PETALING JAYA: The new Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia courted controversy after it was announced that non-Bumiputras would be allowed to join with limited membership.
Full membership is open to Bumiputras, orang Asli, Sabahans and Sarawakians while other Malaysians can be associate members.
Associate members are accorded the same rights as regular members except that they cannot contest for posts but be appointed instead. They also cannot vote in party polls.
The Star Online met up with one of the seven Parti Pribumi founders, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, on Wednesday afternoon to find out more about the newest addition to the Opposition lineup.
Question: Can you describe your party?
This party is a modern, progressive reform-centric pribumi party. Despite the fact that it still keeps its pribumi identity, if you look at the constitution of the party and also the objectives of the party, it is predominantly about notions of justice, equity, pursuit for the separation of powers and media freedom – a reform and justice based agenda which is for all Malaysians.
But why have a Bumi limitation?
That’s where the middle ground comes in. Acknowledging the constituencies in which we will most probably be contesting. And there are still vast majorities of Malaysians, or Bumiputras, who still want to maintain their racial identity while keeping that progressive and modern stance of wanting to pursue the reform agenda.
What rank is the highest that a non-Bumi can hope to achieve?
That’s up to the discussion among party members, which we will have soon. I’m personally up for that notion (of high-ranking non-Bumis) and I’ve been fighting for that for a long time. It at least guarantees some form of representation. It shows that there is a future for Malaysia, for all Malaysians. It is on the path to a greater Malaysia.
What voter areas will the party focus on?
The party will focus on a rural, Malay-dominant voter base. Areas where even PKR and PAS cannot penetrate.
Why join your party and not Amanah or PKR?
If you want to join Amanah or PKR, that’s perfectly fine. We’re not here to compete (against them). It’s the right of every single person to join whichever party they want.
Wouldn’t having another party split voter allegiance among the electorate?
The electorate is smart enough to decide whichever party best represents them. I don’t believe in blind loyalty; that our loyalties must be towards a party. If the party commits a mistake, and it no longer mirrors your system of belief, it is perfectly fine for you to go to a different party. That is why I always believe in Malaysia first, party second.
You don’t think that your concessions (to form a pro-Malay party) go against your principles for a multicultural Malaysia?
Whatever happens, I’ll always be a Malaysian first. But different people or different parties use different ways to save Malaysia. This party is just utilising a different route to achieve the same common goal, which all Malaysians want.
Will being a race-based party turn away some of your current supporters?
Those who know me personally, I believe, will understand why I took this decision. For those who don’t, it becomes my responsibility to explain it to them. And if they choose to distance themselves, that’s their right to do so. But I’ll be very open and frank in answering their concerns and enquiries. It is legitimate for them to be dissatisfied, and if they are, they should continue to partake in the change making process and continue to advise me and the party leaders of what Malaysia they want to create. Because it is only though their pressure can change take place.
Has anyone (of note) voiced their interest to join the party?
Quite a lot. Even very important people, but we are not in a position to disclose (the names). Among them are MPs and assemblymen.
From ruling parties?
Public perception is that the Parti Pribumi is formed as a direct competitor to Umno. How will the party move away from the perception of being another “new Umno”?
The public has all the right to judge us that way. It is up to the party to prove them wrong. Even based on the party constitution which is radically different from Umno, the focus of the party is also very much different despite being Bumiputra-based. Look at areas where the party is more modern. For example, the associate member status and the ability to appoint non-Bumis (to party positions). There is an age limitation of 35 years for the Youth wing. There will be term limits that will be imposed on all key party positions, which means there will be continuous revitilisation to ensure that the young can enter and to ensure that there can be smooth transitions (of power) when the time comes.
Can you explain the term limits?
Each term consists of three years. All important party positions can only be held for a maximum of two terms. The only exception to this is the position of Chairman and President, which has a maximum of three terms.
Who are Parti Pribumi’s partners?
As of now, anyone who is a part of the Opposition movement with shared common interests in wanting to reform Malaysia for the greater good. As of now we have discussed with almost all parties and they are generally accepting of the creation of the new party. Once the party is fully registered, that’s when the formal negotiation process can take its course.
There have been discussions with PAS as well?
Yes. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin discussed with the parties.
Would it be difficult for you to juggle sworn enemies like Amanah and PAS as your partners?
People said the same thing of Gerakan and Umno. Back then they were sworn enemies. People said the same of (Home Minister) Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi who partially defected from Umno, was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and got back in. The one thing which is more important than past mistakes and past history is the possibility of uniting for the greater good for the future.
DAP is supportive of the establishment of Parti Pribumi. But there are a lot of historical tensions between DAP and the voter base you’re aiming for. Do you think this would cause friction between your potential voters in GE14?
We will cooperate with one another. One thing very clear is that we can check on one another to ensure that no power imbalances take place. And this is still only based on informal talks. In terms of which (political) model is most feasible, whether it will translate into a grand coalition or an electoral pact or any other model, that can only be seen once we enter into official negotiations.
One of the reasons PKR is unable to penetrate deeply into the rural areas is because it is seen as a DAP ally. Wouldn’t your party face the same issue?
The difference is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, (former Kedah Mentri Besar) Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad are well regarded among the rural communities and they have given back to the communities for a very, very long time. So I think in terms of community stature, these individuals are very well respected. And also, this party provides a middle ground between a reform-based agenda while allowing for some individuals who still want to keep their racial identity.