IT’S off now. But it was on before. And it was off before that. And a year ago it seemed like it was on. You’d think we were watching reruns of Friends and obsessing about Ross and Rachel’s romance. But no, we’re talking about proposals for a unity government, or a unity something, between Umno and PAS.
In fact, it was almost a year ago, on 20 July 2008 that then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi admitted that Umno had in fact already had three meetings with PAS. This was after intense speculation that PAS and Umno were holding secret talks together. Abdullah, however, remained coy when he finally let the cat out of the bag. Refusing to divulge the details of these meetings, he said that they were on “matters pertaining to Islam”.
PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa also admitted during PAS’s 2008 muktamar that the talks were about “Islam and Malay unity”. Even back then, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was all in favour of talking with Umno, while spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat was dead against it. Hadi, after all, was the one who first publicly mooted the idea.
The unity talks seemed to die a natural death in 2008, after the PAS muktamar’s main body decided against any kind of cooperation with Umno, and for the party to stay put with the Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
But it appears as though politicians from both PAS and Umno suffered short memories — the “unity” talks were resuscitated in 2009, especially in the run-up to PAS’s 2009 muktamar. This year’s congress saw bitterly contested elections for top posts in the party, especially for the deputy presidency, which the “pro-Umno” Nasharuddin won.
And it was during this muktamar as well that Hadi and Nasharuddin reiterated their openness to talk and even cooperate with Umno, and Hadi repeatedly talked about the concept of tahalluf siyasi (working in a coalition). Hadi’s rhetoric therefore upped the ante on the unity talks — the talks were now not merely about “Islam and Malay unity”. They could potentially yield a unity government between the BN and PAS.
The overtures from Umno to this proposal were nothing less than enthusiastic, but the backlash from PR leaders was stunning. DAP’s Karpal Singh and Nik Aziz led the public skewering of PAS’s pro-unity government president and his deputy.
So now the unity talks have been called off. The PR Council of Leaders has reiterated that it will not form a unity government with the BN, and PAS is finally not demurring. Instead, Nik Aziz and Hadi have come out to blame the BN and the traditional media for spinning the news on the unity talks. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has also apparently stopped the talks in their tracks, saying that the BN can go it alone without forming a unity government.
Problem solved? Malaysians can be forgiven for remaining suspicious and even cynical, not only of the BN, but of PAS. Nevertheless, for now, the public can only wait to see if the buried unity talks will be exhumed yet again at a later date, by either the BN or PAS.
Meanwhile, this issue of Six Words encourages readers to let loose on the oft-proposed “unity government” between the BN and PAS. Is it a good idea? A bad idea? A game between PAS and Umno? A precedent that has worked in other democracies? Give us your take, but in exactly six words. To start things off, here are some entries The Nut Graph‘s newsroom came up with:
You can’t have democracy without opposition.
Tried in Canada — total, miserable failure.
Unity based on racial division? Huh?
It was a bluff all along.
PAS knew they couldn’t do it.
And nicely played into Umno’s hand.
Attempt to unite that divided everyone.
United we stand, divided we fall?
Perpaduan untuk siapa? Untuk kepentingan siapa?
“Unity government” is another political ploy.
PAS and Umno: Nik Aziz’s fear.
Hadi and Nasharuddin keep playing games.
PKR and DAP cannot rest easy.
Kalau rakyat untung, tak payah menentang!
Malay dominance, Islamic state, 1Malaysia falters.
Sore losers unite! Power is ours.
Opposites attract, claiming unity. Opposites attack.
Quick way to an Islamic state.
Formed in Kenya after electoral violence.
Mula-mula macam serious. Hangat-hangat tahi ayam.
Sandiwara terhebat zaman kini! Tontonlah lagi!
Does my vote not count anymore?
Nyanyuk politicians learn nothing from history.
Snap elections better when in doubt.
The Nut Graph prefers real democracy.
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway‘s genius, the Six Words On… section challenges readers to give us their comments about a current issue, contemporary personality or significant event in just six words. The idea is to get readers engaged in an issue that The Nut Graph identifies, while having fun and being creatively disciplined.