FACT – Umno does not have enough MPs to help PAS push through the controversial bill to enhance shariah punishments.
Fact: Umno cannot afford to alienate its Barisan Nasional partners in the non-Muslim parties and especially Sabah and Sarawak, which are its fixed deposit before the 14th general election.
So why did Umno information chief Annuar Musa offer to help the Islamist party again?
Analysts and opposition politicians say it is a ruse and that Umno’s sincerity is questionable.
“There is no way that Umno will let RUU355 be debated or even put to a vote before the 14th general election (GE14),” said Dr Wong Chin Huat, referring to the Bahasa Malaysia moniker for the bill.
“For it would provoke East Malaysians and add unnecessary risks to the 57 seats (there),” said Wong of the Penang Institute.
The bill seeks to amend the Syariah Court Act 1965 to enhance punishments for shariah offences. Critics said it is a backdoor route to implement the shariah penal code (hudud and qisas).
Umno’s latest offer, made by Annuar, also conflicts with the actions of its other leaders, raising the question as to whether the party is really sincere in helping PAS.
While Annuar, who is a Kelantan Umno leader, was making the offer, his boss in the state committee, Mustapa Mohamed, was busy pulling PAS supporters into Umno, said Hisomuddin Bakar of the Ilham Centre.
Mustapa is spearheading Umno’s campaign to take over Kelantan from PAS, which has ruled it for the past 27 years. The international trade and industry minister is poised to take over as Kelantan menteri besar if Umno wins.
“It only seems that Annuar is interested in helping PAS. Ku Li (Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah) is not interested,” said Hisomuddin.
“Mustapa, on the other hand, is accepting PAS members into Umno and angering the Kelantan PAS Youth chief.’
Wong said Mustapa and Annuar do not appear to be on the same page when it comes to the party’s strategy to take over Kelantan.
“If Umno captures Kelantan, Mustapa is most likely the MB candidate.
“Closer cooperation with PAS will not help him win Kelantan or reshape it after winning. That olive branch coming from Annuar raises questions about his motive and credibility.”
Dividing the opposition
RUU 355 was originally a PAS private member’s bill before Umno leaders said they will take it over and table it as a government bill.
Following protests from its BN component partners, Umno abandoned the plan and left it to PAS to table it as a private member’s bill.
The bill was tabled in the April parliamentary sitting, the first of its kind by any opposition party in Malaysian history. It however, has yet to be debated.
UMNO PLAYING BOTH GOOD COP, BAD COP?
Two days ago, Annuar said Umno is willing to work with PAS to see RUU355 implemented. But he was vague when asked as to whether the party’s MPs would vote for it in Parliament.
A former PAS leader, Khalid Samad, said Umno’s latest overture towards the Islamist party is part of its overarching campaign since 2008 to divide the opposition.
“This is an old attempt by Umno and some PAS leaders are taken in by it. This is why PAS split and gave birth to Amanah,” said Khalid, who is now in Amanah, a party of former PAS leaders.
Amanah is part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, which is expected to contest against PAS and BN in the next general election.
Amanah will lead the PH charge in Kelantan in GE14.
Analysts said multi-cornered contests will usually benefit BN as votes for the opposition are split.
Tengku Razaleigh, a veteran Kelantan Umno leader echoed this sentiment, saying that the prospect of three-cornered contests will allow Umno to recapture the state.
“The people of Kelantan will likely switch support to Umno, which is ready to bring change to the state,” he was reported as saying recently.