Critical Observation by Bridget Welsh

Gains and losses in Manek Urai
/ Bridget Welsh
Jul 18, 09
8:49am

Kelantan has always been a state for surprises and the slim victory by PAS is an excellent example. Despite PAS claiming a whopping 2,000 majority one hour before the close of polls, when the results were counted, PAS squeaked through with an embarrassing 65 majority.

While some would say, a small victory is still a victory and point to PAS win in Manek Urai as the fifth loss for BN since March 2008, the reality is that this by-election is a serious loss for the opposition.

It shows that the opposition has lost ground in the Malay heartland, the traditional base of political power. It extends the gains Umno won among Malays in the Bukit Gantang election, and provides badly-needed momentum for Najib Abdul Razak’s government.

While the implications of this contest are important at the national level, the campaign itself was very much a local dynamic.

The fight on the ground was fiercely contested as each party attempted to win over the 12,293 voters, often visiting the estimated 1,200 undecided voters more than five times in a 10-day campaign. These voters, along with the estimated 1,700 living outside of the area were decisive in the outcome.

PAS had the advantage in this traditionally ‘safe seat’ and it showed on the ground as the presence of green flags dominated the terrain in this rural constituency. They embraced their local advantage and organised their campaign around Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the party’s spiritual leader and beloved menteri besar.

PAS miscalculates the ground

The sea of green, especially on polling day when supporters poured in, fostered a sense of overconfidence. In contrast, the Umno machinery worked quietly as it established its base in a makeshift tent that provided an air-conditioned oasis for reporters and outsider party workers.

Umno was on a mission to burnish its reputation and this translated into a zeal as it focused on campaigning strategically.

The Umno big guns stayed away in what was perceived to be a losing battle, leaving the diehards to work the ground.

Even on polling day, when leaders left the constituency early, Umno knew it faced an uphill battle and expected defeat despite their campaigning.

The closeness came as a surprise to all sides, especially PAS who severely miscalculated the ground.

The campaign itself lacked the level of intensity of other Umno-PAS contests. Most of the campaigning involved house-to-house networking. The large ceramah featuring Pakatan Rakyat leaders drew more outsiders than locals as the battle was fought through face-to-face interactions rather than oratory skills.

There were two parallel set of issues – those discussed openly and those behind closed doors.

The former included the long-standing (and somewhat) stale contrast between religion and development (manifested over the discussion of the Manek Urai Lama bridge), the Terengganu-transplanted discussion on the failure by the federal government to pay RM1 billion royalty to the state, and perceived corruption on the part of Umno and its credibility in governance.

Umno did not present itself as the secular alternative, but portrayed itself as Islamic, reflecting its increasing efforts to embrace religion as part of its own identity. Relying on regional identity, PAS consistently appealed to the uniqueness of the Kelantanese, stressing the need for the state to continue to be ruled by the Islamic party. None of these issues were new as the lines of support in Kelantan have been long established.

Money helps win the day

The new dimension was the intensity of the behind-the-scenes campaign.

Here Umno focused on promoting Malay rights. Pamphlets attacking Pakatan were quietly circulated – against Selangor exco Elizabeth Wong, the issue of the pig farm in Kedah, land allocation in Perak, and the alleged increase influence of non-Malays.

Umno continued the tactic used in Bukit Gantang of using racial fear to mobilise support. This practice appears to be a defining practice of the Najib-Muhyiddin team.

The contest was about the respective parties, not the candidates. Both parties slated strong candidates who were well-respected, despite the differences in their education levels. They have integrity and are viewed as trustworthy, and both were local successes. As such, the Umno attack on the background of PAS candidate Mohamad Fauzi Abdullah only consolidated existing support rather than alienated voters.

Another key dimension was the use of funds. Manek Urai was not spared the flow of goodies as money was almost thrown at the voters – from the payment of transport allowance to the usual “grant” to households which ranged on average from RM100 to RM500. Polling station results show that these did have an effect.

