pic by BERNAMA
IF THERE’S anything to the planned unification between Umno and PAS, set to be inked on a charter this Saturday, it will add to the conundrum of the nation’s ethnic relations.
It may seem to be a straightforward political agenda; the merger or rather, the cooperation between two leading political parties in the country bound by one common denomination — they are Malay Muslims.
Hence, the unity being dubbed Perpaduan Ummah, simply translated to be unity of the people, but the word ummah is Arabic, giving it more than a tinge of Islamic flavour.
The choice of the word Ummah has been contested as it is perceived to lack inclusivity with the rest of Malaysians, but the flip side is adamant of sticking to it.
Regardless what the final choice of word to be used in the unity move, the fact remains that the whole exercise is about to establish the single-largest bloc of Malay Muslim political body.
The basis of the move to establish unity between the two leading Malay-based parties is to check on the growing influence of the non-Malay party, namely the DAP, and this is largely due to the weakness of the Malay-based parties within the government, namely Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Amanah Negara.
Bersatu is a splinter of Umno while Amanah is PAS’s.
The chairman of Bersatu, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the prime minister while Amanah’s president Mohamad Sabu is defence minister.
Dr Mahathir too had, prior to this, spoken of the need for the Malays to unite especially since the community is now divided into six factions and had invited all Malays-based parties to join Bersatu.
Some from Umno had derided his invitation saying that it came from a desperate Malay leader who was facing a problem in holding up the Malay and Bumiputera agenda against the might of the non-Malay partners in the government who held significantly more seats than Bersatu and Amanah combined.
It may be true but if that is their reason to dismiss the invitation, then obviously defending the interest of the Malays is not the main reason, as logic would have seen them scrambling to take up the invitation.
Dr Mahathir and Bersatu is in the government and if they had agreed to join him, then they will be part of the ruling party and directly boost the numbers significantly.
Then the issue of Malay parties in the government lacking in bargaining power will be conclusively resolved.
Obviously, if there is any unity to be realised, it must be through them and no one else even if their unity will only make them a political force that will have to go through the test of the next general election and only if they manage to wrest the rule, can they prove their capability in serving the community better.
Otherwise, they will continue to be in the opposition and continue to use racial and religious sentiments to hold on to their captive audience.
Or they may get wise and change their approach and opt for a more inclusive and less belligerent approach in pursuing their cause for the race and religion.
If they again care to reflect on what occurred prior to the 14th General Election and what were the dynamics that led to Umno’s downfall, they would realise that it was never the original intent.
Bersatu was never in the equation. All that Dr Mahathir and other like-minded then Umno leaders and supporters wanted was for Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and those involved in the plundering of the nation to step down.
If the current crop of Umno leaders and supporters had heeded the call and removed Najib and his ilk, Bersatu would not have materialised, Dr Mahathir would still be the critical retiree on the sidelines.
Instead, Umno chose to stand by Najib and their choice proved to be wrong. If they had been concerned about the Malay plight then, they would have accepted the fact that Najib and his ilk had dragged the party into the mud and the people, regardless whether they were Umno supporters or not, had spoken.
In the early stages, while reeling from the devastating defeat, some of the Umno leaders did publicly admit of being taken up by their own propaganda, and that the 1Malaysian Development Bhd scandal did happen and scandalised the party.
The sense of guilt seems to be fast vanishing despite horrendous details of how the scandal was committed and it was done by the very leaders who today are re-styling themselves as the protectors of Malay and Islam.
And their supporters chose to ignore the fact that they committed these acts without any regards for the Malays and Islam and abetted by nonMalay and non-Malaysians as their partners in crime.
Hence, if the current purveyors of Malay and Muslim unity are not careful, they will end up as contrivance to whitewash the crimes of their leaders who had no other recourse other than using the race-religious cards for survival.
A simple decision of removing those who had scandalised and led the party to its downfall, would probably be a good start on the efforts to realise Malay unity.
Instead of rejecting them, they seemed to be given a wide berth in determining the direction of the party and in some instances, adulated, incomprehensible as it may be.
Umno is still asleep and to paraphrase the Bard — they found meaning in their snores.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.