KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Harapan (PH) politicians and their supporters are up in arms after seven defectors from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) were accepted into Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Betsatu Malaysia (PPBM) on Tuesday (Feb 12).
Among those who expressed disappointment was Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh.
“We should be selective in the recruitment of members,” she tweeted on Wednesday.
“Some are just opportunists who want to be part of federal power/government without subscribing to the reforms and principles of good governance by Harapan in the last general elections,” added Ms Yeoh, who is from the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
On Tuesday, Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming, who is also from the DAP, tweeted: “Don’t think PH supporters voted for us to see UMNO 2.0 back in power.”
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Chang Lih Kang said in a statement that he was “appalled” over PPBM’s decision to take in the UMNO Members of Parliament.
“It is even more shocking to see the joyful presence of Tun Dr Mahathir, the chairman of the party, who had firmly stated in May 2018 that Pakatan Harapan will not accept UMNO turncoats into PH parties,” said the Tanjung Malim lawmaker, according to a Malay Mail report.
He said the UMNO defectors did not join PPBM because of principles.
Most of them served in senior positions including a minister and a deputy minister, said Mr Chang, referring to former domestic trade, consumerism and cooperatives minister Hamzah Zainuddin and former deputy tourism minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin.
PH SUPPORTERS CRITICISE PPBM’S MOVE
Some PH supporters took to social media to criticise PPBM’s decision.
“Bersatu is now a recycled centre for UMNO discards … We wanted so badly to believe that Tun M has changed. We were wrong,” wrote Facebook user Anthony Finian Lowe.
Twitter user kptanb wrote: “You can bet the next election on that. PH is on a massive downward spiral! I feel cheated!”
UMNO is in turmoil, with senior figures leaving the party.
On Dec 12, more than a dozen Sabah UMNO lawmakers and state assemblymen quit and pledged their support to the PH government. Two days later, six UMNO lawmakers in the peninsula followed suit.
After days of defying calls by members to resign, UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi handed over his duties to the party’s deputy president Mohamad Hasan on Dec 18.
At that time, some UMNO politicians expressed a desire to join PPBM.
After handing out the PPBM membership documents on Tuesday, Dr Mahathir said the seven UMNO defectors had left UMNO a long time ago and applied to join his party.
“We have reviewed their applications and accepted them, but they will only join as normal members and it does not give them any protection from past wrongdoings,” he added, according to Malay Mail.
Mr Mohamad of UMNO said on Tuesday that those who joined PPBM will not have any more ties with his party. He said their departure will not affect UMNO’s agenda or its survival.
PPBM now has 22 seats in parliament. PKR and DAP have 50 and 42 seats respectively.
AMANAH ‘NOT WORRIED’
Meanwhile, Amanah – another PH component party - said it is not worried that PPBM has increased its number of seats in parliament.
Amanah president Mohamed Sabu, who is also the Defence Minister, was quoted as saying by The Star that what is important is for PH to strengthen the coalition, particularly in getting the support of Malays in the peninsula.
“We are not worried … So far, I did not hear PH chairman making any promises of posts to them (ex-UMNO leaders),” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Amanah has 11 seats in parliament.