PAS-UMNO Marriage

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Two former bitter foes tying the knot tomorrow.

  • Non-Muslims urged not to fear alliance
  • Kit Siang wonders who among Najib, Zahid and Hadi would be PM if the alliance wins the GE
  • Motivation of pact viewed as political survival and to lure Malay votes
  • Observers warn pact will further divide nation

 

Zulkifli Ersal/Sunpix

After the PAS-UMNO courtship proved to be successful in three consecutive by-elections, it prompted them to get hitched with the hope that as a couple, the two parties can capitalise on their respective Malay and Muslim supporters.

Despite this, UMNO senator Khairul Azwan Harun said it is still premature to conclude that the alliance would lead to more racial politics.

“The truth is I see this alliance as a measure of hope.

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“I view this as an opportunity for all Malaysians who are tired of the current racial divide due to the directionless leadership and broken promises, to start a conversation of rebuilding a tolerant society and resilient economy again. This alliance must guarantee all races receive the rightful and fair chances to pursue their dreams,” he added.

Johor Umno Youth chief Mohd Hairi Mad Shah urged non-Muslims not to fear the alliance.

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“It is not a racist agenda, what more an extremist one. This is an agenda for all, not only for the Malay Muslims but for the whole multiracial Malaysians.

Ummah unity is an agenda to form a political power to fight Harapan, which did not only fail to manage the country but is causing damage to the country built by BN and enjoyed by all,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lim Kit Siang wondered who would be prime minister if the alliance wins the general election and assigned an epithet for the three potential candidates – ‘1MDB man’ former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, ‘corruption king’ UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and corrupt Muslim leader ‘supporter’ PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.

“So, who is the prime ministerial candidate for the PAS-UMNO alliance of klepto-theocracy – Najib again or Hadi or Zahid?

“Or they don’t dare to talk about it and want to continue to mislead the people of Malaysia?” he said in a statement this morning.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy believes the alliance is a “suicide mission” for Umno.

“PAS, as an opportunist and selfish political party, has nothing to lose in this game of thrones.

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“What a better way of finishing off UMNO than in the entrapment of the political charter before it turns its guns against Harapan.

“For PAS, the charter might be a way to chart its next course of action but, unfortunately for UMNO, it might be charter for political suicide,” he said in a statement.

PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli said that as with the previous PAS-UMNO marriage, this marriage will fall apart. According to him, it is just a matter of time because they don’t know who is the husband or who is the wife in this marriage.

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“When their political strategy fails and they fight, they will go back to calling each other kafirs (infidels).”

DAP member Zaid Ibrahim said Harapan leaders are in full throttle poking fun at the alliance.

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“Will they last; who is PM? GE long way to go mates; let them be. Try to reduce politicking and see if we can manage the country’s problems first.”

UMNO’s long-time ally and BN component party MCA had voiced its opposition to the pact, which it said could possibly be detrimental to BN’s unity. But lately, the party has softened its tone and appeared to have distanced itself from the PAS-UMNO pact.

When asked if the pact could turn away non-Muslims or MCA grassroots’ support, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the party would not be perturbed.

“No (MCA will not be affected by the pact). (Furthermore) I am close to the Malays. I grew up in a kampung and am close to the Malays. One of my aunts is a Muslim. My brother-in-law is a Muslim. But of course, people will attack us (MCA).”

A point of contention often raised by analysts and politicians is the potentially narrow outlook and policy offerings to the country’s multiracial population. Worse, some argued that the signing of the charter would only disguise UMNO’s prime motivation – utter political survival.

Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa had recently written several columns on his Facebook page criticising the pact, which he had, among others, accused of being exclusive for Malays.

“UMNO appears to have forgotten its previous role as a ruling party which, back then, despite being a Malay party, was responsible for upholding the interests of all races as part of BN.

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“Does it mean that now, after forming a pact with PAS, UMNO has forgotten to uphold the country’s multiracial identity?

“And what has happened to PAS, which during the leadership of (late spiritual leader) Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, had championed the slogan ‘PAS for all’?

“Has PAS removed the slogan? Is it about national unity, or PAS for the Malays?” said Mujahid, who had left PAS following the rise of the ulama faction in 2015, which saw its Young Turks faction ousted in the party polls.

“Tell me where in the charter will it offer equitable wealth and launch the nation into a regional model?

