Where Bersatu went wrong, according to Umno leaders

Where Bersatu went wrong, according to Umno leaders

Umno’s withdrawal of support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Perikatan Nasional-led government last week was a dramatic move to many observers, but many in Umno were not surprised.

The relationship between Umno and Muhyiddin’s Bersatu has never been smooth since the infamous Sheraton Move led to the formation of the PN administration.

In interviews with FMT, Umno grassroots leaders Shahrir Samad and Wan Agyl Hassan gave their takes on where Bersatu went wrong and what eventually drove their party to quit the government.

Shahrir, who is Johor Bahru Umno chief, said one of the biggest issues was the way the pandemic was handled. Covid-19 cases have breached 20,000 three times now, with a record daily death toll of 360 reported on Aug 8.

Shahrir said the various lockdowns and iterations of movement control orders were crippling the economy.

“Because of the lousy management of the health crisis and the lack of leadership, coupled with mixed messages, the economy, in the end, has been severely affected,” he said. “People are losing their jobs and living without any income.

“It’s a perfect storm, this health crisis and economic crisis, coupled with the government’s failure to understand them.”

He said government aid measures had had minimal effect despite the many packages and “inflated numbers” announced by Muhyiddin’s administration.

“People need fiscal assistance, actual cash inflow. For those who have lost their jobs or can’t go to work, you can’t give them food all the time. Sometimes they need money to pay rent and other things.

“If you can’t find a way for them to work, then you have to give them cash assistance, but this has been very little. Many aid packages have been announced but not everything is direct assistance.”

The lack of sufficient aid from the government eventually led to the White Flag movement, with NGOs, the private sector and ordinary Malaysians stepping in to help the needy.

Shahrir also said many investors had turned to Malaysia’s neighbours.

Wan Agyl, who is the Federal Territories Umno Youth’s information chief, said the party’s grassroots were angered by Bersatu’s theft of MPs from Umno to beef up its numbers.

Of the 31 Bersatu MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, only six won their seats on the Bersatu ticket in 2018. Most of them won the election as members of either Umno or Pakatan Harapan parties other than Bersatu, which was still in the coalition before the Sheraton Move.

Wan Agyl also spoke of what he called a “betrayal” against Umno when Bersatu formalised its cooperation with PAS and other parties. He claimed this was done without Umno’s knowledge.

“Even with Umno supporting the formation of the government under an informal coalition, Bersatu was still not satisfied and went on to officially form PN with PAS. There was no sincerity from Bersatu towards Umno,” he said.

This eventually split Muafakat Nasional, Umno’s alliance with PAS, with the Islamist party now strongly standing by Muhyiddin’s side.

Shahrir criticised the government’s refusal to allow Parliament sittings when the state of emergency was in force.

Describing this as “peculiar and dangerous”, he said the Cabinet’s legitimacy came from Parliament.

Even after the King stated that Parliament could convene during the emergency, Muhyiddin refused to budge, relenting only after the royal statement was repeated.

This was then followed by the constitutional and political crises brought about by the revocation of the emergency ordinances, which prompted cries of “treason” from the opposition.

Shahrir asked why Putrajaya had caused such a big fuss by failing to get the King’s consent before announcing the repeal.

“Why this mismanagement? Why can’t they do it properly? It’s so simple. Who would have objected to the revocation? Nobody.

“Then law minister Takiyuddin Hassan mentioned that they decided on July 21. So was it revoked on July 21? Or will it be revoked the following Monday? Even the King said Takiyuddin had misled Parliament.”

Following the uproar, at least 15 Umno MPs, including party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, withdrew their support for Muhyiddin and the PN government. In urging all Umno MPs to toe the party line, Zahid accused Muhyiddin of committing treason against the King and going against the Federal Constitution.

Shahrir said Muhyiddin’s leadership had been anything but strong in the past 18 months, adding that strength in authority did not simply mean having 200 MPs backing one’s every move.

“It means having the strength to make decisions, to communicate well, to even talk with your opponents. Crises are not the time to argue. But if you have weak leadership, this is what we get,” he said.

Wan Agyl claimed that the nation’s survival would be threatened if PN continued to rule.

“We believe this pandemic can be managed better. At the same time, we need to restore political stability.

“It’s time to make this happen,” he said. FMT

Where Bersatu went wrong, according to Umno leaders

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