Umno leaves withdrawal threat hanging over Perikatan until general assembly, Bersatu also stalls decision

Radzi Razak
·3-min read
The Umno logo is pictured at Menara Dato’ Onn in Kuala Lumpur January 6, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
The Umno logo is pictured at Menara Dato’ Onn in Kuala Lumpur January 6, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Umno’s expected decision last night to cut ties with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia failed to materialise and the party instead said it would determine the matter during its annual assembly later this month.

Umno built up heavy anticipation for its supreme council meeting last night after purporting that 189 of its divisions favoured ending co-operation with Bersatu but journalists who waited hours for a promised press conference were left only with a noncommital statement about the matter.

Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan said in the statement that the cooperation with Bersatu would be on the agenda when the party holds its 2020 annual assembly that was postponed from November last year due to the persisting Covid-19 pandemic.

“The (supreme council) meeting agreed to bring the motions to the Umno General Assembly on January 31, 2021 to be debated and decided at the highest party level,” he said.

Aside from the divisions’ call to end ties with Bersatu, other motions highlighted included the call to preserve links with PAS through Muafakat Nasional given their 22 months of partnership, and the push for a premature general election in the first quarter if the Covid-19 situation allows for one.

The meeting, which lasted for three hours, had been under intense press scrutiny following Umno’s apparent hostility towards Bersatu as well as party leaders seen as aligned with the nominal ally in Perikatan Nasional.

On Tueday, Umno unilaterally removed Tan Sri Annuar Musa — the party’s former secretary-general— as the Barisan Nasional (BN) secretary-general in an abrupt shake-up of the coalition.

Yesterday, Annuar retaliated by launching a scathing attack against Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, accusing the latter of colluding with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and DAP.

This led to an indirect exchange with former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak in which Annuar appeared to authenticate a previously leaked letter from Ahmad Zahid to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong from October last year, in which Ahmad Zahid said some BN lawmakers no longer supported Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the prime minister.

However, Annuar also alleged that Ahmad Zahid was acting independently of the Umno supreme council, the party’s ultimate decision-making body.

Separately at its headquarters in Petaling Jaya last night, Bersatu also convened a meeting of its own supreme council that saw the attendance of president Muhyiddin and other party leaders such as Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

As with the Umno meeting, however, the press gathered outside the Bersatu headquarters were told by departing leaders that no decision would be annonuced and that an official statement would be released today.

After a lull at the end of last year, Umno has again begun pushing for an early general election in the belief that the party could regain control of the federal government, which it lost in the 2018 general election.

While Pakatan Harapan was ousted as the federal government in February last year, the younger and smaller Bersatu emerged the pre-eminent political force in the federal administration, relegating Umno to a supporting role that has chafed its leaders and members.

Umno’s political manoeuvres even as Malaysia continues to report new record Covid-19 numbers have triggered fears that the country could be forced into a potentially calamitous general election alongside the pandemic.

Malaysia has been engulfed by a third wave of Covid-19 infections linked to the Sabah state election last September that sent the country’s cumulative cases from 10,000 to over 120,000 in just three months.