Zahid makes first appearance in 2 months, praises PAS-Umno ties

Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi greeting those at the forum in Bagan Datuk, Perak. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: In making his first public appearance after keeping a low profile for two months, former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi tonight again pushed for closer ties between Umno and PAS.

He said the people welcomed this collaboration with the Islamist party.

Zahid, who has been on leave for almost two months as Umno president, said it was clear the Pakatan Harapan government was unable to fulfil the promises made in the 14th general election manifesto.

PH had failed the people, especially the Malays, he added.

“The people want an alternative party they can rely on.

“Let Bagan Datuk be the stepping stone for greater ties between PAS and Umno,” the Bagan Datuk Umno chief said at a forum with his PAS counterpart, Mishabul Munir Masduki, in his constituency.

Zahid said PAS was welcome to use the Umno building in Bagan Datuk “for free”. Mishabul remarked that PAS was comfortable using its own facilities but thanked Zahid for his offer.

Zahid recalled how he was the first Umno president to attend PAS’ annual congress, or muktamar, following an invite from PAS last year — a first since PAS quit the Barisan Nasional coalition in 1977.

Recognising that Umno and PAS had come a long way since then, Mishabul said both parties had worked together in several by-elections since May 9. This will continue in the Semenyih by-election next month.

“We are working together for a common goal.

“When Umno contested, PAS didn’t, and when PAS contested, Umno didn’t. It’s teamwork, too,” he said, citing the recently-concluded Cameron Highlands by-election.

Zahid, meanwhile, thanked PAS for “teaching Umno how to be like an opposition party”, adding recent months have shown who “his friends are and who aren’t”, referring to the exodus of leaders from Umno.

PAS and Umno’s cooperation was first made apparent in the Sungai Kandis and Seri Setia by-elections, where they made way for each other to contest and voiced support for the other party’s candidate.

Former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Mohamad Hasan is currently acting Umno president. He took over the reins after Zahid went on leave in December following mass defections from Umno MPs then.

Zahid, when asked how long he would be on leave as Umno president, said: “It will be until I finish my leave.”