In 2008, PAS won every polling station but Manjor. This round it lost in five areas. In at least two of these – Temalir and Laloh – Umno concentrated its fund allocation efforts at the micro-level. Gains were also made in Manek Urai Lama where the bridge was promised.

But it is important to note that Umno made gains in every polling station area. The gains were also in among the poorest areas of the constituency.

Livelihoods in this rural constituency have been badly affected by an almost 40 percent drop in rubber prices. The average income level in this area is less than RM1,000 a month.

The funds from the campaign were sorely needed, and many pragmatic voters responded to the offers. They understood that this election would not affect the balance of state or national power, and since it was considered a safe PAS seat, even traditional PAS supporters opted for the added income.

As was shown in Pendang in 2002, by-election patronage can be potent in low-income rural constituencies, even in those with strong PAS machinery on the ground.

First real test for Muhyiddin

One forgets however that the by-election advantage is not just about money, it is also about focus.

The relatively small size of Manek Urai allowed both parties to concentrate their efforts in certain areas. Working through the usual network of local leaders, religious networks, teachers and the local business community, each party honed these connections in order to influence voters. Umno particularly relied on these links and this gave the party a boost.

Manek Urai was comparatively more important for Umno, especially the deputy prime minister. This was the first major test of Muhyiddin Yassin as the campaign coordinator for Umno and he passed favourably. He was thrown to the wolves in Bukit Gantang, and was searching for redemption in Manek Urai.

Muhyiddin was not as hands-on as Najib, but he set the issues in place and pushed the campaign along. Arriving by helicopter regularly, Muhyiddin campaigned hard, changing the tactics systematically as the campaign evolved.

This was one of PAS’s major mistakes. They did not substantively evolve with the campaign. Instead it relied on a few messages from the onset and did not change effectively as the ground shifted. Perhaps blinded by overconfidence or too much faith in their own messages, they lost track of the pulse of the campaign as it changed.

Umno set the campaign momentum, not PAS. This disconnect ultimately contributed to the loss of support for PAS.

Unity talks undermine PAS support

One reason for this disconnect lay with divisions within PAS. It would be a mistake to say that this was a major factor for voters. Kelantanese voters – like most voters in Malaysia – carefully and clearly distinguish between Umno and PAS even if some of their leaders do not. Manek Urai voters did not comprehend the unity talks at all, describing them as illogical and unfeasible.

Nevertheless, the push for Malay unity has severely undermine support for PAS among its traditional supporters. The divisions within PAS provided a distraction and weakened cooperation. Noticeably there was less congeniality among leaders, with some staying away altogether. The PAS Kelantan-Terengganu (non-unity versus unity talks) tensions were real and persist despite claims to the contrary.

There was one interesting dynamic on the ground where these tensions spilled over.

Manek Urai voters made a clear distinction between Tok Guru Nik Aziz and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, opting often to openly leave the latter’s speeches early.

The cool reception toward Hadi Awang reflected symbolically a response to the internal conflict, but also represented the substantive differences in outlook between the leadership of PAS in both states.

Described as “sombong”, extremist and always lecturing, Hadi Awang did not get the same level of adoration of the Kelantanese spiritual leader. This by-election showed that PAS cannot escape the need to resolve the differences within the party and will have to find a balance that reaches the most voters.

With claims that the distraction undermined Pakatan cooperation and knocked PAS off its game, the resolution of internal differences is now more pressing than ever, not just for PAS but for the Pakatan opposition as a whole.

Opposition’s message getting stale

Manek Urai has been described as a turning point for Umno and a wake-up call for the opposition. It is more the latter than the former.

For Umno, the turning point occurred in Perak where the party has started to realise the need for a new way of campaigning on the ground. It has opted for a dangerous racially-loaded path, but simultaneously improved its use of technology, posters and organisational coordination. Manek Urai has indeed given Umno a new shine.

The contest showed that the opposition has relied too long on the messages of March 2008.

Its messaging is getting stale and there is growing ambivalence toward the opposition as a whole as shown by the recent Merdeka Centre poll and confirmed on the ground in Manek Urai.

