PUTRAJAYA (BERNAMA) - Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) exists as a Malay party because Malays in Malaysia still believe they need a Malay party to protect them and their interests, said Bersatu chairman Mahathir Mohamad.
"They (the Malays) want somebody to protect them and and they believe that only Malays can protect them so they want this party. If we (Bersatu) don't cater to them, we (Pakatan Harapan or PH) will not get their support and we will always lose," he said in an interview with selected media organisations at his office on Friday (Dec 28).
The Prime Minister said that if he and several former Umno leaders had not formed Bersatu and had not stressed that Bersatu is also a Malay party, he's quite sure that in the 14th General Election (GE14), the Barisan Nasional (BN) and former prime minister Najib Razak would have won the general election.
"Yes, like the 13th General Election, the majority or popular votes (in GE14) would have gone to the opposition but, because of the structure of the constituencies, the BN would have still won the election and formed the government ... but they would have formed an incompetent, crooked government, a kleptocracy," said Tun Dr Mahathir, who is also chairman of the ruling PH alliance.
Asked whether Bersatu can come up to Umno's strength in gaining Malay votes, Dr Mahathir said the Malays always want a strong party and added that Umno was weak now after its defeat in GE14 and many of its MPs and leaders have left or plan to leave the party.
"Bersatu is a Malay party. All the rest (other component parties in PH) are all multiracial (parties). They (Malays) want to join Bersatu. If they don't join Bersatu, then where will they go? They can't be with Umno and Umno is finished," he said.
"The Malays are scared, they feel threatened. They feel that if they are small, they cannot get anything from equality and equal treatment in this country. They are looking for parties. They (Malays who prefer a Malay party) cannot join Keadilan (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) because they don't accept a multiracial party; they cannot accept Amanah, also a multiracial party; certainly they cannot join DAP. So what is their choice?"
Asked about the rising number of people, especially former Umno leaders, wanting to join Bersatu, Dr Mahathir said Bersatu was a Malay and bumiputera party and any Malay or Bumiputera can join the party.
"But there are conditions. They must be people who subscribe to our ideology of being a clean party not involved in corruption and dedicated to working for the people and country. That s our purpose. We can accept whoever holds to these principles. If you want a Malay party, there is only Bersatu. If Bersatu is not good, then make it good and join and make it good," he said.
Dr Mahathir said that in GE14, Bersatu did not do so well and only managed to win 13 parliamentary seats as the party was deregistered by the government.
"We had to contest under the logo, the flag of Parti Keadilan (PKR). So, we lost a lot of seats. In Kedah, for example, we should have won a lot of seats but we didn t. Apart from the places where I was contesting, in Langkawi, and (son) Mukhriz was contesting. But we are now a registered party. We can show our flag, we can show our logo but when contesting we will contest under PH and PH now has its own logo. No longer like PH in GE14, where we had to use the Keadilan logo and flag because PH couldn t be registered, he said.
On the performance of the Bersatu members of the Cabinet, Dr Mahathir said that though the party won only 13 seats, in the Cabinet it has the same strength as the other PH component parties.
"We have six Cabinet members like the other parties. They are new, many of them have to come to me to ask for advice and things. Sometimes they become very excited, they make statements which are not good for them or for the party. But you don t expect a new person to be an expert on the first day of their taking on the job. Some of them make mistakes but we can correct the mistakes," he said.
On the young people in the party, Dr Mahathir said the party gave room to young people because it believed that young people also had the calibre to lead the country together.
"Never in the history of Malaysia has anyone aged 25 become a minister. That's our form of appreciation. The same goes for women. We have four women ministers (in the present government). Never happened in the history of the country. Young people have a place in our party, more so than previously. We believe this party will be influenced by the young minds and they will take over from the current leadership," he said.
On the Bersatu annual general assembly, which is being held from Friday (Dec 28) to Sunday, Dr Mahathir said the administration of the party had yet to be fully organised because the present Bersatu leaders and those who will attend the assembly were those appointed as pro-tem leaders.
"We will amend the Constitution to enable the party to set up branches and divisions and for the members to elect the branch and divisional leaders. There is a suggestion for every member to be eligible to elect the leaders by way of one member one vote, but we find that the system is open to all kinds of problems. As such, we are open to a Constitution that is more suitable for the party. I feel that the one member one vote system is a little difficult (to implement)," he said.
The annual general assembly began on Friday night with Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin simultaneously opening the general meetings of the Srikandi women's wing and Armada youth wing.
On Saturday night, Dr Mahathir will open the Bersatu annual general assembly, and the delegates meeting will convene on Sunday.
About 3,000 delegates are expected to attend the three-day annual general assembly, drawn from 135 divisions throughout the country and including 98 from the Srikandi wing and 115 from the Armada wing.