Umno-DAP relations still lukewarm

“While working with Pas, we never told Pas to apologise, and vice versa. For me, if we keep looking at old history, it will never end.

(MSN News) – Last May, the Unity Government National Convention successfully brought together 19 parties to signal that the current government is in a strong and stable state until the 16th General Election (GE16).

The 2023 Umno General Assembly last week created its own history when it was also attended by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP top leaders.

In fact, there was no more chanting of ‘No Anwar, No DAP’ at the Kuala Lumpur World Trade Centre (WTC) like in the previous assembly.

Even though the two major events succeeded in putting these long-time political rivals under one roof in the Unity Government, the Umno-DAP relationship among its grassroots reportedly is still hostile especially ahead of the state elections.

Malaysian Umno Youth Movement head of information Mohammad Sollehin Mohamad Tajie said that the cooperation between Umno and DAP is seemingly becoming more progressive, but the relationship is still lukewarm due to each others different political ideology.

“I would be lying if I said that everything between Umno and DAP is good or perfect. Building this relationship and bond will definitely take some time.

“During the ummah unification through Muafakat Nasional (MN) in the past, we had to work together in several by-elections before successfully winning Cameron Highlands.

“Therefore, we are expecting the same thing with DAP. This forced ‘marriage’ is indeed not sweet at first, but there will definitely be mutual compatibility we manage to find sentiments that can complement each other,” he told Sinar Premium.

Sollehin added that the state polls this time is not just about achieving victory, but a testing ground for how cooperation can be formed through the seat distributions between Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN).

“Umno has claimed several seats, so have other component parties. The situation is slightly different when the election this time involves seats of clashing areas in the city.

“The majority of rural areas are controlled by Umno or Amanah, so solidarity really needs to be practised in urban areas involving Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan.

“We need to play an important role in creating a strategy on how to work together to have areas where there is a balanced mix of influence between BN and DAP,” he said.

Apart from that, Umno also took note of the grassroots’ opinion including an apology demanded from DAP because of a slight friction and old past wounds similar to those from the cooperation with Pas once upon a time.

“While working with Pas, we never told Pas to apologise, and vice versa. For me, if we keep looking at old history, it will never end.

“DAP has issued a statement and I agree that we need to move on and create a new narrative. The focus now is to find ways to complement each other and make up for the shortcomings of each party,” he said

In the meantime, Malaysian Umno Youth vice chairman Mohd Hairi Mad Shah is of the view that no party can be satisfied, confident and have a comfortable position in the political arena at the moment.

“For me, the grassroots have understood that Umno is no longer in such a comfortable situation, but DAP can respect religious institutions, the sovereignty of the Malay Rulers and the NAtional Principles.

“The current concept is no one is better. BN once led the government for over 60 years, as did DAP which became the opposition during the same period.

“When both are in the government now, it can convince the people and strengthen the government to manage the country with better governance,” he said.

He explained that this election is a test ground with component parties to focus more on big agendas such as GE16.

“We must all learn to respect each other’s party institutions. It should be noted that Umno, DAP and other component allies are no longer opponents.

“In fact, Umno lies within BN while DAP is under PH. There is no flag or agenda that uses Umno or DAP logo to make it easier for the people to understand their respective concepts. Strong tolerance is necessary in building a strong team for GE16,” he said.

Meanwhile, head of Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin’s (Unisza) International Relations Department Dr Hussain Yusri Zawawi believes that the voice of Umno’s top leaders is still unable to convince supporters to continue working with DAP.

“For me, the solidarity is not enough to convince Umno supporters to support DAP. Religious sentiments, the rights of the Malays and education are issues that are often associated with DAP, but failed to be explained or elaborated on by Umno top leaders.

“I see this collaboration as only temporary due to Umno not getting support in the current political context. Umno members do not seem serious about accepting DAP because these issues were still hotly discussed at the last Umno General Assembly,” he said.

He added that the issue of the Umno-DAP dispute was not easily resolved because it involved all Umno supporters in the country, and its extensive political history since the establishment of the party in 1946.

“Accepting DAP in the political coalition is only done through the Umno supreme council. Although not everyone agreed with the proposal, the matter was sealed on the basis of the formation of the Unity Government.

“Many DAP coalitions involving other parties such as Pas did not reach the end because of different goals and policies. This is the backbone of the party’s strength that Umno needs to think about if it wants to gain the support and attention of the people,” he explained.