The reliance of PAS on campaigning around one man, Tok Guru, adds to the party’s vulnerability electorally.

When the votes were counted, Umno won this ‘pearl’ symbolically. Whether Manek Urai will be the first jewel for Umno or a solitary treasure remains to be seen, but, most certainly, it showed PAS and Pakatan that nothing should be taken for granted.

//

BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She was recently in the Manek Urai by-election and can be contacted at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.

Pilihanraya kecil Manek Urai

Thousands in Manek Urai for nomination day
Jul 6, 09 8:42am malaysiakini.com

The small town of Manek Urai has been buzzing with activities since early this morning with thousands of supporters from both PAS and Umno mobilising to back their respective candidates to file in their nomination papers.

While nomination period is set to open at 9am, the supporters from both sides of the divide had started gathering at their respective meeting points since 7am.

bn umno candidate and leaders manek urai by election nomination day 060709 14Umno members who gathered at the party headquarters in Kuala Krai kept themselves busy by playing traditional drums and gongs to the dikir barat beat while waiting for their national leaders to arrive.

First to arrive on the scene was the party’s state chief Mustapa Mohamed. Party secretary-general Tengku Adnan Mansor was also on hand to oversee their preparation.

By 8.30am, some 2,000 Umno supporters were getting prepared for a short march to the nomination centre.

Umno leaders such as deputy party president Muhyiddin Yassin, vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein, Mohd Shafie Apdal, Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin were also there.

bn umno candidate and leaders manek urai by election nomination day 060709 11They performed a short prayer before marching to the nomination centre at about 8.50am.

At the PAS end, about 2,000 of the supporters started gathering at the Kuala Krai junction by about 7am.

And by the time the party held a special prayer session at the Al-Jauhar mosque, the number had swelled to almost 10,000.

These supporters, led by their spiritual leader and Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat, then started marching towards the nomination centre at about 8.10am.

The SMK Sultan Yahya Petra 1 nomination centre is located about 1.4 kilometres away.

Strong police presence

pas candidate and pakatan leaders manek urai by election 060709 20The other PAS leaders in the crowd include PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, Husam Musa, Khalid Samad and Hatta Ramli. Pakatan Rakyat leaders like Azmin Ali, Zaid Ibrahim, Khalid Ibrahim and Tan Seng Giaw were also in the crowd. However PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa was not in the crowd.

On the way, these PAS supporters shouted slogans like ‘Hidup Islam’ and recited verses from the Quran. Many waved PAS flags.

As the main road leading to the nomination centre has been blocked by the police, the opposing groups of supporters would have to face-off at the road leading to the nomination centre.

By 8.40am, Nik Aziz and several Pakatan leaders have entered the nomination centre with their candidate.

pas candidate and leaders manek urai by election nomination day 060709 26There is a strong police presence at the nomination centre. Traffic in Manek Urai has come to a standstill while enterprising locals have set up stalls everywhere.

Kelantan police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi meanwhile estimated that about 7,000 PAS supporters and 4,000 BN supporters had gathered this morning.

He added that there were no untoward incidents reported so far and hoped the supporters would respect the law and order.

pas candidate and leaders manek urai by election nomination day 060709 27Some 2,100 police personnel were utilised this morning, including 600 at the nomination centre.

The by-election on July 14 will see PAS’ Mohd Fauzi Abdullah, 50, taking on Umno’s Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, 39, if their nominations today are not rejected for any reasons by the returning officer.

The by-election on July 14 has been necessitated by the death of former state assemblyman Ismail Yaakob, of PAS, on May 22.

Other related news on the NEWS page on Page Menu.

Fuziah Salleh: Idea (Kerajaan Perpaduan) tidak akan jadi kenyataan

Sinar Harian 17 Jun 2009

Kuala Lumpur – Kerajaan Perpaduan yang dicadangkan Presiden PAS, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang tidak akan menjadi kenyataan kerana sejarah kerjasama Pas-Umno menunjukkan Parti Islam itu dipergunakan oleh Umno untuk mengukuhkan parti berkenaan.

