The internal fight in Bersatu over calls to return to Pakatan Harapan (PH) is the latest manifestation of divisions in the party of Muhyiddin Yassin and the prime minister he ousted, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Muhyiddin is the party president and Dr Mahathir is the chairman, and both were allies when PH was in power, but the supporters of each are now split into camps after the former wrested the prime minister’s post through plotting and defections by lawmakers in late February.
The infighting also comes ahead of two important events, the May 18 parliamentary sitting and Bersatu’s party elections when mass gatherings are eventually permitted.
The call to reject cooperation with Umno in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, and to rejoin PH, came from Bersatu youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the former youth and sports minister who remains loyal to Dr Mahathir.
Syed Saddiq’s call came a few days after another Dr Mahathir ally in Bersatu, his son Mukhriz, who is also the party’s deputy president, said Bersatu had little choice but to return to PH after repeated criticism of Muhyiddin’s administration by Umno.
Mukhriz, who is challenging Muhyiddin for the Bersatu presidency, also pointed out Umno had stated that it does not consider its cooperation with Bersatu in PN as a formal pact.
It has been a war of press statements so far, with the latest by Bersatu youth exco member Muzammil Ismail, who issued a joint statement signed by 144 state and division chiefs rejecting calls for Bersatu to rejoin PH.
Muzammil said the party should stick to the decision of its supreme council on February 23 to leave PH.
His statement is in doubt, however, as Bersatu youth information chief Ulya Husamudin has claimed that some of those whose names were in the statement had not endorsed it.
Ulya, who is in Syed Saddiq’s camp, said the infighting is because of the coming party elections.
He said those who do not support Dr Mahathir or Syed Saddiq had deliberately chosen not to attend a meeting for the Bersatu youth central leadership on May 6, which was to discuss the distribution of aid during the movement-control order against Covid-19.
The meeting was attended by 21 out of 31 youth leaders invited.
Party chairman Dr Mahathir had also gone to the meeting at one point and stated his stance against Bersatu’s cooperation with Umno.
“Seventeen leaders present at the meeting supported his stance while four rejected it,” said Ulya.
“Muzammil initially gave notice that he would attend but didn’t show up. He then issued a statement, but it turns out the names of some leaders have been misused.”
One of Muzammil’s supporters in his bid to replace Syed Saddiq as youth chief is Bersatu supreme council member Muhammad Faiz Na’aman, who explained why some leaders did not attend the May 6 meeting.
“I myself did not attend the Armada leadership meeting because I expected them to turn it into an anti-government platform with statements against PN.
“The agenda of the meeting as circulated on WhatsApp was to be about welfare assistance.
“But Syed Saddiq took advantage by bringing in Dr Mahathir who read a statement that does not match the stance of youth leaders and members nationwide, who support Muhyiddin’s leadership,” said Faiz.
He said he believes all this is happening because of the party elections and the Dewan Rakyat sitting on May 18.
Bersatu’s 189 branches were supposed to have met on April 18 to vote for supreme council members, but this was postponed after mass gatherings were banned under the MCO to fight Covid-19.
The Registrar of Societies has prohibited all parties and organisations from holding gatherings and annual general meetings until June 30.
Dr Mahathir has won the Bersatu chairmanship uncontested, while Mukhriz is challenging Muhyiddin for the presidency.
The deputy president’s post is being contested by former secretary-general Marzuki Yahya, Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu and another candidate, Anas Akashah Nazri
The Bersatu youth chief post will be a three-cornered contest between Syed Saddiq, Muzzammil and Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Wan Ahmad Fayshal Wan Ahmad Kamal. – May 10, 2020. – TMI