Bersatu is no Semangat 46, says Razaleigh

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PETALING JAYA: One cannot compare Parti Pribumi Bersatu (Bersatu) with Semangat 46 (S46), an Umno splinter party formed in 1988 following the deregistration of Umno, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said today.

S46 was set up by Tengku Razaleigh (Ku Li) during a tumultuous period in Umno, when the party was divided into two factions, Team A and Team B.

While ‘Team A’ comprised the likes of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and then Umno deputy president Ghafar Baba, ‘Team B’ was led by Ku Li and Musa Hitam, with party leaders such as Rais Yatim and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi among their supporters, aside from two former PMs, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Hussein Onn.

The closely contested Umno presidential election in 1987 saw Dr Mahathir defeat Ku Li by a narrow margin of 41 votes.

However, 11 Umno delegates went to court to ask for the party election to be declared null and void as some of those who had voted were allegedly from unregistered branches. In a landmark decision, the court, in 1988, declared Umno illegal over the existence of illegal branches.

Mahathir then formed Umno Baru, thereby ensuring the purging of Team B and its supporters from the party.

Ku Li said Semangat 46 was formed as a measure to prevent former Umno members from joining another party if they had no interest in joining Umno Baru.

“So, forming Semangat 46 was easier because it was all Umno members.

“However, Mahathir’s new party wants to start from scratch and it seems that no one is attracted to join them,” he told reporters after launching the Malay and Chinese Cultural Fair at Universiti Malaya, in Kuala Lumpur.

The Gua Musang MP was asked to comment on a Malay Mail Online report which drew similarities between S46 and Bersatu and quoted analysts as claiming the newly-formed party would suffer the same fate as S46.

S46 was dissolved in 1996, with most of its leaders and members joining Umno Baru. Some of them were eventually reinstated to leadership positions.

Ku Li also claimed that Bersatu would find it difficult to attract the youth as the younger generation tended to be more open-minded and inclined towards fostering greater unity. They also clamoured for more openness.

“Bersatu will have a tough time persuading the masses. Even the Opposition is having a hard time,” he said when commenting on Bersatu’s decision to limit non-Bumiputeras to associate member role, with no say in the party.

Allowing non-Bumiputeras to come on board only as associate members, Ku Li said, would make it difficult to attract more youths to join the party.