Najib’s dilemma over Umno-Perkasa nexus

(TMI) Datuk Seri Najib Razak coyness in distancing his Umno from the Perkasa movement yesterday can be traced back to one fact, that most of the some 300,000 in the Malay rights movement are also members of his party.

Therefore, the prime minister faltered in hammering the movement that some of his party colleagues say will cost them votes in the next general election. The Umno president’s dilemma is simple, how do you criticise a movement made up primarily of your own members?

He isn’t alone in considering the conundrum. Over in the United States, Republican leaders are grappling with party conservatives who have joined the Tea Party Movement that set out as an anti-tax movement to turn into one that also appears to condone racism.

In many ways, Perkasa is to Umno what the Tea Party Movement is to the Republicans, who lost the White House in the 2008 presidential elections.

While Umno did not lose Putrajaya in Election 2008, it lost enough seats to prompt some soul-searching and a change of leadership that appeared to reach out to the non-Malays, prompting its Malay electorate to band together under the leadership of Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

The independent Pasir Mas MP has turned Perkasa from a one-man band arguing to keep Malay rights and privileges to one urging the government not to rescind any affirmative-action policies and to ensure Malay supremacy.

A recent snub by some Umno officials, including its secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor, has brought a torrent of abuse from Perkasa and its supporters. Tengku Adnan, who is Barisan Nasional (BN) secretary-general, has said the ruling coalition will fight against Ibrahim in his political fortress Pasir Mas which he won in 2008 while on a PAS ticket.

Najib, however, did not appear to back Tengku Adnan and other party colleagues yesterday when he declared, “No, we do not want to be in conflict with any NGO.”

Najib went further to play down Perkasa’s significance as a pressure group, pointing out that as far as Umno was concerned, Perkasa was just like any other NGO.

“It is just like any other NGO. We have so many NGOs. There are times we can agree, and there are times we cannot agree,” he said.

However, the prime minister took pains to stress that at the end of the day, it was Umno that was a part of the government.

“And what Umno says matters,” he said but refused later to explain whether he was referring to Perkasa.

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