UMNO decision to stay out of Chempaka by-election welcome but it should be forerunner to promote a virtuous cycle of national unity and reconciliation

The decision announced by the UMNO President and Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting last night that UMNO will stay out of the Chempaka state by-election in Kelantan is most welcome although not for the reasons given.

Najib said that the decision was for the sake of Muslim “unity” as well as to allow the federal government to focus on its flood relief, rehabilitation and reparation works still in progress.

It is sad that 58 years after Merdeka, and six years after the launching of his 1Malaysia signature policy, Najib has retreated to talk about Muslim unity instead of Malaysian unity.

The UMNO decision to stay out of Chempaka by-election should be a forerunner to promote a virtuous circle of moderation, tolerance, national unity and reconciliation, after a most prolonged, cacophonous and divisive period where the rhetoric of hate, intolerance, extremism and bigotry whether of race or religion, have held sway in the public domain raising disturbing questions about the future of Malaysia.

There is no dispute of the need to double efforts in the post-flood relief, rehabilitation and reparation works after the worst floods catastrophe in Kelantan in living memory in December 2014, although a special meeting of Parliament last month or a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Dec. 2015 Floods Catastrophe in the East Coast would have been proof of greater concern about the failures of disaster management preparedness and the need to be better prepared to deal with future disasters.

The possibility of UMNO staying out of Chempaka had been very obvious from the start, as indicated by the sudden two-hour meeting of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council last Friday night within 24 hours of the death of Tok Guru Nik Aziz on the night of Thursday, 12th February and the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Kelantan Mentri Besar in Putrajaya on Monday.

This was also why in my third pre-Cabinet Open Letter addressed to the MCA President, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Gerakan President, Datuk Mah Siew Keong, before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting yesterday, I ended with these two last paragraphs:

“What now is the next chapter in the devilish Umno/BN plot to destabilize, divide and destroy Pakatan Rakyat now that Anwar has stymied their plans, as there will not be two simultaneous by-elections of Chempak state assembly in Kelantan and Permatang Pauh parliamentary in Penang but only one.

“The least Liow and Mah can do is to advise the UMNO and BN leaders to follow through with their original plan to stay out of Chempaka by-election to give PAS an uncontested victory, as well as to later stay out of the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election if Anwar’s pardon appeal is rejected.”

Although there are those who see UMNO’s staying out of Chempaka by-election is as part of a Machiavellian UMNO/BN plot to destabilize, divide and destroy Pakatan Rakyat so as to escalate a vicious cycle of plot and counter-plot to aggravate differences and contradictions inside Pakatan Rakyat and PAS, this need not be so.

UMNO’s staying out of Chempaka, followed by a clear-cut announcement that UMNO will not contest in any Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election, can set in motion a virtuous, positive and statesmanlike process of national reconciliation to forge greater national unity and consensus to bring together all political forces and all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, into one common national endeavour to save Malaysia from the many dangerous travails and challenges – political, economic, educational, social, environmental – confronting the nation.

The only question is whether the national leaders in the country are up to such a challenge.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah