In Perak, old rivalry for influence threatens newfound Umno-PAS ties

Under the Muafakat Nasional agreement inked last September, Umno and PAS pledged to uphold the interest of the Malays, Islam as the official religion, and Malay as the national language.

PETALING JAYA: While Umno and PAS may have closed ranks on federal politics, an age-old rivalry for influence among the Malay grassroots is threatening to disrupt their year-old formal cooperation, at least in the state of Perak.

Supporters of both parties have been competing to place their own men as representatives of Village Development and Security Committees (JKKK), considered a source of influence among Malay-based political parties.

It is learnt that the jostle to become village heads in Malay-majority constituencies in Perak started soon after Perikatan Nasional (PN) – the loose coalition of which the Umno-PAS alliance is considered a critical component – took over the state following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government there.

A source familiar with the matter said Umno and PAS used to meet almost every day to ensure that their strategies were in line with PN’s goals in the state.

“But after the new exco was sworn in, Umno and PAS held fewer meetings in several constituencies.”

The source said the “problem” was mainly in Malay-majority areas where Umno had been at the forefront but where PAS wished to expand its influence.

Such areas in Perak include Rungkup, Gunung Semanggol, Kuala Kurau, Tualang Sekah, Kampung Gajah and Chenderiang, among others.

According to the source, each parliamentary constituency normally has 30 to 50 village heads whose positions are crucial to the ground support of parties.

Some of these posts have been vacant since the village heads appointed under PH ended their stints in April.

The source said appointments from the state-level onwards were not a problem as top leaders would be able to put on a show of cooperation.

“But at the grassroots level, they seem to be competing.”

Adding to the mix, he said, was PPBM which feared being sidelined in the competition.

Perak Mentri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu announced on March 9 that PPBM, Umno and PAS had agreed to join forces to form a new state government.

PN holds a total of 32 seats in the Perak state legislative assembly. Of these, 25 are held by Umno, four by PPBM and three by PAS.

PH meanwhile holds 26 seats, 18 of which are held by DAP, four by Amanah and two by PKR.

The source said PAS and Umno grassroots in the state might not be able to publicly air their dissatisfaction if the “wrong” village chief is chosen, due to their agreement under Muafakat Nasional, the political pact inked by the two Malay-based parties last year.

The only way they would be able to voice their objections would be through the ballot box at the next general election.

However, he did not foresee any problems at Indian and Chinese-majority areas in Perak.

“PAS, Umno and PPBM are only competing for the Malay votes,” the source said.

“MIC will be allowed to appoint heads at Indian-majority areas and MCA at Chinese-majority ones.”

He added that a mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese heads would also be possible at these areas.

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