Mixed feelings over Anwar at assembly

PETALING JAYA: The Umno grassroots have mixed feelings about having Pakatan Harapan leaders at their general assembly next week, with many saying that they are still confused about the party’s relationship with their former rivals.

Division leaders said members are still wary of Pakatan parties PKR, DAP and Amanah, despite the fact that Umno’s top leaders have been working with them in government for the past seven months.

Political analysts, meanwhile, believe that the presence of Anwar and Pakatan leaders is a message to the party’s rank-and-file that its leadership wants to end the enmity between the Barisan Nasional coalition, which Umno leads, and Pakatan.

As partners in the unity government, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and leaders from the DAP have been invited to attend the Umno AGM on June 9, which is a first in Umno’s history.

Umno grassroots leaders told The Star that feedback from the ground showed that ordinary members are still confused about the Malay party’s role in the unity government.“The party members at Sungai Buloh are very unclear of the cooperation of the unity government at the grassroots and what it entails, especially going into the state elections,” said Sungai Buloh Umno division committee member Rahman Husin.

“The top leaders need to put in more effort in explaining Umno’s role in the unity government so that we are clear on the party’s direction,” he said.

Kapar division Umno youth chief Affifi Aris said the top leaders must address the confusion among the grassroots as the party has always been a dominant player in any government.

“We understand and accept the formation of the unity government as requested by the King, but the new political pact was an agreement between our leaders so there should be an explanation for the grassroots.”

The confusion stems from the fact that in 2021, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi declared that the party will not work with DAP, Anwar or Bersatu in the 15th General Election last year.

Umno Youth chief Dr Akmal Saleh wants the assembly to be a private affair so that the grassroots and leaders can air their concerns openly.

“Let us focus on what happened in the last general election and allow members to say whatever they want,” he said.

Datuk Nik Dir Nik Wan Ku, a division leader from Terengganu, said despite misgivings about the unity government, his members are more focused on taking back the state from Perikatan Nasional.

“I cannot deny there are people who are not satisfied with the unity government but in Terengganu we are more focused on toppling the current state government,” said Nik Dir, who is also Terengganu Umno information chief.

Umno Shah Alam division chief Datuk Azhari Shaari said it is normal for the grassroots to feel cautious about the unity government.

“There should be more meetings similar to what we had with the Muafakat Nasional alliance, so the grassroots knows that it is a genuine political pact.”

Universiti Sains Malaysia political scientist Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said should the Prime Minister attend the assembly, it would dispel talk of “difficult ties” between Barisan and Pakatan.

“The invite also sends a strong message to Umno delegates that the top leaders want to end all their differences.

“Anwar’s presence at the assembly will also provide assurances to Umno members that he wants to work closely with them and that he has no intention of sidelining the party,” Sivamurugan said.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said the invitation showed that Umno was willing to mend ties not only with PKR, the party that Anwar leads, but also DAP.

The DAP, a multiracial, Chinese-dominated party used to be bogeyman for Umno in previous general elections.

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