By Nomy Nozwir
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — Umno veteran Datuk Tamrin Ghafar officially submitted his PAS membership form to the Islamist party’s president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang — in a highly-charged departure from the ruling Barisan Nasional’s (BN) mainstay in the run-up to key national polls.
Tamrin’s defection Umno is the second in a month, after senior Sabah Umno leader Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin quit to form his own party pledging support to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact.
“I want to join PAS because it is a party that fights for Islam,” the former two-term MP for Batu Berendam in Malacca said at the PAS base in Gombak last night, confirming The Malaysian Insider’s earlier report.
Also present to welcome Tamrin was PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu who called on his party colleagues to be patient and await their victory at the polls.
Tamrin’s crossover had been widely-anticipated for months after he was spied rubbing shoulders with top-level PR leaders at their rallies where he openly criticised Umno under Prime Minister and party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s leadership.
He has also been speculated to be among the candidates PAS will field in the 13th general elections due April next year, but Tamrin neither confirmed nor denied the rumours.
The son of former deputy prime minister and Umno strongman Tun Ghafar Baba has repeatedly accused the BN’s Malay party of straying from its original struggles.
Tamrin’s defiance of Umno earned him a show-cause letter by the party’s disciplinary board on July 26.
PAS has been actively courting and winning over several former pro-establishment figures and top local artistes popular with the Malay community in recent days, in a bid to burnish its progressive Islamist credentials ahead of key polls that must be called by next April.
Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had recently warned Najib against further estranging members of the ruling coalition, saying any defections could “result in BN losing the next election.”