An UMNO – PAS coalition and its impact on all of us

A coalition between UMNO and PAS is very likely to take shape following Prime Minister Najib Razak’s speech at UMNO General Assembly recently, as well as Najib and Hadi Awang’s joint appearance in pink Baju Melayu at the Regional Conference (Multaqa Serantau) for Al-Azhar Graduates yesterday.

The UMNO-PAS merger is part of a series of “once-in-a-generation” political earthquakes, aftershocks and realignments in 2015 and beyond.

On the one hand, in the aftermath of clean sweep of the conservative faction at the PAS Muktamar elections on 6 June, the progressives formed Parti Amanah Negara on 16 September. Pakatan Rakyat ceased to exist and a new coalition Pakatan Harapan was formed on 22 September.

Before the actual split, internal debate within PAS was focused on two issues:

1) Whether Islam is for the well-being of all or merely for Muslims; and 2) Whether to work with a corrupt UMNO or to work with other progressive parties opposing UMNO’s rule.

On the other hand, Najib suffered irreparable loss of credibility as a result of the series of scandals involving the RM2.6 billion donation, 1MDB, poor management of the economy and the GST fiasco. An UMNO-led by Najib is a Titanic on the way to doom.

In the course of that journey, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked for sticking his neck out to question the integrity of Najib. And the chairs on the deck of the Titanic were reshuffled.

More realignment is expected to happen.

First, despite Najib’s hold on UMNO leaders, the same cannot be said about UMNO grassroots. For Muhyiddin and others who were sidelined by Najib, it’s the end of the road within UMNO but there is a huge space outside UMNO as millions of Malaysians, especially Malay voters, are upset with Najib and the party he led over corruption and poor management of the economy.

Second, many in PAS joined PAS because they were opposed to UMNO, especially those who joined PAS in the aftermath of Anwar’s sacking in 1998. They won’t be part of a PAS that is aligned to Najib’s UMNO when UMNO is devoid of any public trust and integrity at all. To many PAS members, UMNO is still lacking in its Islamic credentials. Therefore, there is a likelihood of a second split in PAS.

The only weapon in the arsenal of Najib’s UMNO and Hadi’s PAS is their narrowly defined race and religion sentiments. Everyone else – Muhyiddin’s camp, those among the second exodus of PAS, PKR, Amanah and DAP – would have to build a platform offering hope, unity and a new economic deal.

And that new economic deal has to convince Malaysians, especially ordinary Malays, that UMNO is holding on to power in the name of Malays but for the interests of its cronies only, and that UMNO cronies are indeed hurting the economic interests of ordinary Malays.

With the falling ringgit, oil prices, palm oil prices, and endless scandals involving the Prime Minister, the anger on the ground is building up. The Titanic called UMNO will soon hit the proverbial iceberg, taking Passenger PAS along with it. Even UMNO and PAS members realise this potential disaster.

As for MCA’s Liow Tiong Lai and Wee Ka Seong – who are trying hard to make themselves sound relevant – they should know that in the eyes of Malaysians, they are just a bunch of jokers caught in the big wave.  Soon, they will be submerged in the waters as they had no clue of what’s going on in the larger scheme of things.

This is not the time to show off political rhetoric. It’s time to face the great challenge of getting Malaysia out of this horrible political quagmire.

(Media statement by DAP National Political Education Director and Johor Chairman Liew Chin Tong on 19th December 2015 in Johor.)

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