Would joining Bersatu redeem Ali Tinju?

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 – After a string of high-profile migration of current and past leaders and lawmakers from Umno to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), the shocking news came yesterday that Mohd Ali Baharom, who is better known as “Ali Tinju”, had applied to join the party.

Many Pakatan Harapan supporters, including one lawmaker, were disturbed by the news.

Ali is best known as being one of the leaders of the infamous Red Shirts movement. The group, linked to Umno and supported by Umno leaders, had previously led pro-Malay rallies to counter the then pro-opposition Bersih rallies.

The Red Shirts had literally hounded Bersih when the electoral reform group tooks its message across the country, in the two months ahead of the Bersih 5 rally on November 19, 2016.

Ali had submitted his application to join Bersatu at an event recently in Bandar Tun Razak, claiming he had “lost faith in the Umno leadership following the corruption scandals involving former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak”, according to a report by FMT.

The initial report of him having joined Bersatu was quickly refuted by the Pakatan Harapan component party, with a source telling the news portal that Ali had only submitted his application.

Well, then, what about the fanfare of Jeli MP and former international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad submitting his application at a Bersatu event on October 26.

There was no comment then that he was just “submitting his application” but instead the party leaders, including chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, all lauded his “joining the party”.

Willing to change, says Ali Tinju

Ali said he was already a member of the Bandar Tun Razak Bersatu division.

“I want to join Bersatu and be a follower, not for any post or monetary gains.

“I am aware of Dr Mahathir’s reminder that if you want to join Bersatu, you must change,” he was quoted as saying by FMT.

Ambiga S, Maria Chin, Low Yat traders targeted by Ali Tinju

Regardless of how he may have “changed”, the thought that this character could be a part of the ruling coalition and on the same side of people whom he had berated and protested “wildly” before is cringe-worthy.

Ali, an army veteran, was the one who led other veterans in the infamous “butt dance” exercise in front of then Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan in 2012.

He took it up a notch in 2016, with reports of him issuing a death threat against Ambiga’s successor in Bersih, Maria Chin Abdullah.

Ali later claimed that he was misquoted by the report, only for a recording vindicating the report to surface, according to Malaysiakini.

However, former home minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported to have later said that the case had been classified as NFA (no further action).

Ali was also one of two Umno leaders who were charged with inciting racial tensions and protests with a speech before the riot in front of the Low Yat Plaza in July 2015. The other was Jamal Yunos.

It was revealed in May 2016, in a reply by then law minister Nancy Shukri in the Dewan Rakyat, that former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail had cleared Ali of all the charges made against him over the Low Yat incident.

Maria Chin, who is now Petaling Jaya MP, has criticised the possibility that Ali is now part of a PH government which had been voted in with a mandate to change the old ways of Barisan Nasional and Umno.

Nothing new in ex-Umno leaders joining a PH component

But what really is the fuss over former Umno leaders, warlords and other characters joining PH by way of Bersatu.

After all, the same has been going on since 1999, with the Reformasi movement and PKR being started by Umno members loyal to then sacked deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Accepting Ali into the ruling government by way of Bersatu and with him saying that he has changed his ways, would be no different to having PKR leader Saifuddin Nasution apologise to DAP, PKR and NGO members, including former Batu MP Tian Chua, for having led the the mostly-Umno Youth members who violently disrupted the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET II) in Kuala Lumpur on November 9, 1996.

Claiming to be members of the Malaysian Public Action Front, the group attacked more than 100 local and foreign participants of the conference by barging their way into the venue despite police presence.

30 BN MPs were to join Pakatan Rakyat on Sept 16, 2008

Also, there was no complains when in 2008, Anwar claimed there about 30 MPs, ready to leave Barisan Nasional to join the then Pakatan Rakyat on September 16, to form a new government.

So, if it was okay then because the then opposition needed it, but now it is not okay because PH does not need such party hopping?

Unless, the real story is a lot darker than what seems to be happening.

Could it be simply that the people are now seeing the survival of the country being jeopardised by the hypocrisy of leaders in the ruling coalition who are more concerned over their own survival.

– NMT