SHAH ALAM, 7 June 2009: PAS is out to convince its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partners that unity talks with Umno will not dilute the Islamist party’s commitment to the opposition.
The controversial proposal will be raised at the next PR presidential council which is attended by the heads of PAS, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP.
PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa said PKR and DAP should have a better understanding of what the unity talks are about after PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang explains it.
“It’s not about sharing power with Umno, not about joining Umno. It’s just about discussion on current issues for the benefit of the people and the nation,” Nasharudin said at a press conference after PAS’s 55th muktamar ended today.
“We think that as a major political party, PAS can contribute,” he said in response to a question that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was “open” to the idea but wanted PAS to articulate the concept more clearly.
Nasharudin (left) and HadiNasharudin was also asked why PAS would risk losing the support of PKR, DAP and its own PAS Supporters Club members by pursuing talks with Umno.
“We’re not joining Umno. When the president [Hadi] explains, it should be better,” he said.
Nasharudin was adamant that the talks, “whether they end up in a unity government”, were not meant for PAS to join Umno or the Barisan Nasional (BN).
“Umno is our political enemy but that does not mean we should shut the door to dialogue on issues that benefit the nation. We’ll talk to anyone, even MIC,” he said.
“Unity talks” criticised
Nasharudin and Hadi are the key backers to the unity government idea, first proposed by Hadi. PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is opposed to a shared government, but is not against mere talks.
However, delegates at the muktamar latched on to the term “unity government” and vehemently slammed it.
Pas Youth representative Zulkifli Ahmad said the party should be firm in opposing Umno and BN and accused certain PAS leaders of having “personal agendas” in calling for talks with Umno.
“There should be no compromise with Umno. We should expose those who have personal agendas. Don’t be jealous of those who hold positions now as some of them do not have support from the grassroots,” Zulkifli said.
He did not mention names, but it is probable that he was making a veiled reference to re-elected deputy president Nasharudin who won with about 46% of the votes in a three-cornered race.
Shah Alam Member of Parliament Khalid Samad said that PAS should not be fooled into thinking that it could ever cooperate with Umno.
Khalid Samad “Don’t ever talk about harmony, about unity, about consultations, even though we may share many small similarities with Umno,” said Khalid who ran for a seat in the central working committee but lost.
He reminded delegates about the BN’s takeover of Perak. “We were the legitimate government and they robbed us,” he said.
Khalid noted that some of the motions tabled at the muktamar made PAS sound similar to Umno. He said of one motion by PAS Youth calling for the preservation of the 30% equity quota for bumiputeras, “If you don’t read it carefully, it sounds just like a motion from Umno.”
“Of course we want equity for Malay [Malaysians] to be protected, but isn’t this a smaller matter compared to the destruction and cruelty caused by Umno?”
Further digs at the idea for unity talks were made during the final round of speeches to wind up the debates.
Perak PAS commissioner Ahmad Awang revealed that “someone up there in the top leadership” had suggested cooperating with Umno in Perak when PAS, DAP and PKR were in the midst of discussions on how to form the state government after the March 2008 general elections.
“We had decided on sticking with Pakatan Rakyat, but someone up there in the top leadership said why couldn’t we go with Umno?” said Ahmad, who was a party vice-president in the last term but did not seek re-election.
Approached by reporters later, Ahmad elaborated that a few days after PAS, PKR and DAP had agreed to form the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak and announced it to the press, a top PAS leader had asked him to review the pact and to form a coalition state government with Umno.
Ahmad said he told the leader that PAS had already agreed to be in PR and refused the suggestion. He declined to name the leader.
Even the PAS Supporters Club (Kelab Penyokong PAS or KPP) did not miss the chance to state its disapproval of the talks.
Vincent Lee “The secret talks between PAS and Umno worries the KPP. I really hope PAS does not do something that will jeopardise the party’s dignity and image, and cause the loss of non-Muslim support,” said KPP Chinese [Malaysian] chief Vincent Lee.
God allows it
Hadi, in his closing speech, preached the concept of tahalluf siyasi (working together in coalition) to delegates as justification for his proposal for unity talks with Umno.
“Our struggle is for this world and in the afterlife,” he said, trying to get delegates to see the bigger reason behind the unity talks.