PAU 2019: Moving Forward

Raja Sara Petra

Soon after the 14th General Election or GE14 in May last year, political analysts said Umno is no longer relevant and Barisan Nasional itself can be considered dead. When some Umno leaders and Members of Parliament left the party, while Gerakan left Barisan Nasional, this more or less confirmed what the pundits said about Umno and Barisan Nasional.

In the 1986 general election, PAS was almost wiped out when it got reduced to just one parliament seat and in 2004 PKR faced that same fate when the only winner was its president, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail. Today, PAS rules two states while PKR is part of the federal government.

Whether Umno and Barisan Nasional get buried and are forgotten by history depends on its members and leaders. Undoubtedly, Umno and Barisan Nasional in their old forms cannot remain relevant. It has to be a reinvented Umno and Barisan Nasional.

The opposition had to reinvent itself many times over five general elections from 1999 to 2018 before it won the general election and became the ruling government last year. PKN merged with PRM to become PKR and three coalitions were created — Barisan Alternatif, Pakatan Rakyat and now Pakatan Harapan.

Barisan Nasional has now been reinvented as Muafakat Nasional with some of the existing Barisan Nasional coalition members such as Umno, MCA and MIC, together with PAS, in an electoral pact or sort of ‘loose’ coalition. Umno has amended its constitution to place Islam as the main focus of its perjuangan so that it can become ‘Shariah Compliant’.

Non-Muslims in general, and MCA and MIC in particular, need not be worried about what the critics are going to allege is the ‘Islamisation’ of Umno or Muafakat Nasional. It has never been the policy since Merdeka to impose Islam or Islamic rules on non-Muslims. The civil liberties of non-Muslims would be respected while Muslims need to live by a certain moral code. That has always been the Malaysian way and will continue to be so.

Umno’s Annual Assembly 2019 is about ‘Moving Forward’ and about how to remain relevant in a multicultural society like Malaysia. The May 2018 election defeat was a setback, no doubt. But it was not finality. History has shown that what does not kill you makes you stronger. And what we are going to see from now on is a stronger Umno that has been reinvented to remain relevant to Malaysians from all walks of life and ethnicities.