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The Umno-PAS counter-offensive

  • It is too naive for Umno leaders to think that they can make a strong comeback by exploiting racial and religious issues.

By LIM SUE GOAN
Sin Chew Daily

A change of regime is never a smooth journey most of the time, and the latest controversy is over the selection of the country's new Attorney-General.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has nominated veteran lawyer Tommy Thomas for the post, but this candidate initially failed to get the consent of the King and Malay Rulers.

Umno and PAS, meanwhile, have exploited this issue to launch a fierce counter-offensive against the ruling coalition.

It is imperative for the Pakatan Harapan administration to replace the incumbent AG Mohamad Apandi Ali as soon as possible, for any delay will have negative implications on the prosecution of the 1MBD scandal.

Najib has hired top American lawyers to his defense, and as such there is no room for any mistake on the part of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

With his vast experience and knowledge in criminal laws, Thomas is doubtlessly the perfect candidate for the job. Unfortunately his nomination has since become a sensitive issue owing to political manipulation.

Pro-Umno Utusan Malaysia has carried the news from the racial and religious perspectives while there is online petition opposing to the nomination of Tommy Thomas as the country's new AG. Among the reasons cited are his non-Malay identity and lack of knowledge in syariah law.

Thomas' previous statement that Malaysia is not an Islamic state has been wildly exploited by Umno and PAS. Umno information chief Annuar Musa has queried how Thomas is going to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on syariah law issues while his PAS counterpart Nasrudin Hassan claims that one of AG's duties is to defend the status of Islam as the country's official religion.

After the humiliating GE14 defeat, Umno and PAS have been prowling on chances to wage their counter-offensives, religion and race being their favorite topics.

That said, it will be too naive for them to believe that they can make a strong comeback by exploiting such issues.

Umno leaders have been thinking of ways to make a comeback ever since Najib resigned as party president. The right way of winning back Putrajaya is to establish an alliance that will represent all ethnic communities of this country.

Unfortunately, BN is now in a disarray, its components quitting one after another. In the absence of a strong resolution for deep reforms and a complete cleavage from money politics and corruption, Umno will find itself without friends before long.

During a recent interview with Sin Chew Daily, MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong admitted that MCA would no longer have to bear the burden of Umno's misdeeds, but his remark was instantly rebutted by Annuar Musa, who claimed that his party too no longer had to bear the burden of a long paralyzed MCA.

How to institute reforms without deep introspection? For so many years Umno has been thriving on money politics. Now that the federal administration is lost, the party has stopped giving out RM10,000 monthly allocations for each of its 191 divisions nationwide. Will the grassroots still keep their passion without the money?

We cannot expect any major change if Ahmad Zahid were to take on the baton. The same goes for Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. This is because they have been in Umno for too long and their mindset has been sort of fixed already. Perhaps they need a younger leader in the likes of Khairy Jamaluddin to lead the party in order to shatter the antiquated modus operandi.

Unfortunately Umno is still firmly controlled by the right wingers and even the fugitive Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Md Yunos has an eye on the Youth chief post. In the name of vested interest, those in power will not back down easily unless there is very powerful determination for change among the grassroots.

If Umno is unable to be transformed into a party for all Malaysians, then it will only have to revert to its old racist way, as many party leaders still believe their party is the strongest, having won 54 parliamentary seats to prove the claim that Umno is still backed by many Malays.

From the statements published on Utusan, it is obvious that many Umno leaders are still persistent in defending the rights of the Malays. The electoral defeat has somehow failed to awaken them.

It is therefore likely for an Umno weak in political will to reform to work or even merge with PAS, as supreme council member Tajuddin Abdul Rahman has proposed.

Perhaps some Umno leaders believe they can win back Putrajaya given the fact Umno and PAS won 33.9% and 16.6% of popular votes respectively in GE14 for a combined 50.5%. Lest we forget, a majority in popular vote does not guarantee a victory under Malaysia's existing electoral system.

A merger of these two parties could spell a major disaster for the country because they will very likely go for the extremes by instigating the Malay sentiment, thus threatening national unity and constituting a major factor of instability.

The choice of AG has reflected the two polarized aspects: meritocracy on one end and racism and religionism on the other.

If Pakatan Harapan manages to put up a cohesive and efficient team to run the country effectively, the extremism-embracing opposition is bound for for continued decline.

While PH has sea;ed its succession plan for Anwar Ibrahim to take over after Tun M, what about Umno and PAS?

 

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