“The PAS-UMNO campaign is only laced with the illusion that Pakatan Harapan is neglecting the Malays and Islam.

“Can such rhetoric contribute to meeting the country’s needs? Have some UMNO leaders stooped to the same level of their PAS counterparts, who do not understand the reality of today?”

Concerns about the pact have remain centred on its effect on national unity, due to its overtures to rake in Malay support using racial and religious issues.

Analyst Associate Professor Dr Jeniri Amir said as the cooperation had attracted hardliners, the outcome could adversely impact social cohesion.

“They are going to play up racial issues. Their cooperation will have a polarising effect and the people will be divided. It will move to manipulate Malay, Islam and the national narrative to win the support of Malays.

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“The pact is the best bait (to lure Malay votes).”

Political observers said the alliance is bound to further polarise multi-ethnic Malaysia.

They also said the country will be dragged down by ethnoreligious politics, diverting it away from the important agenda of nation-building, as well as social and institutional reform.

Dr Lee Hwok-Aun, senior fellow at the ISEAS-Ishak Yusof Institute in Singapore, said Malaysia will drift into mysterious, potentially dangerous waters.

“A solidified UMNO-PAS alliance, without other parties and groups represented, will keep trying to push politics in a Malay-Muslim-centric direction at a time when the country needs to focus on social cohesion, human well-being, equality and fairness, and economic progress,” Lee was quoted as saying.

Sharing Lee’s contention, Professor Zaharom Nain of University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus said the alliance will be divisive, and is obviously bad for the country.

“This is the motivation of this desperate pact, where they assume that more than 60% of the Malaysian population comprising Malays will succumb to their strategy. 

“Perhaps, PH could adopt a similar strategy, but that would be politically disastrous for PH, and worse, would just racialise the country further, which would be a tragedy for all.”

Social activist and blogger Anil Netto said the cooperation between a race-based party and one with an exclusively religious agenda cannot be favourable for Malaysia in the long run.

It would serve as a magnet for those with chauvinistic or bigoted views who do not understand what it means to live in a multicultural society, which should celebrate diversity and see it as an asset, he said.

“Since the watershed general election of 2018, when the old politics of race and religion were defeated, thus ushering in a ‘New Malaysia’, the defeated forces have regrouped.

“For about six months after the general election, we felt that the promise of a ‘New Malaysia’ was within reach.

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“What we’ve seen in recent months is a pushback by the defeated forces of the old politics who have come together with a pact.”

Despite the problems associated with the PAS-UMNO cooperation, Anil is optimistic that ordinary Malaysians can see through the “alliance of convenience”.

“This is not the first time PAS and UMNO have come together. An even closer alliance in the 1970s fell apart before long. The ensuing distrust took decades to overcome. The same could happen with the present pact in the coming years.

“In any case, in this more open, digital era, more Malaysians are mature enough to overcome their ethnic and religious differences, and understand what it means to live and work side by side.

“Our hope lies in mature and enlightened Malaysians, especially the younger generation, new voters above 18, and Sabahans and Sarawakians, who will show us the way to live in harmony in a ‘New Malaysia’ that treasures diversity.”

Lim Hong Siang, executive director of sociocultural research outfit Saudara, said Malay politics now bears witness to the clash between PAS-UMNO and Bersatu-PKR-Amanah in the struggle to gain Malay-Muslims’ consent and support.

It must be remembered that PAS and UMNO got a bigger slice of support from the Malay-Muslim majority in the 14th general election, he said.

“It’s acceptable if any individual or party harbours religious and ethnic sentiments. But when the discourse on religion and ethnicity gets narrowed into discussing issues that are not meaningful, Malaysia won’t move on.”

Haris Zuan, research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies, said the PAS-UMNO alliance was expected, with the parties having initiated cooperation even before GE14.

Tomorrow is merely to formalise the pact, he said.

He described politics based entirely on race and religion as “obviously unhealthy”.

“However, it would be wrong to argue that UMNO-PAS is the only cause of the increasing ethnic and religious tensions. The ruling pact, too, still plays ethnic politics.

“Several issues that have been championed by the PAS-UMNO alliance are valid, and PH, as the ruling pact, should respond seriously.

“If PH addresses the issues they raised, even though not all of them, it is quite certain that the pact will regain the trust of Malay constituents.

“What is clear is that the issue of the cost of living has been expressed in ethnic terms. Up till now, there has been no clear mechanism offered to address the issue.”