A dozen of Umno MP’s left the party to give their support to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the latest round of defections from the Malay organisation.
This is not sitting well with some in the Pakatan Harapan, but it is a welcomed move within the Malay-led parties in the coalition in power.
It brings more Malay support to the PH right after a stormy week that saw the worst attacks against a Hindu temple in Malaysia and a dent in the PH rule with the Umno-Islamist anti-ICERD rally.
The recent wave of Umno lawmakers quitting the party is seen paving the way for the PH to get a larger majority in Parliament.
It consolidates the coalition’s strength in the Parliament for sure, but even more crucial it helps Prime Minister Dr Mahathir with the reform agenda.
The rise in the number of MP’s for the PH coalition – despite the fact they are defecting from ex-PM Najib Razak’s party – will also strengthen the PH on the regional scene.
Across borders, Malaysia will be seen in a different light from the May 8 image of a weaker regime, with several forces battling against it from within and from abroad.
Regionally, it sends a stronger message to the skeptics. Malaysia is arriving, and when it finally arrives, it will be tougher to undermine Malaysia.
Among those defecting to the PH is former Sabah chief minister Salleh Said Keruak who led a dozen of Umno MP’s in their quiet exit from the party on Wednesday.
The mass exodus from Sabah Umno saw nine of 10 of its assemblymen, five of six MPs, 21 of 25 division heads and two senators leave the party.
Then there is former Puteri Umno chief Mas Ermieyati Samsudin who joined Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Dr Mahathir’s party.
Now we are hearing reports of another half a dozen Umno MP’s plotting their move out of the party.
An ex-Umno minister is working to persuade his fellow members of parliament to walk out on the party.
Party sources told The Malaysian Insight the former minister has told the MPs in private meetings that they would first sit in parliament as independents before eventually joining Bersatu.
However, the consolidation of the Malay parties in the Pakatan Harapan coalition does not augur well for the DAP.
After the faux-pas from Lim Kit Siang on the ICERD, the Malays are now seen jumping ship from the raucous opposition alliance between the Umno and the Islamists PAS.
With this development, Ramkarpal Singh Deo showed signs of panic. He believes Umno representatives switching allegiance to Dr Mahathir is a “dangerous development”.
He said it goes completely against the will of Malaysians who convincingly voted out the Barisan Nasional government in GE14.
But Dr Mahathir has ruled out any form of prevention of what he called ‘frogs’ leaping from the opposition or from the PH. “We are a democracy’ he said.
With the deflation of the party, this leaves the opposition with a considerably weakened Umno and a stronger PAS.
Observers say we have to look forward to a sharp rise in the Malay-Islamist rhetoric and a rise of the PAS as the main opposition party in Malaysia.
But a series of setbacks – scandals implicating the Umno – is going to make it even harder for the PAS.
The PAS is allied with the Umno, demonstrating together in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, and hitting at the PH on mostly made-up religious and racial issues.
The PH played a winning card against the Umno-PAS right after the ICERD fiasco. The PH regime revealed that an audit found massive mismanagement of the national pilgrims’ fund for Malays-Muslims.
The Tabung Haji was under fire from the PH during the May general elections, but the Najib Razak regime denied all the accusations made against it.
The audit found a wider range of scandals that have rocked the Tabung Haji which has been digging deep in its deposits to pay dividends instead of paying from profits.
This is causing a round of panic even among Umno-PAS supporters. They believe the Umno has been paying them in a ‘haram’ manner.
Mixing the illicit with the soul cleansing exercise in Makkah, the holy city, will not be pardoned by many.
The pilgrim fund is also said to have debts of up to RM4.1 billion. These have tarnished Umno’s image even deeper.
It will have major ripple effects on the PAS, which is now seen as Islamists supporting a corrupt party.
All these have flattened the Umno to the point the party is probably dangling at the end of a rope after falling like a rock from a steep slope.