The Umno-PAS-Bersatu love triangle, Part 15

NOVEMBER 18 — Malays under threat, a community play brought to you by three equally dysfunctional parties.

The health ministry has not begun to record mental breakdowns due to politics-induced schizophrenia. It probably should. It’s mad for puritanical Malay nationalists these days, they struggle to recognise their heroes anymore.

Melaka state elections are on, and the Malay-first parties — Umno, PAS and Bersatu — are charging at each other in battle.

(Parallelly, it is a challenge and a half to tell Malay-first, Malay-only-matter, Malay-spined, Malay-ish and Malay-lite parties apart in recent times.)

An enemy in Melaka today is the truest of friends in the cause next week. And perhaps enemy again if Johor has a snap election in December.

Unless of course if you are a Class F Bumiputera contractor. Then you are not confused. It’s all tactical. It’s always tactical.

Perikatan Nasional and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) flags are seen waving at Jalan Bachang, Melaka, November 7, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Perikatan Nasional and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) flags are seen waving at Jalan Bachang, Melaka, November 7, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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Melaka votes on Saturday, with Bersatu and PAS — in the guise of Perikatan Nasional — squaring up against Umno — in the regular guise of Barisan Nasional. 

All three form the national government, but are unlikely to form the state government together post-election. Since they oppose each other in the state, and it is the business of opposing each other which brought this election upon Melaka voters.

It would be ludicrous to force an election because they cannot work together, only to then work together because neither coalition has a majority at the end of the said election.

An outcome with a bitter aftertaste. And treats the people like fools, if the exercise brings all back to square one.

Though, it is not unprecedented. The 2020 September Sabah snap election is the case in point. Despite nasty collisions all across the state while campaigning, PN and BN joined hands to form the government. Umno (BN) reluctantly let Bersatu (PN) lead. It remains an uncomfortable Kumbaya.  

Back to Melaka, it is great fortune for all three parties that rallies are not permitted. Not that they matter to the large number of undecideds who’d skip these events dished out for sycophants. But it would harm the three parties if they tore into each other in their speeches. These damages can be irreversible.

Hate gone electronic

Now, they rely on surrogates to prepare nasty memes and posters about the other side, which are then diligently distributed electronically. With colourful narratives.

On how Bersatu is filled with deserters from the true Umno mission, leaving simply because the grand old party lost one general election. Opportunists, as they highlight former Puteri Umno chief and Masjid Tanah heavyweight Mas Ermieyati Shamsudin. She is now Bersatu chief seeking to usurp her former party. Not the only turncoat, as betrayer Idrus Haron adorns Pakatan-PKR colours in the Asahan race — relegated from chief minister to Keadilan instigator.

In the other corner, Umno is an easy prey. Split three ways involving a president pliant to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim when not distracted by court proceedings, a deputy who has no power base but a corporate past and a prime minister who is too close to Bersatu. None among Zahid Hamidi, Mohamad Hasan and Ismail Sabri Yaakob are dominant. All have grouses of being emasculated by circumstances.

Sat in the corridor, PAS hopes no one punches them too hard. The script is similar. PAS strident about Islam when outside power. Now inside government, and jostling for both Umno and Bersatu’s attention, they’ve gone soft on fundamentals — cue Captain Speedy on the Timah whiskey label, dropping the party logo for the first time since 1974 and allowing noticeably liberal candidates from Gerakan.

So, the memes almost design themselves. But the vicious and personal nature of the attacks are special even if not for the faint-hearted. Take an online tour.  

Aftermath

Paid interlopers — these cybertroopers — are immensely useful as the parties can distance themselves from them when necessary.

Or it seems.

As they say, cache is forever.

When the dust settles, a chief minister appointed with still disgruntled assemblymen of various hues, Melaka will begin to take a back seat. However, all the incessant heat which even predates this election and probably will continue after the next state election, raises questions. 

How much longer will the pretend friendship and strategic relationship survive the toxicity of the relationship? And more pertinently, when will voters lose patience with a trio constantly and openly at odds with each other and asking for support on the basis of Malay unity?

How much pride before other minor priorities, like the actual governing of a federation?

So much effort is expended to underline the need for Malay unity by those who cannot allow their respective parties to unify in reasonable terms. They seem to insist there is a gaping wound in which they take turns to pour salt on.

The result, an imaginary problem that never goes away but hurts the same. And remains the conversation however the day progresses, so every day is a drag.

The thing is, they drag the whole country along.

It is a distraction which serves no purpose except to highlight the importance of each party in varying degrees of absurdity.

Kafka cannot compete with them.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

The Umno-PAS-Bersatu love triangle, Part 15