Three things we learnt from: Bersatu’s 2023 AGM

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Yesterday, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia held its annual general meeting (AGM) amid turmoil revolving around its president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s criminal charges.

The former prime minister is facing two charges of money laundering and four charges of corruption connected with the awarding of government contracts while he was in office.

He will today face one more money laundering charge in relation to funds in the Bersatu party account.

Facing these charges, the Pagoh MP had attempted to resign from his party posts but was told to stay by its supreme council.

With his position secure, Muhyiddin has gone all out against his political opponents, lashing out at Umno, the coalition government, and their top two Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as he spoke to the grassroots.

Here are the three top themes Malay Mail observed during the event:

1. Despite court charges, nobody is making a play against Muhyiddin...yet

Muhyiddin has insisted that he is being selectively prosecuted and maintains his innocence, highlighting that he has never before been prosecuted in the five decades of his career.

The party has so far stood behind him with secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Kamal and the supreme council refusing to accept his resignation.

Muhyiddin is seen as the man responsible for Perikatan Nasional's massive wins in Perlis and Kedah during the 15th general election, and is being credited for its rise in popularity among the majority Malay-Muslims who are disenchanted with Umno.

Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is seen as the reason behind big wins in Perlis and Kedah. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is seen as the reason behind big wins in Perlis and Kedah. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is seen as the reason behind big wins in Perlis and Kedah. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

The delegates seemed to feel that the party stands a better chance during the upcoming state elections in six states with Muhyiddin at the helm, despite the rise of former home minister Hamzah who has so far not demonstrated any lack of support for his under-fire president.

In his speech, Muhyiddin said the party was confident of winning several states if it can maintain the rise in support for Bersatu in the general election, including Selangor.

2. Anwar, Zahid get in Bersatu’s crosshairs after snatching Putrajaya away

Bersatu seems to not have forgotten how close they had come to taking power in Putrajaya, which was thwarted after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan Harapan found the support of former enemies Barisan Nasional and its chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

They are now both treated as enemies of Bersatu, with its leadership seeking to galvanise the grassroots amid shakiness from several corruption and money laundering charges against its leaders.

These charges have since been denied, accusing Anwar's government of selective prosecution and the man himself being made the bogeyman, allegedly plotting the demise of PN in order to stem its popularity.

Anwar has been painted as someone who is sidelining the Malays and Bumiputera, all the while conspiring with the ethnic Chinese and Indians. Several affiliate members told Malay Mail that they believed Anwar was targeting Muhyiddin and that the charges were baseless.

“It’s Anwar’s fault. When did Muhyiddin steal that they accused him of stealing so much? The only thing he wants is to be prime minister. That’s his whole story he doesn’t care about anything else,” said one member who wished to remain anonymous.

“Figures are all over but one thing for sure is that these charges are trumped up, no truth so the sooner they get the case over with the better,” said another delegate.

Zahid also did not escape the attacks, with some feeling he has betrayed his Malayness by being in cahoots with Anwar, and is ultimately only out to save his own skin since Zahid himself is facing numerous criminal charges.

3. With bank accounts frozen, Bersatu takes a leaf from PAS’ book with ‘tabung abah’

During the 15th general election, PN was accused of keeping a massive war chest. It was one of the first things that Prime Minister Anwar targeted when he came into power with an allegation that the PN administration had allegedly misappropriated RM600 billion during the pandemic — itself a figure plucked out of thin air by a PN leader himself.

However, any discussion on the size of Bersatu's funds is moot as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had frozen the party’s accounts to facilitate investigations under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

With allegedly no money to turn to, the three-day AGM saw collection plates, tin cans, makeshift boxes and counters as the party seeks voluntary monetary contributions from its grassroots, akin to PN ally PAS’ who is known for its fundraising from supporters in each of its political rallies.

With Bersatu’s AGM, the emcees would every so often ask the delegates and those present to make a small donation to help with Muhyiddin’s legal fees after the president was slapped with a slew of charges.

The moniker “Abah” also found new strength. It was originally used by Muhyiddin during his administration in a bid to portray himself as a father figure (Abah is one of the words for father in Malay), and later in campaigning.

After making a reappearance during the rallies in support of Muhyiddin in court, the nickname dominated the AGM.

Speakers mostly referred to Muhyiddin using the nickname, while supporters could be seen wearing bandanas with the words Abah Tabah (Malay for “Be Strong Daddy”), while the collection boxes were even called “Tabung Hibah Abah”. Hibah is an Arabic term often used to denote contributions, but also carries a religious connotation of something being given freely or voluntarily without any expectations of worldly returns.