KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 ― Umno will become “irrelevant” if it continues pandering to right wing groups such as Perkasa and Isma at the expense of the the growing number of Malaysians with “centrist” views, Sabah Speaker Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak has warned.
Salleh said the influence of conservative groups such as the two is waning, insisting that Umno must adopt a more moderate stance to continue to “stay relevant, and hence stay in power”.
“The extreme right or extreme left no longer make up the majority in Malaysian society. As time goes on we are going to see the centrists outnumbering the extremists. And herein lies Umno’s future.
“Umno ignores this fact at its own peril. The opposition cannot make Umno irrelevant. Only Umno can make itself irrelevant. And this should be what guides the prime minister and not the voice of those who want to see Malaysia return to the pre-1969 era,” the Sabah Umno deputy liaison chief said in a blog posting yesterday titled “Umno’s future is in the centre”.
Earlier in the blog post, Salleh acknowledged the unpopularity that a move towards centrist policies would displease nationalists and Islamists, but said it was unavoidable to secure the Malay-based party’s political future.
He noted that some Malay nationalists believe that Umno’s future lies in the party adopting a “more Malay-centric” stance, while political rival PAS believe that a “more Islam-centric” position would help it snatch Malay support away from Umno.
In a frank analysis, however, Salleh said both the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) are unable to “deliver” the centrist politics that is currently gaining traction worldwide.
In BN, this was due to lynchpin Umno’s desire to shift to the right-wing views, despite its coalition partners preference for more centrist position, Salleh said.
Salleh noted that this dichotomy existed even within Umno, where chairman and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s bid for moderation ran into resistance from more conservative members.
“Hence movements such as Perkasa and Isma are taking centre-stage and have an alarmingly high following,” he added.
In PR, different partners are pushing in opposing directions, Salleh said, citing as examples the recent Selangor Mentri Besar crisis and PAS’s push for the enforcement of the strict Islamic penal code ― hudud ― in Kelantan.