KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — Once considered a virtual extension of Umno but increasingly ignored since Election 2013, Perkasa today warned the party that it risked being usurped by the Malay rights group if it fails to uphold the Bumiputera agenda.
Speaking at its fourth annual general assembly here, Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali suggested that Umno is showing signs of weaknesses and becoming “toothless” in its fight to protect Malay interests.
The former Pasir Mas lawmaker also appeared to bare his fangs at Umno, saying that Perkasa was prepared to adopt an adversarial role in the 14th general election should the Malay lynchpin of Barisan Nasional (BN) fail to deliver on the Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Agenda.
“If Umno appears exhausted, tired and toothless, come on then, we Perkasa can take up your place,” Ibrahim said to roars from the 500 delegates in attendance today.
With a claimed membership of 500,000 since its formation in 2008, Ibrahim said Perkasa has become the biggest non-political Malay group in the country, surpassing other non-governmental organisations representing the ethnic majority.
He said its strength was growing by the day, and that Perkasa’s clout had contributed to Umno and Barisan Nasional’s (BN) victory in the 13th general election.
“It is because of Perkasa that the Malays were united and helped Umno increased nine seats”.
Ibrahim himself failed to secure a Barisan Nasional (BN) ticket to defend his Pasir Mas federal seat in Kelantan and was forced to contest as an independent. His subsequent defeat to PAS’s Nik
Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz was later used by analysts to convey the group’s inability to affect voter sentiments.
Today, Ibrahim said BN had only damaged itself by not openly backing him in Pasir Mas.
“I was sacrificed there, but still, not letting me stand under Umno also did not return the votes to BN,” he said.
“Umno must accept this fact: That without Perkasa, BN cannot win,” he added.
BN had fielded Perkasa deputy president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin as its direct candidate in Shah Alam, Selangor during Election 2013 but he was defeated PAS’s Khalid Samad.
Despite this, Ibrahim said his claim was proven by Umno’s victory in areas where Perkasa’s campaign was most visible.
He said in the fight for Bagan Serai, a federal seat in Perak, Perkasa’s “Malay unity” rally had brought the community together to support Umno, leading to the party regaining the federal constituency and all three state seats within it from the opposition in the May 5 polls.
And where Perkasa least campaigned, like Johor, the federal opposition bloc Pakatan Rakyat had managed to make inroads.
But Ibrahim said Perkasa’s support for Umno did not imply subservience, and that the group’s backing now hinged upon the latter’s success in upholding Malay rights.
“Umno and BN at the moment are the only credible parties that can protect Malay rights... but this does not mean we are its tool. Our support now is conditional”.
Today, Ibrahim also said Perkasa will begin measuring Umno’s key peformance indicators (KPI) in defending the Malay agenda.
“We will ensure retaliation if you implement policies that will ruin the Malays. But if you fulfil your pledge to protect Malay interests than we will return you with support”.
Perkasa began life in 2008 as a one-man pressure group on Malay rights but later grew in numbers and influence after its cause found traction with a largely-Umno audience. The ubiquity of Umno members among its ranks also led to the perception that the group was an indirect outlet for the more conservative elements of the party