By TAN POH KHENG
Sin Chew Daily
It is no secret that Umno and PAS have been getting very intimate of late.
During the Umno general assembly late last year, PM Najib openly declared his willingness to work with PAS in promoting greater Muslim unity in the country. He later sat beside PAS president Hadi Awang at the rally in support of the Rohingya before announcing that the government would take over Hadi's RUU355 amendment bill.
The intimacy between these two parties has since been elevated from the level of mere eye contacts to real physical contacts.
Several days ago, Najib once again openly pledged that Umno had not ruled out the possibility of working with the Islamist party in the coming general elections, as if to declare to the world that Umno is all the more ready to hold PAS in its arms.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that nothing is impossible in this world, and this holds true for the Malaysian politics. If Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir could set aside their past grudges, why not Najib and Hadi?
GE14 may not be too far from now, and it appears to be an inevitable political trend for Umno and PAS to engage each other.
Umno is facing the fierce onslaughts from Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu on the one side, and Pakatan Harapan on the other. It now needs more than ever the help of PAS to dilute the opponents' strength. Working with PAS will not only unite the Malays, but will also win it the highly rewarding Malay votes.
To PAS, its breakthrough in the 2013 election was a result of strong DAP backing. Its divorce with DAP and the subsequent tabling of hudud have crushed the party's support in the country's Chinese community. This, coupled with the more liberal in the party now making up Parti Amanah Negara, PAS will be left with little choice but to contemplate a tie-up with Umno.
If the two parties can strike an agreement on seat allocation and prevent direct clashes in GE14, they should have no problem winning states with a predominant Malay population such as Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, enough to consolidate Umno's hold to the federal administration while allowing PAS a taste of power sharing and possibly a few ministerial positions.
The biggest nightmare of the tie-up could be dominance by Islamic politics. Umno will be much more biased towards the Malay votes, sidelining the non-Malay electorate. The consequence of more PAS leaders taking up administrative positions will be gradual Islamization of our national policies, with the Malaysian society poised for further polarization.
If Umno were to betray its allies, the BN spirit and the nation-building principles just to keep itself in power, it will not only lead the country down the irreversible road of destruction, but will also put MCA, Gerakan Rakyat and other BN component parties in a deep dilemma.
While MCA, Gerakan and MIC may not opt out now, they need to have some strategies to tackle the Umno-PAS cooperation. Unfortunately their leaders appear to be shunning the issue. For instance, someone just said: If PAS is willing to be more liberal and abandon the hudud philosophy, BN can consider some form of cooperation.
PAS' principal objective has been to implement the hudud law towards the ultimate goal of an Islamic state. Will it ever abandon its raison d'être just to join BN?
The Umno-PAS cooperation has a close-knit relation with the RUU355 amendment bill. It is extremely likely for Umno to let the bill be passed in the Parliament in order to please PAS. Have MCA and Gerakan had in place any contingency plan in the event this becomes a reality?
It is an irrefutable fact that DAP did contribute to a significantly strengthened PAS in the 2013 election, and it has an inevasible responsibility for ringing the alarm bell in the Chinese community towards hudud.
But it is meaningless for MCA and Gerakan to continue harping on DAP over the same old issue. It is equally futile for DAP to keep challenging MCA and Gerakan ministers to resign.
As the war of words is rife over this side, somewhere else Umno and PAS are more than ready to embrace each other to advance their own political interests.
The outcome? The country's policies will be increasingly Islamized, rendering the national transformation program a dead idea and our vision of a high-income country an international laughing stock.