PAS patching ties between Umno, Bersatu

PETALING JAYA • Islamist party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) is playing the role of mediator to defuse tensions between its two allies in Malaysia's governing coalition, its top party officials said.

The PAS move came about after Umno's top council at its meeting on Wednesday said a motion to sever ties with its erstwhile ally Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) would be decided at Umno's annual assembly on Jan 31.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang is mediating a truce between Umno and Bersatu so that both parties will continue with their political collaboration, a political source said.

"Abdul Hadi does not want this (split) to happen as he feels it is important for all Malay-based parties to stay united," the source told The Star newspaper on Wednesday.

Ten months ago, Bersatu, Umno and PAS, together with nine other political parties, formed the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government which is led by Bersatu president, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. But Umno is unhappy with Tan Sri Muhyiddin as it sees itself playing second fiddle to Bersatu in government, even as half a dozen Umno leaders, including its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, continue to be prosecuted in Malaysian courts on various corruption charges.

Two of them, former premier Najib Razak and former Cabinet minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, have been convicted on separate corruption charges. This has inflamed Umno which had hoped Mr Muhyiddin would have quietly intervened with the Malaysian courts to deliver not-guilty verdicts.

"There should not be these cases brought to court... (they) were the cruelty from the time of Dr Mahathir Mohamad" as prime minister in 2018, Umno's secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said on Wednesday, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.

Penang PAS commissioner Muhammad Fauzi Yusoff said the Islamist party is trying to save the "union" of the three main Malay Muslim parties.

A break-up, he said, would hamper PN's chances at the next general election. Umno has said it plans to contest the next general election, Malaysia's 15th, under the banner of the four-party Barisan Nasional coalition that it leads.

"We have a bigger agenda and we cannot let Umno lose in GE15," Mr Fauzi said on Thursday.

Umno is also pushing PM Muhyiddin to hold the national polls by the end of March, a move that has been panned even by the public as Malaysia continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and with tens of thousands of people currently housed in flood relief centres.

"Let Covid-19 finish and the flood first, why would you do an election now. We have to discuss with the Ministry of Health Malaysia and the relevant parties," the Sinar Harian newspaper yesterday reported Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi as saying.

"We do not want to burden the people," he was also quoted as saying.

The parties in PN have begun to discuss seat allocation for GE15, which has also contributed to a rise in Umno-Bersatu tensions. This is because the Bersatu leadership comprises mostly previous Umno leaders, including those who joined Bersatu after the 2018 polls.

Umno has insisted that it will field candidates in all the constituencies it contested in 2018, and will not give way to Bersatu. Umno won 55 parliamentary seats in the 2018 polls but today has 38 MPs left due to defections to Bersatu.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2021, with the headline 'PAS patching ties between Umno, Bersatu'. Subscribe