Politics

Umno-Pribumi Bersatu tension boils up after minister’s remark

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – July 8, 2020: Tension within the ruling Perikatan Nasional has boiled up after a Pribumi Bersatu minister remarked that Umno has fallen out of favour with Malaysians, particularly Sabahans.

This is reflected in the view of Umno Youth deputy chief Shahril Hamdan that the remark by Rural Development Minister Datuk Dr. Abdul Latiff Ahmad at a forum last night was unacceptable.

“Do not test our patience by making it sound like we’re freeloaders who can be mocked according to your whims. Pribumi Bersatu needs to show its sincerity in the current political cooperation,” said Shahril in a statement today.

This was the second time Latiff had openly derided Umno, with the first being just recently at a low-key event in his constituency in Mersing, the parliamentary seat he won in the 2018 elections under Umno.

He resigned from Umno to join Pribumi Bersatu after Barisan Nasional lost federal power that year.

“To describe Umno Sabah as tidak laku (of no value) is rude and condescending. Umno does not need to justify its strength. The result of the Kimanis by-election [which Umno won] speaks volumes of the party’s strength,” Shahril added.

Umno and the rest of the Barisan parties and PAS agreed to cooperate with Pribumi Bersatu after the latter quit Pakatan Harapan late last February, effectively collapsing its hold on the country.

A new government was sworn in in early March with Pribumi Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister, despite Umno having more federal seats than Pribumi Bersatu.

Pribumi Bersatu originally won only 13 parliamentary seats but its total was inflated by defections from Umno and PKR to now give it 32 seats.

Brewing rumblings

The tension between the parties, however, had been brewing even before Latiff’s remarks, especially among Umno members who were against the idea of a long-term electoral pact with Pribumi Bersatu.

Several Umno leaders – mostly those who were defeated in GE14 – have also reminded the party’s upper echelons that they should not play second fiddle to Pribumi Bersatu.

This was after Muhyiddin was endorsed by Umno and PAS recently as prime minister candidate in the next elections.

One leader who voiced his objection was former supreme council member and minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

“In politics, second fiddle refers to those who are weak and expendable, a dilemma affecting many political parties these days. Must those who have the most numbers be contented in playing second fiddle?” asked Shabery at Facebook yesterday.

Despite the supposed endorsement of Muhyiddin, nothing concrete over matters concerning seat allocations between Pribumi Bersatu, Umno and PAS have been announced.

Former Pribumi Bersatu leader Dr. Maszlee Malik said the current scenario within Perikatan is not surprising.

Maszlee expressed his belief that Umno will double-cross Pribumi Bersatu given how the former will unlikely give up its strongholds for the sake of Perikatan’s interests in the next election.

To the unfamiliar, 20 of the parliamentary seats held now by Pribumi Bersatu were Umno’s strongholds before GE14.

“Umno has never announced they will contest in the next election under Perikatan. Pribumi Bersatu will be sidelined…. its (Umno) leaders have sacrificed the party’s clout just to support an individual’s interest,” said Maszlee in a statement yesterday.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.