It is official! The two largest Malay-based political parties in the country have put pen to paper to work together for the foreseeable future (up till the next general election, at least). This PAS-UMNO charter signing happened over the course of the Himpunan Penyatuan Ummah at the UMNO Headquarters in PWTC on the 13th and 14th September 2019. Thousands of party members and supporters witnessed this momentous event upon the address by both UMNO and PAS party presidents, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.
Prior to the assembly, Datuk Zahid stressed that the charter was similar to the Charter of Medina and would benefit ALL Malaysians, amid criticism from many that this pact was designed to serve the interest of certain groups. And other news outlets reported that this charter was a case of “foes-turned-friends”. However, history dictates that this is far from the reality.
PAS was first initiated by UMNO religious scholars in 1950 to fill the lacuna of Islamic values present in UMNO. They did so by organising religious assemblies which gave birth to Persatuan Ulama Se-Malaya. Persatuan Ulama Se-Malaya was then renamed to what we know today as Parti Islam Se-Malaya (PAS). Oh yes, PAS was inadvertently a creation of UMNO. Their relationship however, did not end there.
In the 1969 General Election, the Alliance Party (now known as Barisan Nasional) had for the first time lost a two-third majority in the Parliament. Soon followed a black day in our beloved country’s history, 13th May 1969, where many lives were lost due to the racial riots. UMNO and PAS joined hands for the first time in January 1972 citing the importance of unity among the Malays requires the cooperation of both Malay-based political parties.
Reviewing the present charter between UMNO and PAS, nothing much has changed as one could be easily forgiven to have the opinion that all these are just for the sake of regaining political superiority. One could even summarise the relationship of both the parties to be akin of two brothers who seem to be at odds with each other, only to have each other’s backs when times get tough. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and the common enemy here would unquestionably be the present Pakatan Harapan government.
So how did the government react to this charter signing between BN and PAS?
Pakatan Harapan leaders have criticised the pact as elaborate scheme to advocate Malay-centric interests and stir racial tensions in this country. Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad downplayed the whole pact stating that this all essentially boils down to race and religion, which many would agree is not a sign of progressive politics.
Both parties seem to be pointing fingers, meaning none are taking the higher ground. UMNOxPAS made it clear since the singing that the racial divide has become more vocal since the last election and PH have openly stressed the niche demographic the Charter appeals to. MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Kia Siong expressed UMNO’s responsibility in abiding by the Federal Constitution when it came to protecting the rights of all skin colours and religions.
However, if there’s a lesson to be learned from the fall of the previous government, it is that blatant ignorance may spell doom. The government should not be underestimating this UMNO-PAS coalition, as the coalition, like mentioned above, clearly has history on their side. If the government does not take this seriously, as the saying goes, ‘history repeats itself’. The author is of the opinion that we are in store for some of the most intense, critical and maybe ugly politics the country has ever witnessed, wherein an inexperienced government has to run (or perhaps fix) a country while looking over their shoulders for the hounds of the past leaders, who are observing every step taken and plotting their master plan to reclaim their throne. Buckle up rakyat!