Pengarah Biro Latihan Parti Keadilan Rakyat (KEADILAN), Fuziah Salleh berkata, pengalaman PAS bekerjasama dengan Umno suatu masa duhulu cukup menyedihkan dan PAS sepatutnya belajar dari sejarah lampau.

Beliau yang juga Ahli Parlimen Kuantan berkata, sebagai pemimpin parti KEADILAN berpegang kepada prinsip untuk tidak menyokong penubuhan ‘kerajaan perpaduan’ kerana ia bukan satu fokus Pakatan Rakyat (PR) buat masa kini.

“Kita (PR) juga patut merasakan kita ada kekuatan sendiri dan tidak perlu mengharapkan keuatan dari Barisan Nasional untuk ke hadapan malah kita turut ada kelebihan berbanding dengan mereka sekarang.

“idea penubuhan Kerajaan Perpaduan adalah pandangan berbentuk ‘elemen pecahan’ dan bukan pandangan politik perdana PR,” katanya pada sidang media di Lobi Parlimen semalam.

Beliau berkata demikian mengulas kenyataan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yang menyifatkan PAS sebagai ikhlas dalam mengutarakan idea penubuhan Kerajaan Perpaduan dan Umno sedia untuk bekerjasama.

Tiada Kompromi tentang isu Kerajaan Perpaduan

Nik Aziz to Nasha: ‘Quit PAS, join Umno’
Jun 17, 09 1:26pm Malaysiakini.com

MCPX

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat has asked party deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa to quit the party and join Umno over his continued stand in forging alliance with the rival party.

“The issue of forming a unity government is not something which came from PAS as a whole. It was a personal idea of someone.

nik aziz angry 170609“This matter was never discussed in PAS or within Pakatan Rakyat,” he said.

“If it is true that Nasharuddin supports the formation of a unity government, it is best that he joins Umno by quitting his PAS post (as deputy president) and as an MP for Bachok,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.

“Don’t cause problems in the party,” added the Kelantan menteri besar. He spoke to reporters after chairing state exco meeting in Kota Bahru.

This remark made by the most senior party leader today indicated that the party was clearly heading towards an open rift over the issue of holding unity talks with Umno.

Nik Aziz has been a vocal critic of having any links with Umno, constantly reminding the party members and leaders of the party’s bad experience in forming alliance with Umno in the 1970s.

Disappointed with Nasharuddin

He had previously labelled those who backed the unity talks as ‘Umno puppets’ and called such talks as “ridiculous”.

nasharuddin mat isa 170609 02The main backer to hold such talks is party president Abdul Hadi Awang. His deputy Nasharuddin is also a vocal supporter of the talks.

Nik Aziz also said that he was disappointed with Nasharuddin’s stand on the unity government issue as the situation has now allowed for a rift in the party.

“The Umno people are having a gala time now as PAS is in turmoil… Pakatan is in turmoil.”

He also added that if Barisan Nasional was genuine about forming a unity government, it should then appoint some Pakatan leaders as ministers.

“If it is agreeable to all, PAS (leader) can be a minister, DAP and PKR as well,” he said.

DPM: Be clear on what you want

Yesterday Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said that he was open to such talks with PAS.

After first broaching the subject at the PAS Muktamar two weeks ago, Hadi had then imposed conditions that he was willing to talk to Umno if the latter was ready to implement some democratic reforms.

Yesterday Nasharuddin responded to Najib by saying that PAS was willing to talk to Umno on matters of national interest but ruled out discussions on a unity government.

Earlier today PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali said that the party would hold unity talks with Umno only if its Pakatan Rakyat partners – PKR and DAP – are included in the talks.

Responding to this Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said BN was clear in what it wants from the unity talks and urged the Pakatan allies to be united in what they want.

‘They should not keep changing goalposts,” he said.

Azmin warns against betrayal

Meanwhile in a related development, PKR vice-president Azmin Ali said that the quit call by Nik Aziz was PAS’ internal party affairs.

“I don’t know what would be the party’s next course of action but PAS should respect the decision taken in the last muktamar which is to strengthen the Pakatan coalition,” he said.

