KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Islamist party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) said it wants Umno, its partner in Perikatan Nasional (PN), to explain its intention to leave the ruling coalition amid speculation that Umno MPs were among those who support opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's bid to topple Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's government.
PAS vice-president Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said his party was surprised by Umno's review of its support for PN, as there had been no prior discussions on the issue.
"I only knew about it after reading about it in an online portal today. If it is a decision by Umno, we (PAS) cannot do anything about it. However, I am wondering what Umno's real intention is," Datuk Mohd Amar said on Wednesday (Oct 14), as quoted by The New Straits Times.
PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the party would seek an explanation from Umno, through Muafakat Nasional (MN), on its plan to leave PN.
Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan announced late on Tuesday that the party would pull out of PN, unless new terms of cooperation are negotiated.
His announcement came just hours after Datuk Seri Anwar, who leads the main opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, met the Malaysian King and presented to him the total number of lawmakers backing him to become the next prime minister.
There have been swirling rumours that many of the MPs who are throwing their weight behind Mr Anwar came from Umno.
The King had initially scheduled an audience with opposition leaders Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu, and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to verify Mr Anwar's claim. But the meetings were postponed until after a two-week movement restriction in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The partial lockdown took effect on Wednesday.
PAS and Umno are also partners in a separate pact called Muafakat Nasional, but only PAS had officially joined Tan Sri Muhyiddin's PN coalition.
Other component parties in PN include Mr Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Sarawak-based Parti Gabungan Sarawak (GPS).
Umno said its support for PN only goes as far as confidence and in numbers - Umno holds about a third of the parliamentary seats in PN - although Umno leaders were appointed ministers in the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, Umno's rank-and-file have asked party leaders to define the party's position within PN more clearly.
Party treasurer in the Selangor state, Mr Johan Abdul Aziz said the party has not been given enough recognition in the government despite contributing the largest number of seats in the Parliament because there is a lack of clarity in the informal partnership with PN.
"Umno is being treated unfairly despite having more seats in Parliament. All the important ministries are being helmed by people from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia," said Mr Johan, adding that there must be fairness and equality in all partnerships.
He also said PN had done little to solve Umno's problems after the 2018 general elections.
"Little or nothing has been done to solve the matter of the Selangor Umno account that remains frozen," he said.
Such sentiment was echoed by Selangor Umno Youth chief Rizam Ismail and Hulu Selangor Umno division chief Mat Nadzari Ahmad Dahlan, who cited Muafakat Nasional as an example of a partnership done right, according to The Star.
Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa on Tuesday suggested Umno, Bersatu and PAS go back to the "drawing board" and start a political cooperation anew.
"It is not wrong for Umno, Bersatu and PAS to go back to the political drawing board so that we can achieve something better for Malaysia," Mr Annuar said, as quoted by The New Straits Times.
"We must also strengthen Malay unity which is the foundation of the country's political stability,
"Attention must be given towards saving the people's lives, curbing the Covid-19 pandemic, reviving the economy, easing the people's burden and turn Malaysia into a successful nation instead of a failed state."
The deepening rift within PN is piling pressure on Prime Minister Muhyiddin, whose PN coalition has a razor-thin majority in Parliament - with just 113 MPs in the 222 seat Lower House.
Former prime minister Najib Razak has expressed his support for Umno to leave PN.
In a lengthy Facebook post, he said: "If we continue to be in the PN government, like it or not, Umno and BN (Barisan Nasional) will also continue to be blamed if there are economic decisions that are questionable, or if the economy becomes worse... This is despite the fact that there is no one from BN or PAS who is involved in any economic-related decisions."
In a letter to Speaker Azhar Harun on Sept 25, Umno veteran and Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has demanded a no-confidence motion against Mr Muhyiddin at the next Parliament sitting.
But PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan came to defence of Mr Muhyiddin on Thursday and called on parties to declare their support for PN.
“PAS urges the parties entrusted with forming His Majesty’s government led by Muhyiddin Yassin as the prime minister to offer undivided support, without any interference, to enable the proper and effective functioning of the government,” he said, as quoted by The Malay Mail news portal.