collaboration or cooperation with Umno without the situation that has taken place (with Bersatu) today?”

Both parties have also accused each other of betrayal, which reflects their lack of a shared agenda and vision, as well as the absence of sincerity in serving the Malay community, he added. – The Vibes, January 14, 2021

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