A divided Bersatu

The cracks are becoming more apparent now and no one can really ascertain what is in store for the party now

pic by TMR FILE

THE historical beginning of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia almost four years ago seems like a distant memory now.

The party, initiated with the aim to “free Malaysia from kleptocratic government”, is now split into two major factions — Team Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Team Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

One has to admit that a lot has happened since the party’s successful inception in September 2016.

The path was laden with challenges from the start, including its run-in with the Registrar of Society (RoS). Less than four years ago, the party members were even barred to use the word “Bersatu” to represent the party, or they could face action by the RoS.

Still, the party marched on to now remain as one of the influential political parties in Malaysia — despite holding smaller parliamentary seats compared to its peers, be it from the ruling coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) or the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH).

Alongside Dr Mahathir was Muhyiddin, who was expelled from Umno and sacked from the deputy prime minister (DPM) post for his outspokenness against 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Initially, not many were convinced that Bersatu would have a massive impact on the nation’s political landscape, as apart from those two prominent leaders, the other senior figure in the party was the late Tan Sri Sanusi Junid.

Many doubted that it would appeal to the public. Novices Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman were viewed as a little too green to face political giants who are part of Barisan Nasional.

Negativity and criticism piled up against Bersatu and some even feared that it would be just another Umno or a splinter party like the defunct Semangat 46.

Muhyiddin had reportedly said the party’s objective was “to fight for the rights of all people, equally”.

He had also said Bersatu aimed to “create a government that is clean, trustworthy, with integrity”, on top of promising the reform of institutions and cleaning up corruption in Malaysia.

It took Bersatu six months to officially join PH in March 2017, working hand in hand with former political foes (at that time) to achieve its mission and the rest is history.

So, what is going on today? Where is Bersatu heading to? Has it deviated from its original objectives?

Simpang Renggam MP Dr Maszlee Malik — from Dr Mahathir’s camp, or loosely termed as the Bersatu rebels — posed these questions recently.

The party members were told that leaving PH was done to strengthen the party — a decision, according to some, made due to Bersatu’s humiliating defeat in the Tanjung Piai by-election.

However, it is not lost on the people’s eyes that the party had also lost two states, Johor and Kedah, in the process.

Some disgruntled division leaders claimed that they were being sidelined by bigger parties in PN.

As of yesterday, Sri Gading MP Datuk Dr Shahruddin Md Salleh, also known to be Muhyiddin’s loyalist, had offered to give up his Cabinet post, if it were meant to strengthen the party.

The cracks are becoming more apparent and perhaps the sacking of Dr Mahathir and his loyalists started to anger more Bersatu members, who hold the party’s chairman in high regard, despite him not being the PM anymore.

“We respect (Tan Sri) Muhyiddin’s wishes and aspirations, but we do not see how Bersatu is stronger now when Tun (Dr Mahathir) is not in the picture,” a division leader told The Malaysian Reserve.

What he wants, if possible, is a reconciliation although he admitted it seems impossible at this juncture.

Dr Mahathir and Bersatu rebels reiterated in a statement yesterday that the party belongs to its members who remain steadfast in its original struggles founded by its slogan “Bersatu, Beramanah, Bermaruah”.

No one can really ascertain what is in store for Bersatu now. As long as it remains in two minds, its political foes and allies will continue to leverage the situation, it seems.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.