His denial came shortly after Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s statement yesterday that Umno did not want to stir conflict with any non-governmental organisation (NGO), despite the recent move by Umno leaders, including himself, to rebuff the Malay rights group.
“When we had a meeting with BN secretaries-general, we never talked even a little bit that we wanted to distance ourselves from anybody,” Tengku Adnan told The Malaysian Insider today.
“Our policy is to be close with everybody. We should even go and approach opposition members and explain what our policies are because they are misguided,” the BN secretary-general added.
Earlier, Tengku Adnan reportedly said his BN counterparts had agreed that distancing the ruling coalition from Perkasa was the best way forward to halt the erosion of non-Malay support for BN.
He had also told them that Umno would not back the strident Malay rights group or Ibrahim in the next general election.
Tengku Adnan however denied stating that BN had to distance itself from Perkasa. He pointed out that he merely said the Malay group has tried to undermine the coalition’s chances in the next general election by sabotaging the racial harmony between BN component parties.
“I never said we have to distance ourselves from Perkasa. I just said Perkasa is trying to jeopardise BN’s position for the next general election by destroying the racial harmonious position between my component parties,” said Tengku Adnan.
The Umno secretary-general went a step further and said that he had never asked party members to severe ties with Perkasa, accusing its president Datuk Ibrahim Ali of blowing the issue out of proportion.
“I didn’t even ask members of Umno to relinquish their relationship with Perkasa. It was totally blown out of proportion by Ibrahim Ali,” said Tengku Adnan.
Perkasa claims to have a membership base of 300,000, of whom 80 per cent are said to be Umno members.
He however, was quick to deny that his statement today was a reversal of his earlier stand against Perkasa.
“I am not backing down from what I said about Perkasa,” he said, adding that he was referring to his remarks about Umno not supporting Perkasa in the next general election.
Tengku Adnan also reiterated Najib’s statement and said that the Malay ruling party should not distance itself from any NGO, but should instead approach them to educate them on BN policies.
“I agree with Najib. Umno shouldn’t distance themselves from all NGOs. We should engage with any NGOs, not only Perkasa. We should engage ourselves with them until they understand what we are trying to do,” said Tengku Adnan.
He added that Umno needed to explain the 1 Malaysia concept particularly to Perkasa as they did not seem to understand the policy.
“With Perkasa, we need to explain what our 1 Malaysia concept is all about. I don’t believe in what Perkasa is fighting for because they don’t understand what the 1 Malaysia concept is all about,” he said.
Perkasa stepped up the pressure on Najib yesterday to explain his 1 Malaysia concept clearly as failure to do so could result in Umno and BN being rejected, following Najib’s statement on Friday that the policy was a “work in progress”.
The Malay group said that the 1 Malaysia concept was misunderstood by certain non-Malay communities who perceived the policy as an initiative to create racial equality in sharing the economic pie.
Perkasa had stressed earlier that the 1 Malaysia concept must be founded on Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which states the special position of the Bumiputeras and allows the government to set quotas for educational institutions, government jobs and permits.
Tengku Adnan also said that the 1 Malaysia policy was not about equality as the welfare of poor people across racial groups had to be taken into account.
“1 Malaysia is not about equality. You need to look at the poor Malays, poor Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans and Muruts. How do we help them? How do we ensure they can earn a living in the country? That is what 1 Malaysia is all about,” he said.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders and analysts today denounced the 1 Malaysia policy as a “work in regress”, citing the rise in racial extremism and Najib’s refusal to defend the concept against Perkasa.
Recently, there has been a spike in racially-tinged incidents, such as two school principals allegedly spouting racist slurs and the furore surrounding a Chinese MP’s visit to a surau.
Najib’s weeks-long silence on racial issues like that of the school principals has earned him much flak from the public and the opposition who accused him of being like his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.