Najib likely to push for Malay unity at Umno assembly

Najib likely to push for Malay unity at Umno assembly

After leading Umno to a stronger showing in the May elections and keeping his allies in power at party polls, Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to use this week's general assembly to call for the party to close ranks.

They will need to do so to tackle the next order of business: wooing the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in so-called Malay unity talks, a touchy subject.

With non-Malay voters largely abandoning the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition, party conservatives feel that Umno should focus on corralling the Malay vote.

"The right wing of Umno wants to push for a stronger Malay coalition. So if the party feels it can work with PAS to achieve this, why not?" said Professor Faisal Hazis of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Umno's general assembly, held every three years, runs from Monday until Saturday and Mr Najib's main speech is expected to push for Malay unity - code for trying to win over PAS.

Malays and other bumiputera make up more than 60 per cent of Malaysians, Chinese 25 per cent and Indians 7 per cent, with other groups making up the rest of the country's 28 million population.

PAS is the second-biggest Malay party, with nearly a million members to Umno's three million. While fierce rivals - PAS sees Umno as corrupt - the idea is not outlandish.

Between 1973 and 1978, PAS was part of Barisan but left, blaming Umno for increasing "social ills" and straying from Islamic principles.

Mr Najib has said he will meet the Menteri Besar of PAS-led Kelantan, Mr Ahmad Yakob, and hinted of plans for a muzakarrah (dialogue).

"We are open to it (muzakarrah) but we also need to see what is the scope of discussions. We will seek further explanation from the party," Mr Najib was quoted as saying last Monday by the New Straits Times.

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