The Mat Hasan-Ong Kian Ming debate

Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan

Ong Kian Ming (DAP’s Bangi member of parliament) in his article published by Malaysiakini on April 24, wrote about the dilemma that Umno faces in Perikatan Nasional (PN) and the possibility of the party leaving it in the next general election. (READ BELOW)

I wish to comment on only one issue, that is  Umno’s position in PN in order for all parties to understand its position and political path clearly.

Umno has never joined PN as it is not a registered political entity, unlike Barisan Nasional (BN).

Umno’s relationship with PN was only an understanding to save Malaysia from the political crisis caused by a certain group in Pakatan Harapan (PH).

It was an understanding to build a government to govern Malaysia because of PH’s failure, nothing more.

This understanding is different from the political cooperation between Umno and PAS that is known as Muafakat Nasional.

This cooperation is managed officially through Piagam Muafakat Nasional and has undergone multiple brainstorming processes, including discussions during the General Assembly before the charter was officially sealed.

Umno also has a binding political cooperation with MCA, MIC, and PBRS through BN, which is a registered political entity.

This means Umno-PAS and Umno-BN have political agreement that is systematic, organised, and binding.

The objective is to build political cooperation and win the election as a coalition.

Even if it is not successful, the political cooperation will still remain functional.

This cooperation is portrayed through numerous activities, projects and political programs conducted together in many different stages to strengthen Muafakat Nasional and Barisan Nasional.

Therefore, Umno will not face any dilemma pertaining its position in PN.

Umno has no agreement whatsoever with PN, PPBM, and GPS.

Umno joined the government solely to support Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the Prime Minister to solve Malaysia’s political crisis.

As a political party, Umno’s tasks and focus is to prepare the party in order to win the upcoming general election together with Muafakat Nasional and Barisan Nasional.

Umno will continue to be the largest Malay political party in this country and insyaallah, winning the most number of seats in the upcoming general election.

Whatever method Umno chooses to do it, it is up to their discretion and strategy with their ally, PAS and BN.

As the largest Malay political party, Umno must compete in all of their traditional seats and seats that have the highest potential to win.

Umno’s strength is in the ‘Malay Heartland’ areas and it will solidify its influence, visibility, and services in all of those areas.

Insyaallah with the support of millions of party members, Malays, and Malaysians, Umno will work hard to win as many seats as possible.

Only through this, Umno will be able to hold the biggest majority in parliament and lead the government as before.

Anyone who wishes to work together with Umno are welcomed, but it must be done with sincerity and readiness to join Muafakat Nasional or Barisan Nasional.

Umno appreciates the loyalty of their allies in Muafakat Nasional and Barisan Nasional. Anything other than Muafakat Nasional and Barisan Nasional is not strategic for the continuity of Umno.

Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan is the Umno Deputy President


Ong Kian Ming, Malaysiakini

It has been more than one month since Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan National (PN) cabinet was sworn in, on March 10, 2020. Each political party within this uneasy coalition faces its unique political challenges in operating as part of the government.

However, no party faces bigger questions and challenges than Umno, as it grapples with the question of how it wants to work with Bersatu. This is Umno’s biggest dilemma within the PN government.

From the outset, let me be clear on this point: Umno leaders and members would much prefer to be in government together with Bersatu than to be in the opposition. In government, Umno would have access to the privileges of power, including access to positions in ministries, government agencies and GLCs.

However, there is nothing about the arrangement in the current PN government that Umno would find acceptable in the longer term. Most importantly, from a political strategy perspective, Umno leaders must realise that Bersatu’s ultimate goal is to replace Umno in the political arena as the dominant Malay party in government. This is the only way that Bersatu can survive, post-GE15, and Umno knows this.

After ruling the country for over 60 years, Umno is not used to playing the role of No 2 in government. And yet, this is the position they find themselves in today. With 41 elected Members of Parliament (MPs), they have more MPs than Bersatu, which only has 29 MPs (this includes the 10 MPs from PKR but does not include the five MPs who are supporting Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

[These five are the MPs for Langkawi (Mahathir himself), Muar (Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman), Jerlun (Mukhriz Mahathir), Kubang Pasu (Amiruddin Hamzah) and Simpang Renggam (Dr Maszlee Malik)].

And yet, Bersatu has more ministers (11 including the prime minister versus nine for Umno) and deputy ministers (15 versus eight for Umno) than Umno. Most of the key ministries are also being helmed by Bersatu MPs (Education, Home Affairs, Economy, Rural Development, Trade and Industry) or individuals aligned to the prime minister (Finance), with Umno having perhaps only one relatively ‘senior’ ministry, namely Defence. Two out of the four senior ministers are also from Bersatu, with Umno having only one senior minister.