He added that unity talks were an act of treachery to the people who voted for Pakatan in the last general election.

However Deputy Umno Youth chief Razali Ibrahim did not feel that this was PAS’ internal matter. He instead said Nasharuddin should just join Umno.

“Our doors are always open for anyone to join us… in Nasharuddin’s case, he is someone with strong leadership and is an exemplary person,” he said.

“Of course we welcome him… Nik Aziz’s statement is unfortunate. Nasharuddin is someone who is truly honest in his struggle,” he added.

If Umno is so keen on pursing ‘unity talks’ with PAS, it should not contest in the upcoming Manek Urai by-election

Husam taunts Umno: Don’t contest Manek Urai
Andrew Ong | Jun 16, 09 5:27pm Malaysiakini.com
If Umno is so keen on pursing ‘unity talks’ with PAS, it should not contest in the upcoming Manek Urai by-election, said former PAS vice-president Husam Musa.

MCPX

husam musa pas interview 170507“What is the point of having ‘unity talks’ and yet wanting to fight against us?” Husam told Malaysiakini in a telephone interview today.

“If Umno is sincere, the first thing they have to do is not contest against PAS (in Manek Urai). But I don’t believe Umno is ever sincere.

“If they are serious about ‘unity talks’, the onus is for the top leaders of both parties to work out a no-contest situation. If that cannot be done, how can the ‘unity talks’ resolve bigger issues?”

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and his deputy Nasharuddin Mat Isa caused a storm at the recent PAS muktamar by aggressively floating the idea of forging closer ties with Umno.

Husam and party spiritual adviser Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, however, are against this.

najib and umno 151008Umno president Najib Abdul Razak had responded this morning that he feels PAS is sincere in wanting to form a unity government and that Umno is open to talks.

Some 12,000 voters will go to the polls in Manek Urai, Kelantan, on July 14, while nominations are set for July 6.

Umno is adamant about pulling off an upset in Manek Urai, after deciding not to contest the Penanti by-election last month.

Although the majority has been slim in previous elections, Manek Urai is considered a PAS stronghold as the state seat was held for five terms by Ismail Yaakob, until his death on May 22.

‘Altantuya issue will surface’

Should Umno field a candidate in Manek Urai, the by-election would become a “major test for Najib”, said Husam.

manek urai state seat 220509Husam said this is because this would be Najib’s first by-election as premier, and one held in a Malay-majority and rural area in the peninsula at that.

“After failing to win in urban or mixed seats, they think they can do better in a Malay-majority rural seat. But knowing the Kelantanese, they won’t stick to local issues alone,” said Husam.

“I think the Altantuya issue and corruption will be a major election issue. It will be a test for the new prime minister.”

Manek Urai is the seventh by-election since the last general elections in March last year, and the fifth since Najib was sworn in as prime minister on April 9.

Barisan Nasional’s sole win was by retaining the Batang Ai state seat in Sarawak.

Khalid Samad mengenai isu SIS

Nik Aziz: Kerajaan Perpaduan bukan kehendak PAS

Unity govt proponents are
Umno puppets: Nik Aziz

KOTA BARU: PAS spiritual leader
Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat
yesterday rapped party members
who defended the proposal of a
unity government mooted by PAS
president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi
Awang, regarding them as Umno
puppets.
He also disagreed with PAS
central election director Datuk
Mustafa Ali calling on all PAS
and Pakatan Rakyat leaders to
cease issuing statements on the
proposed unity government to
avoid confusing party members,
saying there was no reason why
they should.
“I cannot run away from the
decision made at the PAS assembly
in Ipoh last year … the decision
was to support the PR. Those who
support this unity (government)
are Umno puppets – clear and
obvious,” Nik Aziz said.
“The unwarranted call from
PAS to form a unity government
is (from) Umno puppets,” he said
at his offi cial residence here.
When told that the idea of
a unity government came from
Hadi himself, Nik Aziz said the
statement did not reflect the
wishes of PAS.
“The president is a leader
of an organisation, and (as) the
decision was not made by the
organisation, it is his personal
statement.” – Bernama

