He paints Umno as self-interested and plagued with corrupt leaders.
Leaders of Perikatan Nasional parties yesterday made their case to Malacca voters on why the coalition is the right choice, with the coalition’s chairperson Muhyiddin Yassin dedicating most of his time slamming Umno.
The tone of Muhyiddin’s speech, delivered online amid the physical campaign restrictions due to Covid-19, indicated that PN views BN as its main challenge, compared to Pakatan Harapan.
While Muhyiddin did attack Harapan, stating that its struggle was not consistent with the struggle of Malays and Muslims, he spent more time roasting Umno, particularly a group of leaders within the Malay party that are facing various graft charges.
He painted Umno as a party that put its self-interest over the people during the Covid-19 pandemic, referring to the Perak coup in December 2020, the federal coup in August and now the Malacca crisis last month that sparked the fresh polls.
“PN and I are aware that the people don’t want an election (during the pandemic). Not only that, they are angry with what happened,” he said.
Drawing parallels to the Malacca crisis, the Bersatu president, who served as the prime minister from March 2020 until August 2021, when Umno moved against him, said he too could have dissolved Parliament, but he chose not to do so due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“According to the constitutional provisions, I could have asked the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament to pave way for fresh polls to elect a new government.
“But I was aware that I must be responsible to the nation, which at the time was not only facing the problem of the Covid-19 pandemic but the vaccination process was also only just starting,” he said.
“That was why I thought that it would be better that I just resigned and the constitutional process was to find a replacement (for the prime minister),” Muhyiddin added.
The Malacca crisis was sparked on Oct 4 when two Umno assemblypersons, one Umno and one independent who was formerly from DAP, withdrew support for the state government led by Umno’s Sulaiman Md Ali.
Sulaiman, in an attempt to thwart Umno’s Idris Haron, who led the group of four to form a new government with Pakatan Harapan, sought the dissolution of the state assembly, paving the way for the fresh polls.
‘I could have done the same’
Muhyiddin criticised Umno for politicking despite the concessions he has made. For example, he said, Umno was initially supposed to be led by Bersatu but he relented after Umno demanded the top spot.
Likewise, he said, it was agreed that Bersatu deputy president Ahmad Faizal Azumu was supposed to remain as the Perak menteri besar but Umno in December 2020 mounted a coup, replacing him with the party’s Saarani Mohamad.
Muhyiddin said he could have done the same to Umno in Johor.
“In Johor, Bersatu has 14 assemblypersons. Umno and MIC have 15. Together they make up 29. Harapan has 27. That’s only a two-seat majority.
“I could have acted the same in Johor. It only takes two assemblypersons to withdraw and the Johor government will then collapse.
“But we’re not going to do something foolish and ill-intended that could cause the same problem in Johor,” he said.
Muhyiddin also positioned himself and PN as willing to make sacrifices for the public interest.
Noting the move by 15 Umno MPs to oust him as the prime minister in August, Muhyiddin said this was not the first time he had such an experience, pointing out that he was also sacked as the deputy prime minister in 2015 when he spoke up on the 1MDB scandal.
“Today it has been proven. The English saying is ‘vindication’. The matter is now in court. I do not want to go further into it due to contempt of court but what is clear is that it happened when I was the deputy prime minister.
“I know that it was a major issue and if I had not spoken up, it would have been a disaster for the country. It involved tens of billions of ringgit in losses,” Muhyiddin said, noting that then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s younger brother, Nazir Abdul Razak, has also recently written about the issue.
Najib, who is the Pekan MP and leads the BN, was defeated in the 2018 general election amid the 1MDB scandal. He was among the 15 MPs who moved against Muhyiddin.
Muhyiddin said after he was sacked in 2015, he went on to form Bersatu to challenge Najib, stressing that it was him, not former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who set up the party.
Muhyiddin said he cooperated with Harapan at the time because alliances were needed to challenge Najib, but he felt uncomfortable after winning and forming the government with Harapan.
Bersatu won’t survive with Harapan
“It was difficult for me to have peace of mind due to the demands and style of governance in Harapan, which I found to be not in line with the Malay and Muslim as well as Malaysian struggle.
“I said if I stayed there any longer, in the next general election, we will be history. We lost by-elections after by-elections because Malays saw that the alliance Bersatu was in was not in line with the Malay community and our struggle,” he said.
However, Muhyiddin said, Harapan prime minister Mahathir, who was also the Bersatu chairperson at the time, had refused to cooperate with Umno to form a new government without Harapan.
“We went to his (Mahathir’s) house with the statutory declarations. 131 MPs were prepared to support him but he rejected,” he said.
Muhyiddin said this prompted him to take charge and become the next prime minister.
Muhyiddin reiterated as prime minister, a certain group in Umno had demanded that he interfere in court cases.
“There was this court cluster, which the general public already knows about… I was not prepared to sacrifice my principles for political purposes and that was why I was ousted – and again Umno was behind it,” he said.
In order to prevent Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Harapan from coming into power, Muhyiddin said he was willing to instruct his party to back Umno’s Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the new prime minister, which was also supported by the 15 Umno MPs to oust Muhyiddin.
“I was ousted and Umno was installed, I don’t know if it was a mistake but the same thing has happened in Malacca,” he said.
Muhyiddin said he recounted the events to emphasise that BN’s time was over, stressing that PN would uphold the principles against abuse of power and prevent rampant corruption.
“A certain group would be just left alone,” he said in an apparent reference to the court cluster, a nickname for Umno leaders facing graft charges.
The major coalitions, BN, PN and Harapan, are contesting against one another in all 28 seats in Malacca.
Campaigning began on Nov 8 and Malaccans will decide on their new state government on Nov 20.