Umno-Pribumi Bersatu tension boils up after minister’s remark

KUALA LUMPUR : Tension within the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) has boiled up after a Pribumi Bersatu minister remarked that Umno has “fallen out of favour” among Malaysians, particularly Sabahans.

Umno deputy-youth chief Shahril Hamdan said the remark by Rural Development Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad at a public forum last night was unacceptable.

“Do not test our patience by making it sound like we’re freeloaders who can be mocked according to your whims. Pribumi Bersatu needs to show its sincerity in the current political cooperation,” said Shahril in a statement today.

This was the second time Dr Latiff had openly derided Umno, with the first being recently at a low-key event in his constituency in Mersing, which parliamentary seat he won in the last general election in 2018 (GE14) as an Umno candidate.

Rural Development Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad

He resigned from Umno to join Pribumi Bersatu after the Barisan Nasional’s defeat in that election.

“To describe Umno Sabah as ‘tidak laku’ is a rude and a condescending thing to say. Umno does not need to justify its strength. The result of the Kimanis by-election [where Umno won] speaks volumes of the party’s strength,” Shahril added.

Umno along with the rest of Barisan Nasional (BN) components and PAS agreed to cooperate with Pribumi Bersatu after the latter quit Pakatan Harapan (PH) in late February, effectively collapsing its then-administration of the country.

A new government was sworn in in early March with Pribumi Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as its prime minister, despite Umno having more parliamentary seats than Pribumi Bersatu at 39 and 32, respectively.

Initially, Pribumi Bersatu only won 13 parliamentary seats in GE14, but the number grew because of defections from Umno and PKR.

Brewing rumblings

The tension between the two parties, however, has been brewing even before Dr Latiff’s remarks, especially among Umno members who were against the idea of a long-term electoral pact with Pribumi Bersatu

Several Umno leaders – mostly those who were defeated in GE14 – have also reminded the party’s upper echelons that they should not play second fiddle to Pribumi Bersatu.

This was after Muhyiddin was endorsed by Umno and Pas as prime minister candidate in the next general election.

One of the leaders who voiced his objection was former supreme council member Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

“In politics, second fiddle refers to those who are weak and expendable. A dilemma affecting many political parties these days. Must those who have the most numbers be contented in playing second fiddle?” asked Shabery on Facebook yesterday.

Despite the supposed endorsement of Muhyiddin, nothing concrete over matters concerning seat allocations between Pribumi Bersatu, Umno and Pas have been announced.

Former Pribumi Bersatu leader Dr Maszlee Malik said the current scenario within PN was not surprising.

Maszlee expressed his belief that Umno will “double-cross” Pribumi Bersatu given how the former will unlikely give up its strongholds for the sake of PN’s interests in the next election.

To the unfamiliar, 20 of 32 existing parliamentary seats of Pribumi Bersatu were for constituencies known to be Umno’s strongholds before GE14.

“Umno has never announced that they will contest in the next election through the Perikatan Nasional (PN) front. Pribumi Bersatu will be sidelined, its leaders have sacrificed the party’s clout just to support an individual’s interest,” read Maszlee’s statement yesterday.

By : Zaidi Azmi – THE MOLE

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