PUTRAJAYA - Former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin registered a new political party on Tuesday (Aug 9) that he promises to be more open and progressive than Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's pro-Malay ruling Umno.
Speaking in Malay, Muhyiddin told reporters after submitting an application to register the party - called Bersatu - that Chinese and Indians could join his party as associate members. Umno does not admit non-bumiputeras at all.
"Membership is open to all Malaysians who are bumiputera Malays, natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli," Muhyiddin said. "Membership is also open to other Malaysians as associate members. They have the same rights as other members except they cannot vote or contest for party positions but they can be appointed to any position within the party.
He added: "This is a party that is inclusive in nature, progressive and open minded. We have a reform agenda that is comprehensive, to take care of each citizen’s welfare regardless of race or religion."
The party is the latest to split from the ruling Umno led by Najib, whom Muhyiddin and ex-Premier Mahathir Mohamad have fallen out with after the premier became embroiled in corruption allegations linked to state investment fund 1MDB.
Muhyiddin will be the president of the new party, called Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia or Bersatu for short, with Mahathir and chairman and the latter's son Mukhriz named as the vice-president.
The party had been flailed by some critics in Malaysia's civil society after it was said to be accepting only bumiputeras - Malays, aboriginals in Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli people in Peninsula Malaysia.
The stated goals of Bersatu, however, is similar to Umno's: Uphold Islam and Bahasa Melayu.