SEMENYIH, Feb 14 — PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali has defended Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to absorb seven ex-Umno MPs as a necessary move to reach out to rural Malay constituents.
He said he found Dr Mahathir’s detailed explanation and justification for accepting the seven into his party on Tuesday to be acceptable, adding that now it remains for Pakatan Harapan (PH) to move forward.
“They (the MPs) have a role to play by going down to the ground to explain to Umno grassroots members as to why they should leave the party,” Azmin said following PH’s announcement of its Semenyih by-election candidate.
He added that this is because PKR and DAP as multiracial parties may not necessarily have full access to Malay areas.
“We cannot penetrate such areas, especially the rural ones. Only Umno MPs can do that.
“Bear in mind their entry into PPBM is for no other reason than this. They have to explain to those in the Malay heartlands about the need to reform the entire system and support Tun Dr Mahathir’s leadership,” Azmin said.
In contrast, PKR vice-president and Tanjung Malim MP Chang Lih Kang earlier this week decried the decision, describing it as a betrayal of the rakyat.
He added that he was disappointed Dr Mahathir had gone back on his earlier promise to not accept Umno defectors into any PH component parties.
Claiming the seven lawmakers joined PPBM out of opportunism, Chang urged all PH component parties to not take in former BN MPs as it negatively reflected on the ruling government’s image.
The seven Umno MPs who are now PPBM members are Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin (Larut), Datuk Shabudin Yahaya (Tasek Gelugor), Datuk Abdul Latiff Ahmad (Mersing), Datuk Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh (Sabak Bernam), Datuk Seri Ikhmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (Tanah Merah), Datuk Rosol Wahid (Hulu Terengganu) and Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin (Masjid Tanah).
Two other former Umno members had also previously joined PPBM — Jeli MP Mustapa Mohamed and Bagan Serai MP Datuk Noor Azmi Ghazali — bringing the total number of PPBM MPs to 22.
PPBM had 13 Parliamentarians after winning the May 9 general election last year.