The two senior ministers from Bersatu are Azmin Ali (Miti) and Senator Radzi Jidin (Education).

Umno is also facing the unprecedented experience of its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, deputy president Mohamad Hasan and two of its vice-presidents, Khaled Nordin and Mahadzir Khalid not having any government positions.

Defence Minister Ismail Sabri, who is one of the four Senior Ministers, is the only Umno vice-president in the cabinet. Furthermore, Umno MPs who are elected members of the Umno Supreme Council were not given any government positions. These MPs are Azalina Othman (Pengerang), Bung Moktar Radin (Kinabatang), Azeez Abdul Rahim (Baling), Noh Omar (Tanjong Karang) and Ahmad Maslan (Pontian).

However, Umno MPs who are not part of the top leadership of the party – Khairy Jamaluddin (Rembau), Hishamuddin Hussein (Sembrong), Halimah Sadique (Kota Tinggi) and Dr Adham Baba (Tenggara) – have been made Ministers. Umno Sabah was also completely left out of the cabinet in favour of Bersatu MPs who had left Umno and PKR.

Dr Ronald Kiandee (Beluran) and Abdul Rahim Bakeri (Kudat) left Umno to join Bersatu in February 2019. Ronald who was made the minister of agriculture, while Abdul Rahim was given the post of deputy minister of finance.

Jonathan Yassin (Ranau), who left PKR to join Bersatu, was made deputy minister of home affairs.

This situation is not one which must sit comfortably with Umno’s leadership. This is why the statement that was issued by Ahmad Zahid (above) on March 12, 2020, after an Umno Supreme Council meeting, put so many caveats in its support for Muhyiddin Yassin’s government.

There was no mention of any effort to strengthen Perikatan Nasional (PN) as a ruling coalition. Instead, the Umno president went out of his way to mention efforts to strengthen its partnership with PAS via Muafakat Nasional (MN) and to build up the strength of the Barisan Nasional (BN). Most importantly, the statement ended with a commitment to support the new government only until the next general election (GE15).

Any form of cooperation between Bersatu and Umno will likely cease once Parliament is dissolved, whenever this happens. It is hard to see how Umno and Bersatu can agree to any seat allocation formula. Umno and PAS will have their hands full in allocating the 100 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia, where both parties contested in GE14, under a Muafakat Nasional (MN) formula for GE15.

Umno, PAS and Bersatu competed in 47 Parliament seats in Peninsular Malaysia in GE14. These include seats such as Titiwangsa (where Bersatu’s Rina Harun, the current minister of women, family and community development defeated Johari Abdul Ghani, former minister of finance II and who is still Federal Territories Umno chairperson, and Ketereh, where current Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa of Umno defeated current Education Minister Mohd Radzi Jidin of Bersatu, who was subsequently appointed as a senator.

The 47 parliamentary seats also include seats held by Umno MPs who subsequently joined Bersatu, post-GE14, such as Jeli (Mustapha Mohamed, currently a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department), Larut (current Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin), Mersing (Minister of Rural Development Abdul Latiff Ahmad) and Masjid Tanah (Deputy Minister of Tourism Mas Ermieyati Samsudin).

It is hard to imagine Umno having many positive feelings about these defectors, much less negotiating with Bersatu to allow these incumbent Bersatu MPs to continue to contest in these seats with support from Umno and PAS.

In addition, the current cabinet also features former PKR MPs who joined Bersatu and whose seats were contested by both Umno and PAS in GE14, including Gombak (Azmin Ali), Indera Mahkota (Saifuddin Abdullah), Bandar Tun Razak (Kamaruddin Jaafar), Batu Pahat (Mohd Rashid Hasnon) and Nibong Tebal (Mansor Othman). Again, it is hard to see Umno or PAS giving way to these Bersatu MPs in GE15.

Umno has shown that it can defeat Bersatu even while it was in opposition at the state and federal levels, as in the Tanjung Piai and Kimanis parliamentary by-elections in Johor and Sabah respectively. With its grassroots support intact and with the continued nurturing of its relationship with PAS, there is no need for Umno (and PAS) to make concessions or to work with Bersatu in GE15.

Knowing this, what is Bersatu’s likely response in the short term (over the next year) and closer to GE15? And what is Umno’s likely strategy? This will be covered in Part 2.

Ong Kian Ming is the Member of Parliament for Bangi