PETALING JAYA,Jan 5: Two Umno leaders have dismissed claims that the party is not strong enough to stand on its own should it go into the next general election on the opposite side of Perikatan Nasional.
Former Supreme Council member Nazri Aziz and Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin both felt that Umno had weathered the storm of allegations and criticisms that it had faced in the 2018 general election campaign.
The party had come through much stronger, they said. In addition, the people were also becoming aware of the failures of the Perikatan Nasional government led by PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin.
Fissures have appeared in the Umno-PPBM relationship in recent months, culminating in 143 of Umno’s 191 divisions saying they rejected further cooperation with PPBM at the next general election, with some saying they only wished to work with PAS, which is PPBM’s partner in Perikatan Nasional.
Nazri said the party doesn’t have to contest alone, so long as PAS wants to work with them.
“We want to work with PAS. Together we’re the two biggest and oldest Malay parties. But if they don’t want to work with us, what can we do? We just go it alone.”
He said PAS had also contested alone many times before, and despite losing, still continued to do so. “So why can’t we?”
He said Umno was in a different position now compared to the 2018 general election, when all sorts of allegations were made against Umno leaders.
“At the time, there were voters who felt we needed to be punished. We were and we’ve learned from this, we’ve become stronger.
“Now, the people are suffering because of the failures of the Pakatan Harapan government and the people aren’t happy with Perikatan Nasional, so what happened in 2018 won’t necessarily apply in the next general election.”
Bung said the rejection of PPBM by Umno’s grassroot members was a message to all that Umno is unhappy.
He said he preferred that Umno doesn’t go it alone as it would be stronger if it worked with other parties. However, “if we have to stand on our own, it will not be like before. Umno is very strong, our grassroots are strong”.
He said Pakatan Harapan campaigned in 2018 with a lot of mistruths and made all sorts of promises but they could not perform. “The people see that Barisan Nasional was actually good. That is why I think we can do better.”
Umno vice-president Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the divisional meetings provided grassroot members a channel to express themselves, and the party leadership would always take their sentiments into account.
“In 2018 there were different issues on the people’s minds. Now there are other issues. Whatever it is, Umno divisions are clear that they do not want to work with PPBM and they can accept PAS. We don’t know what PAS’ grassroots stand is.”