Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman said he would press Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) to stop restricting full memberships to the Bumiputra if Pakatan Harapan becomes the federal government for two terms.
The head of PPBM’s youth wing maintained that his party needed time to introduce suitable reforms that would make such racial restrictions less necessary.
“What I say (about non-Malay inclusivity in PPBM) is what I believe in and what I will fight for,” he told Malay Mail, adding that he will also urge other parties to become multiracial.
“However, this doesn’t mean wiping out the Malay identity, but there’s no need for a pure race-based party. It can be predominantly Chinese or predominantly Malay, but it should be multi-racial,” said Syed Saddiq.
The party filled primarily with former Umno leaders and supporters technically limits full membership to the Bumiputra community, but in practice, it is Malay-only.
Non-Bumiputra are allowed a limited associate membership, but those in this category have no say in the party as they cannot stand for or vote in internal elections.
According to Syed Saddiq, this was necessary for the party’s ambitions of challenging Umno in the rural Malay heartland where racial considerations are still important.
“We had a long debate and discussion when we were forming up PPBM, whether or not it was better to be Malay-based or multiracial. In the end, we needed to break Umno’s strongholds first, so we needed a transition period,” he said.
However, Syed Saddiq explained his party knew that non-Malay support would still be vital, saying this was why it created the limited membership for the group.
This would help if and when PPBM opens its doors to others beside the Bumiputera.
“I acknowledge with great empathy the need to move forward, it’s not a perfect model,” he said.
To illustrate that the racial restrictions were not wholesale, Syed Saddiq pointed out that his Armada wing allocates positions for non-Bumiputra in its executive council, although none are currently in it.
Asia’s former top debater went on to suggest that political parties should also stop revolving around race, suggesting that such issues be left to government entities such as parliamentary select committees.
Such bodies should address problems based on need and merit, rather than focussing on the ethnic component of national issues such as poverty and discrimination, he explained.
“This committee should be represented by anyone from any party. I think having such parliamentary bloc should be the way forward,” said Syed Saddiq.
The Armada chief was responding to a Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) leader who told PPBM to discard its racial focus in order to differentiate itself from Umno, a Malay nationalist party.
Amanah vice-president Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa made the suggestion when commenting on Pakatan Harapan’s allocation of federal seats in the peninsula, in which PPBM received the most, 52, while his older and larger party got 27 or the fewest in the pact.
Mujahid said it would be pointless for PPBM to seek to replace Umno if it will simply replicate its racial policies and positions, saying the Malay community would be stuck with its “trapped mentality” without reforms.
Syed Saddiq disputed the comparison to Umno, however, saying PPBM has been very inclusive during its ceramah sessions as it brought along representatives from its PH coalition.
“Look at the vast majority of Umno’s campaign (in Malay dominated rural areas). You rarely see them with their coalition parties.
“PPBM brings a multi racial lineup with our coalition partners for our ceramah and campaign trails,” said Syed Saddiq, insisting his party did not intend to become the next Umno.