By SHAMSUL AKMAR / Pic By TMR File
At THE rate the Sabah Umno lawmakers are scrambling to disassociate themselves from the party and quickly pledging their support for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and contrast it with the events leading to the May 9 general election, everything seems surreal.
And add that to the manoeuvrings of Umno leaders and lawmakers in the peninsula, who have been meeting Dr Mahathir behind the back of their colleagues, that surreal feeling is amplified.
After all, these were the very people who bent backwards to demonise Dr Mahathir, the vitriol they spewed on him that bordered on uncouth and contemptuous for his efforts to put an end to Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s kleptocratic rule.
Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that some of those who had supported Dr Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan to the epochal victory are squeamish, if not nauseated, when looking at the current development.
Others are wary and the less compromising are even demanding that Dr Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan components stay away from Umno/ Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders and lawmakers or risk ending up as Umno or BN 2.0.
Their concerns and discontent are not unjustified and not to be dismissed flippantly. But to dismiss the conciliatory overtures from Umno leaders would not be politically wise.
After all, in the case of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, the majority of them were Umno members and their formation was to win over Umno members.
Of course, this narrative was for the pre-14th General Election days. But shouldn’t the same narrative apply before the next 15th General Election?
If Bersatu is set up to replace Umno, it will not be able to do so if it cannot continue to win over the latter’s members, regardless of whether they are MPs or ordinary members, and whether those leaving Umno today will only become aware of the futility of supporting the party seven months later.
Whether Pakatan Harapan likes it or not, Umno managed to come out as the largest Opposition party.
If Bersatu is unable to neutralise Umno within the next few years, what is stopping Umno to regain its footing and find its way back within the nation’s power structure?
That being the case, why should Bersatu partners be opposed or upset if Umno is negated with their leaders and members making a beeline to Bersatu.
Surely, it is to Pakatan Harapan components’ comfort to see that with these developments, Umno that they abhor will not find it easy to return to helm the nation.
Roping them in will weaken a party that is still defending plunderers, racists and now, even attempting to strike a partnership with a religion peddling party.
If they were racists or defenders of the plunderers, they would have to change their tune with Bersatu or any of the Pakatan Harapan parties.
The fear of them hijacking Bersatu’s and Pakatan Harapan’s agenda is quite impossible unless the leaders of the government coalition choose to allow it. But why should they, as by doing so, they will be rejected in the next general election by a populace that have been awakened and are aware of the power of their vote.
What is probably important is for Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan to hold on to certain measures when dealing with Umno leaders. For one, it should not come across as providing those mired in scandals, abuse of power and corrupt practices when they were in power, a lifeline.
And surely, those who are already in the tow to be charged or being investigated for these misdeeds will not be allowed to fill up any of the membership forms, let alone consider their applications.
By now, the list of the obvious suspects is already easily identifiable and they should be kept out without any consideration until and unless the investigating bodies clear them.
With these lawmakers and leaders abandoning Umno, it will allow new blood to take over and if they have a bit more sense than their predecessors, they will realise that if Umno persists in its current form, it will eventually be written off.
And if the new batch are those without baggage, they should rebrand, rehabilitate and start practising to be an effective Opposition. Who knows, they may still find a way to relevancy, though it may be a long, lonely and arduous road. That is their story to write.
For now, it is Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan’s story of dealing with the din and the crowd, the conjectures and manoeuvrings, the opportunists and the rogues, backstabbers and glory seekers, and the list is definitely unexhaustive.
They, however, colour the nation’s political landscape and definitely a story worth telling. The conclusion has yet to be written though.