Is political survival the prime motivation?

“The Umno-Pas campaign is only laced with the illusion that Pakatan Harapan is neglecting the Malays and Islam.”

Syed Umar Ariff, New Straits Times

AS more than 10,000 Umno and Pas members prepare to converge on the the Putra World Trade Centre for the signing of their collective political charter beginning today, loyalists, predictably, have expressed optimism over the nexus’s trajectory.

Particularly for Umno, the signing of a political pact with a former nemesis could potentially give the country’s largest Malay party a new lease of life ever since its devastating defeat in the general election last year.

The alliance is perceived by its promoters as a promising platform to consolidate pockets of Malay support ahead of the next election through a conservative agenda — championing Malay-centric interests that it claimed were currently overlooked.

Observers have commented that such an agenda has resulted in the pact — which ironically comes under the tagline Perpaduan ummah or People’s unity — attracting Malay and Muslim hardliners into its fold.

Umno’s long-time ally and Barisan Nasional 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 Umno-Pas side pact.

“We’ll see if I come (to the signing of the charter). I am not in Kuala Lumpur now. This is strictly between them,” MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said yesterday.

When asked if the pact could turn away non-Muslims or MCA grassroots’ support, Wee 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 Umno-Pas 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.

“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 Umno-Pas 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.

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