Muslimat PAS voice wanting in decision making within PAS

Lo’ Lo’ kecewa peranan diberikan pada Muslimat masih kecil
Roy Rasul
Sun | Jun 07, 09 | 2:49:37 pm MYT  HarakahDaily.Net
SHAH ALAM, 7 Jun (Hrkh) – Pengerusi Lajnah Kebajikan dan Masyarakat, Dr Lo’ Lo’ Ghazali berkata, beliau melihat dalam muktamar kali ini, peranan yang dimainkan oleh muslimatnya semakin mengecil.

“Saya menerima beberapa aduan daripada Ketua Muslimat dan juga wakil Muslimat yang dinafikan mewakili kawasan atau bilangan mereka semakin dikurangkan,” katanya.

Sehubungan itu katanya beliau berharap usia PAS yang semakin matang itu memberi perhatian di atas perkara tersebut.

Beliau yang berucap dalam sesi penggulungan Muktamar kali ke-55, hari ini berkata sudah sampai masanya Muslimat yang sebelum ini diberi peranan yang sangat besar dihargai sebagai jentera dan diberi tempat untuk berada di dalam peringkat membuat keputusan dalam parti.

“Sudah sampai masanya Muslimat melepasi era ‘tea lady’ dan bukan sebagai AJK hadiah, cenderahati tetapi muslimat hendaklah bersama-sama berperanan untuk membuat atau memberi sumbangan serta cadangan untuk membuat keputusan di peringkat pusat,” katanya.

Dalam masa sama beliau turut menyentuh isu Nisa’ atau wanita muda dan remaja dalam PAS.

Katanya, beliau agak terkilan kerana lebih 10 tahun Nisa masih lagi di peringkat yang tidak memberangsangkan.

Sebaliknya beliau berkata baru-baru ini didapati ada cadangan yang sangat baik iaitu memantapkan Kelab Penyokong PAS sehingga menjadi sebuah dewan.

“Saya kira sepatutnya Nisa yang ke depan dulu kerana Nisa lebih lama hendaklah diiktiraf dan dihargai dan diletakkan sebagai sebuah sayap dalam PAS dab bukan berada di bawah Dewan Muslimat selama-lamanya,” katanya.

Katanya beliau menghargai sokongan golongan muda di seluruh negara dan peranan Nisa sangat besar.

Kerana itu katanya kerjasama dan memposisikan Nisa di tempat yang jauh lebih baik iaitu sebagai sayap atau dewan baru parti.

Selain itu, beliau turut menyentuh mengenai pakaian kaum wanita sebagai pemerhati dan wakil media.

Katanya, Dewan Muslimat sememangnya sangat menggalakkan pakaian yang menutup aurat dalam menjaga sentiviti dalam muktamar.

Tetapi katanya dalam masa yang sama PAS sewajarnya mengambil pendekatan Menteri Besar Kelantan Tuan Guru Nik Aziz di dalam memimpin dan menerajui Kelantan berkata PAS mengambil pendekatan dan menerang, mendidik dan memberi pilihan-pilihan yang lebih baik kepada mereka bukannya secara paksaan. – mns_

Many now think it is not PAS per se, but it’s PAS Hadi Awang and Nasharudin

Well, those are the words from some PAS people and the Rakyat…
on the issue of  Unity Government…

——————————————————————————————

PAS owes explanation over unity talks
Athi Veeranggan | Jun 8, 09 12:03pm Malaysiakini.com

MCPX

PAS leaders owe a thorough explanation to Pakatan Rakyat top leadership on the party’s unity talks with Umno, DAP leader Lim Guan Eng said today.

As a coalition partner, the DAP secretary-general pointed out that PAS should not keep its allies, the DAP and PKR, in the dark over its ambitious plan to form a unity government in collaboration with Umno.

lim guan eng penang pc 100409Lim said the PAS leadership had never explained to the Pakatan leadership over its alleged unity talks held last year with Umno.

