KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — Like it or not, race-based political parties will remain the mainstay in Malaysia’s foreseeable future, according to young politician Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
Two generations on, the 25-year-old Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) Youth chief attributed this orientation to the country’s multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural values, which he believes are entrenched in the country’s rural and even suburban constituencies.
“In order for change to happen, you have to be pragmatic and you would need a middle ground to ensure parties like PPBM in a coalition like Pakatan Harapan can break through Umno fortresses,” he told Malay Mail in an exclusive interview.
“You cannot just look at PPBM as a party, but have to look at it as a component in Pakatan Harapan (PH),” he added.
And though he said he is committed to a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia, Syed Saddiq said he chose to join PPBM because he believes neither PKR nor the DAP — the senior parties in PH — can wrest victory from Umno.
Basing his argument on grassroots surveys in 20 constituencies, he said the results showed 70 per cent of voters in Umno strongholds chose representatives who were either Malay or Muslim.
“For example in 2013, Malay support dwindled, especially in rural areas. The Opposition had gained nine additional seats, but PKR and PAS lost eight seats, where they lost more in Malay areas and Umno had gained eight seats.
“This shows that you need to beat Umno where they are strongest and PPBM will do that job. It is a very risky move. We can be wiped out, or we can succeed and succeed big,” he said.
While he disagrees with parties that cater to the far right or to the far left, he insists race-based parties can play certain roles as a component within their respective political alliances.
Making his case, he contrasted his pact with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the PAS-led Gagasan Sejahtera, saying the “PKR-DAP-PPBM-Amanah coalition has a unique power sharing deal, where we cannot overpower one another” unlike the other two which were overshadowed by one political party.
Syed Saddiq also insisted that his party is different from the Malay nationalist Umno and the Islamist PAS because PPBM represents the interests of multi-racial, multi-religious and diverse Malaysia, despite being borne from Umno.
“Our constitution is vastly different than Umno, whereby we have explicit provisions to ensure that money politics cannot have a strong place in our party.
“We would also slowly and gradually raise a more multiracial agenda. We have members who are non-Bumis and non-Muslims holding leadership positions in PPBM,” said Syed Saddiq, adding that non-Bumiputera associate members can be appointed to leadership positions.
He said non-Bumiputera makes up roughly five per cent of the estimated 200,000 PPBM membership.
“Some of those who hold a position includes Murali, who is the Youth executive committee member, Lim Lei Huat as Pagoh coordinator there are more across the country,” he claimed.
Syed Saddiq said it is crucial to note that PPBM intends to return back power to the people, representing the genuine interest of the Malay community in forming the Malaysian agenda.
“As a coalition, we act as a unique partner because we will ensure that we break through Umno fortresses where they have never lost at before, allowing us to get to Putrajaya and return the power back to the people,” he said.
PPBM was founded on September 8, 2016. Its organisational structure is modelled after Umno.
The Registrar of Societies has, however, provisionally suspended PPBM for allegedly not following society rules.