Race to the bottom: Politics of the Umno-PAS charter

P Ramasamy

11 Sep 2019, 2:28 am

Updated a year ago


ADUN SPEAKS | There could have been some form of limited electoral cooperation between Umno and PAS before the last general election.

But nothing was formalised.

Following the Pakatan Harapan victory in the 14th general election, Umno and PAS cooperated well to defeat Harapan in few by-elections, emboldening both that there could be merit in future political cooperation.

There was a realisation that Umno, armed with race, and PAS, armed with religion, could constitute a near-perfect combination to challenge Harapan.

Thus, entering into a formal political bond was a matter of time as the political situation became increasingly focused on race and religion to the detriment of economic and developmental issues.

The victories in the by-elections for Umno and PAS were important in the sense that these stopped members from thinking of abandoning their parties for greener pastures in the Harapan coalition.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who expected a mass exodus from Umno to Bersatu, might have been disappointed.

Bersatu being the weakest coalition partner in Harapan, the victory in the general election did not automatically ensure its magnetic allure.

The signing of the political charter between Umno and PAS might represent an important milestone for both.

Having been arch political enemies for the greater part of the post-independence era, the very act of Umno and PAS coming together might be a new phase in the evolution of Malaysian politics.

The signing of the charter is not a political amalgamation of the two parties into one entity; amalgamation might be a long way away or might not happen.

Although both the parties, with different sets of ideologies, have come together for the sole reason of opposing Harapan, their inner differences might be hidden for some time.

Even if the desperate Umno wants to merge with PAS, I seriously doubt that PAS would want to merge with Umno, considering Umno’s history of corruption and abuse of power.

PAS is no embodiment of virtue, either.

The party's universalistic notion of Islam free from the encumbrances of race and nationalism, has been long abandoned under its present leadership.

The primacy of PAS in electoral politics has meant that the party has no qualms in using race and religion for short term results.

Increasing attacks on DAP by PAS

The increasing attacks of PAS leaders against the DAP is an example of the narrow sectarian pursuits meant to attract Malay-Muslim support.

It is well and good for Umno to be credited for opposing the Malayan Union and being the dominant partner in negotiating the political independence of this country.

Beyond the above, the party has been a disappointment to all Malaysians.

By using race and religion interchangeably over decades, it failed to foist a common identity, albeit with differences, for the progress of the nation as a whole.

Its terrible electoral defeat in the last general election has not meant anything or lessons to be learned in moving forward.

Unfortunately, the election debacle has been attributed to the non-effective use of race and religion in gaining support.

This time around, Umno has returned to seek vengeance with a more diabolical use of race and religion to gain political power.

It is obvious that Umno needs PAS more than the latter needs the former.

Umno leaders might be masters in the use and manipulation of race, but they need PAS to complement them from the religious or Islamic angle.

Unfortunately, this race to the bottom might spell disaster for Malaysians, irrespective of their race and religion, who are keen on nation-building and development.

In the past 60 years, both these parties harped on race and religion to the detriment of the wellbeing and welfare of the nation.

There is a fear that the future will not be any different.

The unfortunate part is that the race and religious rhetoric of Umno and PAS might infect others, if it has not already infected them.

How Harapan is going to surmount this challenge of race and religion remains to be seen. Or are we all together in this tragic race to the bottom?

P RAMASAMY is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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