Saying that Malaysia could head to the polls "soon", Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday attacked former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad and said the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party, now Tun Dr Mahathir's political ally, would dismantle Islamic institutions and undo decades of pro-bumiputera policies.
Delivering the keynote speech at the annual assembly of his party, United Malays National Organisation (Umno), Datuk Seri Najib praised opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which is sidling closer to his party under the banner of Malay and Muslim unity.
Mr Najib, who is Umno's president, also said his administration is not oppressive as made out by the opposition, and talked up the government's welfare programmes.
The speech was telecast live over national radio and television.
"God willing, the battle torch is strong and will bring a big win in the 14th general election coming soon," he said to 2,700 cheering delegates gathered at Umno's headquarters in the Putra World Trade Centre. Many party members and analysts believe this annual meeting will be the last before a national election is called, though it does not have to be called until August 2018.
NAJIB ON DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY
If the country falls into the hands of the DAP, which champions extreme liberalism and a brand of secularism that is dangerous, the rights and privileges advocated and defended by Umno over the years - including its institutions - will become extinct and disappear... Malays and bumiputeras will be engulfed in a nightmare.
ON PARTI ISLAM SEMALAYSIA
In the name of Muslim unity, I would like to thank our friends from PAS for being mature in their politics and remaining in Parliament to listen to the entire tabling of Budget 2017 and not joining street demonstrations organised by (electoral reforms group) Bersih.
Dr Mahathir, who previously was a celebrated statesman, has now turned against the party which he once led for years... (is) involved in despicable acts and acting in concert with DAP, Bersih's illegal rally, (opposition parties) Parti Amanah Negara, PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and worse of all, conspiring with foreign enemies like (American financier George) Soros... This is the pinnacle of his betrayal towards Umno, our race and our nation.
Mr Najib has been the focus of attacks by Dr Mahathir over the past two years as the Prime Minister is embroiled in a financial scandal linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Dr Mahathir, 91, quit Umno in February and formed a new party in July, with his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia forming a loose alliance with the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a bogeyman party for Umno.
Mr Najib, 63, yesterday described Dr Mahathir's recent moves as the "ultimate betrayal". He referred to episodes in 1987 and 1998 when Dr Mahathir's leadership was under threat and Malaysia thrown into political crises.
"Who, in those tense moments, stood firmly by Dr Mahathir? Who else if not us in Umno?" he said.
Compared with last year's assembly, when Mr Najib was defending himself against criticism over 1MDB from then deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, this year's meeting has been about closing ranks and gearing up for the national polls.
Mr Najib has purged his critics, including Tan Sri Muhyiddin, and can afford to train his guns outwards. The five-day meeting will end tomorrow.
Mr Najib painted the disparate opposition as being led by the DAP, and called on the Malays and other aboriginal races to remain with his Umno-led government to ensure that pro-bumiputera and Islamic bodies are protected.
He named 10 bumiputera and Islamic agencies that he said would face an existential threat under a government dominated by the DAP, including bumiputera education and business trust Mara, the Felda agency that helps Malay farmers, pilgrimage fund Tabung Haji and Islamic development agency Jakim.
"If the country falls into the hands of the DAP, which champions extreme liberalism and a brand of secularism that is dangerous, the rights and privileges advocated and defended by Umno over the years - including its institutions - will become extinct and disappear... Malays and bumiputeras will be engulfed in a nightmare," he said.
Mr Najib praised the Islamic party PAS for its "political maturity", and suggested that the long-anticipated Muslim unity has arrived.
Umno has cooperated with PAS to enhance Islamic law, while the latter chose not to vote against the government's Budget nor to attend the Bersih rally calling for Mr Najib's resignation.
The informal alliance between Umno, which leads the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, and PAS threatens to weaken the opposition at the coming election.
Mr Najib yesterday dismissed the criticisms over the 1MDB scandal and spikes in the cost of living as "falsehoods".
He questioned how his government could be accused of being oppressive when it has provided "nearly free" healthcare and education.
"Umno has fulfilled far more than its duty for its members, and has gone beyond in justifying its purpose to the rakyat (people) and the country, and no one will be left behind," Mr Najib said.