He refuted claims by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang that Pakatan leaders were receptive to the unity talks when PAS explained it to them.

“Pakatan leadership never discussed the unity talks, neither did PAS inform us about it.

“We are unaware of the goings-on,” he told journalists after witnessing the swearing-in of new Penang Island Municipal Council president Tan Cheng Chui.

Be truthful

Lim reminded Abdul Hadi to be truthful and be a God fearing person.

“As a religious man, one will not be answerable only to DAP, but also God,” he said.

pas muktamar 070609 hadi awangThe issue of unity talks dominated PAS’ annual congress over the weekend with many leaders and delegates slamming the party leadership’s initiatives to hold talks with arch rivals Umno to form an ambitious unity government at the federal level.

Even the much-revered PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat and ousted Perak menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin openly opposed such an idea, which if materialised, could weaken the Pakatan coalition.

The unity talk was the main reason for Kelantan PAS strongman Husam Musa to challenge Nasharuddin Mat Isa for the deputy president’s post. However he was defeated by the incumbent.

“There were too many unity talks with Umno much to my disliking.

“PAS should replace Umno, not complement it,” Husam had told journalists a week before the contest.

To be raised at next Pakatan meeting

Nasharuddin has reportedly started the unity talk with Umno with a blessing from Abdul Hadi much to annoyance of many PAS, DAP and PKR leaders.

The unity talks left Pakatan in lurch and the alliance is now seeking answers from PAS leadership.

Sources close to Anwar Ibrahim said that the PKR supremo feared a Pakatan break-up due to Nasharuddin’s overzealous attempt to grab federal powers via collaboration with Umno.

The sources claimed that the unity talks began the very next day after Pakatan scored unprecedented electoral gains in last year’s general election on March 8.

“The people wanted to change the country’s political landscape away from Umno’s dominance and hegemony.

“But Nasharuddin was playing right into Umno’s game,” added the sources.

Lim pointed out that even PAS was internally divided over the issue and many were unhappy with the party’s collaboration with Umno.

He hinted that the Pakatan top leadership would hold a meeting during next week’s parliamentary sitting, in which PAS would be quizzed over its ambitious unity talks with Umno.

Wan Azizah: Important for them to explain

Meanwhile PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that it was important for PAS leaders to explain on their idea of unity talks with Umno.

bukit gantang by election wan azizah ceramah 020109 03However she added that PKR will not deter PAS from holding such talks.

“Neither will we question their intentions to discuss with any parties on matter of national interest,” she said in a statement today.

She also stressed that PKR was committed to ensure that Pakatan always remained in a strong and united position.

“We hope that our partners PAS and DAP will also have the same commitment,” she said.

————————————————————————————————

Khairy: Time to revive Umno-PAS talks
Jun 8, 09 3:55pm Malaysiakini.com
While others around him dither, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin is keen to see progress in talks between Umno and PAS even if a unity government does not materialise.

MCPX

khairy jamaluddin and umno“Umno is not too concerned about forming a unity government. Instead, it wants to establish a common understanding with PAS,” he wrote in his blog today.

He urged the two parties to set aside their differences and work towards finding a common ground in tackling national issues.

“Hopefully, a common understanding towards these issues would demonstrate moderation and progressiveness. If this leads to something more concrete, we hope that both sides will discuss again in future,” he explained.

A roundtable discussion would not only strengthen Malay unity but will also be beneficial to society at large, he said.

“It would be a reflection of maturity and far-sightedness,” he added.

Mixed response

The PAS elections, concluded last Friday, saw the pro-ulama faction – which is inclined to hold talks with Umno – gaining a stronger foothold in the higher echelon of the Islamic party.

Party president Abdul Hadi Awang and newly-elected deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa made it clear the Umno-PAS talks will resume in time to come.

nik aziz angry and pas 020607However, the proposal was firmly rejected by PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, who is aligned to the liberal ‘Erdogan faction’, which wants to strengthen the party’s ties with Pakatan Rakyat.

The Umno-PAS talks were initiated to discuss matters related to Islam and Malay unity after the general election in March last year.

