Najib moving BN to the right, not Umno to the centre

It would also be extremely tough for MCA, MIC and Gerakan to explain to their respective voters why they would allow a rightist-group like Perkasa, which has been making the headlines of late with fiery calls for Malay supremacy, to be in the same team.

Wong Choon Mei, Harakah Daily

Umno is wrong to think that it can appeal to a wider spectrum of voters by expanding the number of parties in the Barisan Nasional coalition that it heads, Pakatan Rakyat leaders said.

They also warned Malaysians not to be taken in by the latest proposal from Prime Minister Najib Razak, the president of both Umno and the BN, as it will actually end the ‘consensus’ in the BN and transform it from the ‘moderate’ coalition that it propounds to be into a harder-edged fundamentalist outfit.

“The issue is not the lack of components, it is the lack of reforms,” PAS vice president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man told Harakahdaily.

“Such a proposal is not new and at one level, it shows Umno lacking confidence in long-time partners MCA, MIC and Gerakan to bring back the non-Malay votes. But that is not all. It is actually a half-baked idea and underscores that they are still muddling their way through,” PKR strategic director Tian Chua told Harakahdaily.

“The fact that Umno now wants an extreme Malay-rights group like Perkasa to join BN shows Umno is itself divided and not confident of recapturing the Malay votes from PAS and PKR. But Umno is forgetting that it is actually its own racist and corrupt policies that chased voters away in the first place.”

Ending the ‘consensus’ in BN

Najib had announced after an Umno supreme council meeting last week that the ruling coalition – which currently has 13 members – wanted to include political parties and non-governmental organizations that are friendly to its cause.

He did not mention names but it is well-known that he wants the BN to accommodate newly-formed Indian party Makkal Sakti, Perkasa, as well as several elected representatives who are now on their own after having quit or having been fired from the Pakatan for not being up to mark.

“It is typical Umno bulldozing its way through. If it succeeds and no doubt it will because you can be sure MCA, MIC and Gerakan won’t have the guts to speak up, then it also spells the end of ‘consensus’ in the BN,” said Tian.

The PM has already appointed his cousin Hishammuddin Hussein to head a special committee to look into ways of amending the BN charter so as to allow new parties to join without requiring the prior approval or ‘consensus’ of the other BN components.

“We are considering it but it will require support from all component parties and a change to the BN’s constitution,” Hishammuddin, the Home Minister and an Umno vice-president, had said.

BN moves to the right, not Umno to the centre

However, Umno’s unilateral call may win it further brickbats from its main existing partners – MCA, MIC and Gerakan – and their constituents.

Although Umno calls the shots in BN, the other components currently have the right to reject new applicants. For example, MIC has already announced it does want anything to do with Makkal Sakthi.

It would also be extremely tough for MCA, MIC and Gerakan to explain to their respective voters why they would allow a rightist-group like Perkasa, which has been making the headlines of late with fiery calls for Malay supremacy, to be in the same team.

“Of late, Najib and his spin masters have been trying to imply that he wants Umno to return to the middle ground, but again, he is being dishonest with Malaysians. What he is actually doing is taking the entire BN further to the right, not shifting Umno to the centre. Don’t be fooled by the double-speak,” Tian added.

“Only actions count and the very first reform would actually be to get rid of racist politicking. This means his administration distancing itself from extremists like Perkasa – not inviting it to join their coalition!”

Giving in to Muhyiddin, Mahathir

According to political watchers, the latest BN move by Najib indicates that he may have succumbed to pressure from the fundamentalists within his own Umno party, currently led by his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

However, such a move was likely to backfire, with the BN ending up antagonizing both the Malay and non-Malay voters even more.

“Is moving back to fundamentalism really the right move? Definitely not. Groups like Perkasa won’t sustain,” PAS leader Wan Rahim Wan Abdullah told Harakahdaily.

“It is just Mahathir using old methods to try and shackle the Malay votes but Malays are not racist at heart. Sure they would like to be in power, but who is really in power – only the elite in Umno. Do you really think the Malays are not smart enough to realize that, or that the corruption will continue until there is no more money left in the country’s coffers?

“Do you think the Malays are not concerned? Do you think they have not been evaluating alternatives, that they have not heard PAS, PKR or Pakatan?”

Unable to regain the trust of the non-Malays

At the recent Thaipusam and Lunar New Year celebrations, Najib launched highly-publicized campaigns to appeal to the Indians and Chinese to give him and his centrist 1Malaysia slogan another chance.

Yet the difference in the size of the crowds that came to see him and the Pakatan said it all.

At a Chinese New Year rally held in Pandamaran, Selangor on Saturday, about 5,000 people braved the rain to see him, while 20,000 attended the joint open house held around the same time by the Pakatan some 20km away.

“Umno has been in power for 52 years, which Malaysian does not know its racist style? Even as Najib spoke, the people in the crowd were saying to themselves ‘What a joker!’” a veteran party watcher who followed the events said.

“The Indians are asking amongst themselves, ‘What about Kugan Ananthan?’. The Chinese are also smirking ‘Wah, you say all these and yet you get another pathologist to insist Teoh Beng Hock committed suicide. You say all these and yet you get the courts to declare Zambry the rightful MB of Perak, not Nizar!’ Really, Najib should save his breath if this is all he can do.”

1Malaysia finished

It is no secret that the scandal-hit and indecisive Najib faces great opposition from Muhyiddin and Mahathir to reform Umno and make it a more liberal party, with fresh policies that better reflect the demands of the current electorate.

“Signals were flashed when Muhyiddin was suddenly coy in declining to comment as to whether groups like Perkasa would be among NGOs to be admitted into the BN as part of the ruling coalition’s expansion plan to incorporate admission of NGOs and BN-friendly groups,” said Lim Kit Siang in his blog.

“Perkasa, which stands for the very negation of Najib’s 1Malaysia and the former Prime Minister’s “Bangsa Malaysia” concept under Vision 2020, has nonetheless received the patronage of Mahathir.

“The former Prime Minister has given his stamp of approval to Perkasa, saying that it is increasingly popular within the Malay community because Umno is being seen as incapable of protecting their rights.

“The time has come for Muhyiddin to declare whether he is the right-hand of Najib or Mahathir in the present administration. When it comes to the crunch in any fundamental difference between Najib and Mahathir, where would the loyalty of Muhyiddin, as the custodian and surrogate of the Mahathir legacy in the Najib premiership, lie?”