Perkasa not the force it thinks it is, Umno leaders say

Nur Jazlan Mohamed

(MM) – Umno leaders shot down today’s Perkasa’s threat to usurp the party as the main champions of Malay rights, saying the group had “overestimated” its strength and influence among the country’s largest community.

Pulai Umno division chief Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed also dismissed Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s claim that Umno has become “toothless” in its fight for the Malays, insisting that the Barisan Nasional (BN) lynchpin remains at the forefront in protecting the community’s interests.

“I think he’s overestimated the figures,” Nur Jazlan told The Malay Mail Online in a brief phone interview, referring to Ibrahim’s boast that Perkasa’s claimed 500,000 membership made it the biggest Malay non-governmental organisation in the country.

“At their events we can see that they don’t have the numbers. They don’t have the strength, they are the ones that are toothless,” the Pulai MP added. An estimated 500 people attended the group’s annual assembly yesterday.

Once seen to be a virtual extension of Umno but increasingly ignored since Election 2013, Perkasa yesterday warned the party that it risked being usurped by the group if it fails to uphold the Bumiputera agenda.

Speaking at its fourth annual general assembly here yesterday, Ibrahim suggested that Umno was growing weak and “toothless” in its fight to protect Malay interests.

The former Pasir Mas lawmaker also appeared to bare his fangs at Umno, saying that Perkasa was prepared to adopt an adversarial role in the 14th general election should the Malay lynchpin of Barisan Nasional (BN) fail to deliver on the Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Agenda.

Today, Housing and Urban Wellbeing Minister and Umno supreme council member Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan also played down Perkasa’s influence, and shot down Ibrahim’s accusation that Umno have strayed away from its role as the protector of the Malay race.

“We have never given up the struggle for the Malays. He can say what he wants about his organisation … Umno will always be bigger than everyone.

“It is bigger than Ibrahim, than Rahman Dahlan, than (party president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak, than (Tan Sri) Muhyiddin Yassin,” Abdul Rahman told The Malay Mail Online.

He also ridiculed Ibrahim’s claims that it was the group’s influence that led to Umno’s increased presence in Parliament.

“So what are the rest (of Umno members) doing? Sleeping?” The Kota Belud said.

Yesterday, Ibrahim claimed Perkasa’s clout had contributed to Umno and BN’s victory in the 13th general election, despite his defeat in Pasir Mas to PAS’s Nik Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz.

“He (Ibrahim) lost. (Datuk) Zulkifli Noordin also lost. So what does that say about them?”

Zulkifli was the only Perkasa candidate that stood in the May 5 general election aside from Ibrahim. He contested for the Malay-majority Shah Alam federal seat and lost by a landslide to PAS’s Khalid Samad.

Nur Jazlan said the defeats also reflected a changing political landscape where urbanisation has sparked political awareness among the Malays.

The new generation of Malays, he added, are now more sophisticated and did not buy into the hardline politics promoted by Perkasa.

“Malays have become more urbanised, their thinking no longer fit Perkasa’s agenda”.

The Pulai MP added Umno was adapting to this new environment, which some misinterpret to be a move away from the Malay and Bumiputerea agenda.

“We have to ask ourselves what are we fighting for. Are we fighting for the Malays in a progressive Malaysia or just for the Malays exclusively”.

Abdul Rahman said although Umno is opened to co-operation with any NGOs including Perkasa, the party would not tolerate any “rude threats” and “crude demands”.

“We will work with anyone for the benefits of the Malays but you cannot make threats, that is not the way to co-operate,” he said.

Perkasa began life in 2008 as a one-man pressure group on Malay rights but later grew in numbers and influence after its cause found traction with a largely-Umno audience. The ubiquity of Umno members among its ranks also led to the perception that the group was an indirect outlet for the more conservative elements of the party.