PAS had previously complained that Islam and Malay privileges have been de-emphasised by Pakatan, which is allegedly been dancing to the tune of other partners PKR and DAP.

Former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had confirmed meeting PAS leaders on three occasions to discuss the possibility of a merger. He had declined to name whom he had met, except to say that Nik Aziz was not part of the talks.

PAS: Open discussion for all

as in PAS for all?

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Hadi: Let’s not shut our doors to others
Rahmah Ghazali and Hafiz Yatim | Jun 7, 09 9:07pm Malaysiakini.com
In his closing speech at 55th PAS muktamar in Shah Alam today, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang sought to paint a liberal picture of not shutting its doors to other parties for discussions.

MCPX

pas muktamar 070609 hadi awangThis is despite criticisms leveled against the party leadership for opening discussions to arch-rival Umno following last year’s March 8 general election political tsunami.

According to Hadi, Islam does not teach Muslims to shun others although they may have opposing views with the Islamic party.

“Islam will not be with us if we do not fight for the cause as a whole. We cannot just rely on ourselves… we need to meet everyone to have an open discussion,” he said.

Instead, Hadi urged that the party should instead fight against the “real” enemies and not the “imaginary” enemies as those are different in nature.

“Don’t waste our time chasing these imaginary foes until we ignore the real ones,” said Hadi, in an apparent reference to Umno.

However, in his winding-up speech he did not elaborate on who the “real” or the “imaginary” enemies were.

“What we have to do is prioritise peace because we want to save humanity… (With this) we should attract more supporters and voters as many as we can for our party,” he said.

On the same note, Hadi asserted that there is no need for PAS to share “other people’s ship” as “our ship is already strong enough”.

“So there is also no need for us to even join the Barisan Nasional ship,” he said, drawing cheers from the delegates.

Consultation does not mean sharing power

Elaborating from Hadi’s speech, deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa stressed that any talks with Umno or any other party would not mean that it endorses “power sharing”.

pas muktamar 070609 nasharudin mat isaSpeaking to reporters later, he said that such discussions are needed for the “benefit of the people and the nation pertaining to current issues that need to be answered”.

“(However), I have to reiterate that PAS joining Umno is a non-issue as we are only concentrating more on discussions.

“Besides that, we are open to discussions regardless of who they are. If MIC wants to talk to us, we would welcome it,” he said with a laugh.

To a question whether such a move would result in a further split to the party, Nasharuddin however remains positive that the party could manage and accommodate “different views”.

“We practice the principle of rights… that is why the muktamar is held in the first place where they could debate anything on everything. So we could gather different viewpoints in order to determine the direction of the party,” he said.

In his response to spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat who yesterday ridiculed the suggestion of a unity government, Nasharuddin said this was “his personal view”.
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“But we prioritise more on the party’s overview. Even now, we don’t have any concrete decision on these talks with Umno. It is a very general statement and not at all specific and I will leave it to the party to decide,” he said.

They have been our political enemies, but…

pas nik aziz speech 060609 audienceAccording to Nasharuddin, although still many senior members felt that it was wrong to hold talks with Umno which had backstabbed PAS in 1974, it does not mean that “we cannot go back and talk to them”.

“They have been our political enemies but that does not mean that we should shut the door for us to have a dialogue on issues related to the benefit of the people and the nation.

“It is not just about sharing power and not just about going to form a (unity) government, that is not the issue,” he said.

When asked if the top leadership would not be “suspicious” with their old political enemy, Umno, who have been open for discussions since their setback in the general elections, Nasharuddin jokingly said: “Well we have more bargaining powers on our side”.

“But of course, it does not mean sharing of power. It is about coming out with (unlimited issues) like discussing about the betterment of the current judicial crisis or Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, we can start from there,” he said.

He however believes that DAP and PKR will not oppose to what the party is doing as the party is determined not to join BN or Umno.

“We are not joining BN, we are not joining Umno… (all this will) be explained by the president, and (the issue) is going to be settled,” he said.