BN awaits official word on Gerakan leaving

Acting BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is acting Umno president, at Umno headquarters today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional will study in detail today’s decision by the Gerakan component party to leave the coalition, acting BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today.

He said BN had yet to receive an official letter from Gerakan on the party’s decision. The BN secretary-general and executive secretary have been told to contact Gerakan.

Following Gerakan’s decision, BN is now left with the independence-era Alliance pact of Umno, MCA, and MIC. Several Sabah and Sarawak parties left earlier this month, with four Sarawak component parties forming a state coalition called Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

Zahid urged that other coalitions or parties with similar values as BN to work together. “We will face a lot of difficulties if these component parties continue to champion respective races only,” he said.

However, although Umno would remain a Malay-based party, it must work together with other parties, said Zahid, who is de facto acting Umno president.

He is one of three contenders for the Umno presidency, which will be decided at the party’s elections on June 30. The other contenders are party veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and outgoing Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin.

Elections are being held today for leadership of the Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings of the party.

Zahid expressed doubts about whether a proposal to open up Umno membership to all could be realised. The idea had been raised by Khairy when announcing his candidacy for leadership of Umno.

Zahid said: “I want to see if he will be able to do it if he becomes the new Umno president.”

He noted that Umno’s founding president Onn Jaafar had been rejected when he tried to open up Umno’s membership. “Look what happened to him? History tells us about it,” he said.

Onn Jaafar failed to convince Umno about opening up membership and changing the party’s name to United Malayan National Organisation. He left Umno to form the Independence of Malaya Party, but was unsuccessful in gaining popular support.

Gerakan leaves BN, will remain in opposition