KUCHING – UMNO can expand to Sarawak but it is uncertain if the peninsula-based party will be accepted by the people in the state, said a political analyst.
Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, a senior lecturer at the University of Malaya, said UMNO had been rejected in Sarawak during the administration of former Sarawak chief ministers Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud and Tan Sri Adenan Satem and now by Datuk Partinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
In fact, he said, there was a “gentlemen’s agreement” between Taib and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when he was the prime minister from 1981 to 2003, to not allow UMNO into Sarawak.
He said that at that time, many rural voters could not withdraw their support for the Barisan National (BN) because their support was not for the party but for the BN logo.
However, he said, the political landscape changed after the 2018 general election with Dr Mahathir in Pakatan Harapan and Taib no longer active in politics.
“So, UMNO can attempt to expand its influence to Sarawak. UMNO may be favoured by some Muslim Bumiputeras in Sarawak because they are aware that UMNO is not at fault but its past leaders have tarnished its image,” Awang Azman told Bernama here.
At the same time, he said, UMNO’s strength lay in the use of the BN logo that the rural voters in Sarawak had absolute faith in.
He said UMNO could also get any new local parties to contest using the BN logo if it did not itself want to come to Sarawak.
“This is to teach a lesson to the four former BN component parties that have betrayed BN, but this move may not see fruition if BN is disbanded and its logo replaced.
“Likewise, there is speculation that UMNO may be outlawed for not having complied with the regulations of the Registrar of Societies (RoS),” he said.
If that is the case, he said, UMNO’s hope of gaining a foothold in Sarawak will be dim.
In a nutshell, according to Awang Azman, UMNO’s chances of coming to Sarawak were slim.
As such, he called for the setting up of new local parties and the use of the BN logo to defeat their political adversaries, including the four former component parties which left the BN to form a new coalition known as Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS). – BERNAMA