Menara Dato' Onn witnesses the end of political revenge?
SHAH ALAM - Unravelling the history of rivalry between Umno and the opposition parties of the past, especially DAP one would need to travel back in time.
It all started when Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963 and its former president Lee Kuan Yew was leading the People's Action Party (PAP) at the time.
When Singapore left Malaysia in 1965, DAP replaced PAP, and since then, the party has contested in every general election (GE) with what some have branded as a socialist ideology of politics.
DAP's performance began to improve in the 1969 general election, when it won 13 parliamentary seats for the first time; this was followed by 24 parliamentary seats in the 1986 general election, 28 seats in the 2008 general election, 38 seats in the 2013 general election, 42 seats in the 2014 general election, and 40 seats in the 2015 general election.
The dispute between Umno and DAP has left deep lasting scars for both parties, especially after the black tragedy in the nation's history which occured in May 13, 1969.
Since then, the majority of Umno leaders have labelled DAP as anti-Malay and anti-Islam, with the doctrine of rejecting the socialist party at all costs.
The dismissal of former Umno Deputy President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from the post of Deputy Prime Minister in 1998 also resulted in a bitter internal conflict in Umno which led to the formation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) or its original name "KeADILan."
Anwar's dismissal by Tun Mahathir Mohamed created a reform movement to demand justice for what had happened to him and the political conflict and drama led him to be imprisoned twice, in 1999 and 2014.
As a result, PKR with Anwar's influence succeeded in establishing three forms of coalitions that proved to be a major competition to Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN), namely Barisan Alternatif (BA) in 1999, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in GE 2008 and GE 2013, and finally, Pakatan Harapan (PH) ) in GE14 and GE15.
Through the Pakatan Rakyat coalition that saw the cooperation of PKR, DAP and Pas, five states controlled by Umno-BN so far were successfully seized by the coalition in 2008.
Next, the PH coalition, which was no longer joined by Pas but was replaced by a splinter party, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), finally managed to end the dominance of the Umno-BN government for more than 60 years when it won GE14.
However, Malaysia's political scene has become increasingly dynamic since GE14.
Starting with the establishment of the BN and Perikatan Nasional (PN) government after the Sheraton move in March 2020, which saw Umno and Pas collaborate politically for the first time after Pas left the BN government in 1978.
The Keluarga Malaysia government administration led by the ninth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also created national political history when a memorandum of understanding (MoU) similar to a supply and confidence agreement (CSA) between the government and the opposition parties led by PH at the time, was signed as a way to create a political stability during heated times.
The political dynamics of the country changed again after GE15 when history was created with the establishment of a coalition government involving rival parties in GE15, namely PH, BN, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), Parti Warisan (Warisan), several small parties, and independent candidates.
With Anwar ending his 24-year wait to be appointed as prime minister, the unity government for the first time witnessed the establishment of a unity government secretariat, which functions to ensure the continuity of the existing government, including in matters of political cooperation.
The first unity government secretariat meeting held at the Umno Headquarters at Menara Dato Onn in the national capital on Tuesday, also allowed Anwar to step foot in Umno building which established his political career after 25 years of being dismissed from the party.
For DAP, the presence of its Secretary General, Anthony Loke Siew Fook, at the Umno building was also an important moment in the country's political history, which saw the fire of political disputes of over 57 years extinguished in order to save the country from falling into the valley of a terrifying economic crisis.
UiTM political science senior lecturer,Mujibu Abdul Muis described the latest development of the Umno-PKR-DAP collaboration as a political evolution for the country, even though it cannot be determined whether this has completely erased the political framework of racist parties in Malaysia.
Most importantly, the post-GE15 political evolution shows that the country's politics is becoming more flexible with each party having to accept the fact that they cannot stand or move alone to face any future elections.
"There is only one perspective that still does not change Malaysian politics, which is how the violence of racial politics can only be softened through strategic cooperation with the political configuration having to happen in a grand coalition.
"This is evidenced by the formation of the BN coalition following the events of May 13, 1969, which brought together rival parties Umno, Gerakan and Pas at the time.
"The same goes for the establishment of the unity government, which practises the same concept as the establishment of BN.
"Each political party remains true to the roots of its struggle, but cordial cooperations must continue for the sake of political stability," said Mujibu.
Regarding the establishment of the unity government secretariat which is expected to be a platform for political enemies to reconcile after having been at odds for a long time, Mujibu is however, still sceptical about the matter.
"I think that in this regard, especially in the Umno-DAP relationship, the story of old enmity may be difficult to erase in a short period of time as small skirmishes seems unavoidable following the parties different political agendas.
"Umno-DAP is actually still stuck in this new political cooperation line when both parties find it difficult to explain to the public the main reason they have to cooperate with each other.
"But in order to strengthen the political ranks of the new government, they should find a way to expand cooperation from the central level to the state level.
"For the future, the fact is that the cooperation of the two parties will benefit each other more," he emphasised.