New Malaysian party seeks to fill multiracial platform vacancy in Barisan Nasional

Parti Bangsa Malaysia president Larry Sng said that in Barisan Nasional, all parties are currently race-based and it is "important to have moderation". PHOTO: LARRY SNG/FACEBOOK

KUALA LUMPUR - A new multiracial Malaysian party consisting largely of former Pakatan Harapan (PH) representatives and members now sees a void it can fill within the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, just over three years after PH dismantled BN's six-decade rule in Malaysia.

Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) president Larry Sng told The Straits Times that the party, which has elected representatives from four states, is now seeking to join Umno-led BN, instead of BN's government partner Perikatan Nasional (PN), led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

The formation of PBM last November did not come as a surprise as speculation about a new multiracial party featuring former PH leaders has long swirled in the Malaysian political sphere. However, PBM's proposal to join BN, made during its extraordinary general meeting on Jan 8, has raised eyebrows.

PN and BN have an awkward power-sharing agreement and look set to compete against each other in the next election. They already did so in the Melaka state election in November last year, where BN won handsomely and formed a new government on its own.

Additionally, PN had continued to campaign on an anti-graft platform despite leaving PH, with several top BN leaders still facing graft charges.

Both PN and BN are led by Malay-based parties - Umno and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) respectively. BN does not have a national multiracial party in its fold. Its other parties are the Malaysian Chinese Association, the Malaysian Indian Congress and the regional party, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah.

"With the possibility of an election looming, we don't really have much time to play the political tightrope between PN and BN. Being a multiracial party, we see a vacancy in BN. In PN, that vacancy is filled by Gerakan, and also to some extent Bersatu, which takes in non-Malay associate members," Mr Sng told ST.

"In BN, all parties are currently race-based parties, and we believe that with the way Malaysia is heading, it is important to have moderation."

However, he said the proposal has to be discussed with BN.

If PBM is accepted into BN, this would distance its leaders from Tan Sri Muhyiddin and senior Cabinet minister Azmin Ali - the two key persons who brought Bersatu and a sizeable section of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) out of PH in Feb 2020, which led to the collapse of the PH administration. They subsequently set up PN together.

PBM has long been rumoured to be a vehicle for Datuk Seri Azmin, but so far neither Mr Azmin nor his Cabinet colleague Zuraida Kamaruddin, another senior former PKR leader, have joined their supporters in PBM. Mr Azmin and Madam Zuraida are currently Bersatu members.

"So far, there is no formal entry of them into PBM. But what is apparent is that their supporters have decided to join PBM. This is because some of them have had difficulty getting memberships in Bersatu, and those who got memberships did not find themselves in any decision-making position, having previously held influential positions in their former parties," Mr Sng said.

He was confident that more elected representatives and high-profile politicians would join PBM in the coming months.

"I believe PBM is a very attractive vehicle for those currently in PH and the opposition front," he said, citing a general "disillusionment" towards PH in the years since its rule dramatically collapsed.

Mr Sng, 42, was one of those who left PH after spending just over two years with the coalition. He said that being an MP for Julau in Sarawak - one of the poorest constituencies - meant that he was unable to serve his constituency as well as he would have liked while being in PKR, which is led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

He won the Julau seat as an independent in 2018 before joining PKR while it was part of the ruling government. He quit the party in early 2021, one year after the collapse of the PH administration, and remained an independent until he co-founded PBM.

Though this is his first foray into mainstream national politics, Mr Sng has over two decades of experience in Sarawak politics. He was elected as a member of the Sarawak state assembly at the age of 21 in 2001, before serving in the Sarawak state administration. He and his father - Sarawakian millionaire and former politician Sng Chee Hua - held the Pelagus state seat for 20 years between them up until 2011.

PBM currently has over 50,000 members and expects the number to swell to over 100,000 this year. It was formed after the merger of two major entities - a non-profit organisation called Penggerak Komuniti Negara, which is linked to Datuk Zuraida, and the Sarawak Workers Party.

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