Unity talks aimed at breaking Pakatan
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Maybe he did not have the complete picture or was naïve. Or maybe he was too excited at sharing the same table with the former prime minister that he did not realise he and other Parti Islam SeMalaysia (Pas) leaders were being played like violins.
But Nasharuddin Mat Isa fudged the truth when he spoke about the so-called unity talks between Umno and Pas. Hearing him say it, it was a simple, honest discussion between Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang, Nasharuddin plus a few others on Malay and Muslim unity.
All very innocent. Two Malay-based political parties trying to find some common ground after battling out for votes in Election 2008.
But fact is it there was nothing innocent about the unity talks last year, at least from the Umno point of view.
Abdullah, under pressure after Barisan Nasional’s dismal performance, was hoping to convince Pas leaders that in the wake of Election 2008 both Umno and Pas must ensure that the interests of Malays/Muslims must be safeguarded.
By doing so, he was hoping to loosen the ties between Pas and Pakatan Rakyat. It was not a coincidence that Hadi and Nasharuddin were invited to the unity talks, and not Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat nor Husam Musa.
Hadi and Nasharuddin were identified as among Pas leaders who were suspicious of Opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim’s growing stature in Pakatan Rakyat.
Those familiar with the series of meetings at a government-owned house in Jalan Bellamy (Abdullah’s former residence when he was the foreign minister) recalled that the sodomy case against Anwar was also raised during discussions. It is uncertain why Abdullah brought up the matter but Umno officials said there was nothing sinister or underhanded.
It was just incidental. Still, from the outside, not difficult to reach the conclusion that all the information provided at the talks was aimed at driving a wedge between Pas and the Anwar-led Pakatan Rakyat.
Abdullah cannot be blamed. He was doing what any president of a party and leader of a coalition under pressure would do — find ways to weaken the challenger.
If seeds of doubt were planted in the minds of Pas about the future of Malays and Muslims in Malaysia, or about the fitness of Anwar to lead the Opposition alliance, it would only benefit Umno/BN.
Abdullah’s strategy did not succeed because information about the meetings with Pas leaders was leaked and he was forced to confirm it sooner than he would have liked.
Nik Aziz, Husam and other Pas leaders still exuberant after Pakatan Rakyat’s strong showing in Election 2008 and believing that the future of the Islamic party lay with the DAP and PKR, shot down the idea of any pact or unity government with Umno.
But Umno officials and those in Pas sympathetic to unity talks were not to let the matter die. They argue that non-Malays have nothing to fear from common ground being achieved between Umno and Pas.
That sounds good in theory but judging by the nature of the first stage of unity talks between Abdullah and Pas leaders last year, it is quite clear that the interests of Chinese and Indians would have been sacrificed for the greater good of Malay/Muslim unity.
Why? Because political considerations are the single-most important factor driving the talks.
Nothing else matters.
Not the political cost the unity talks would have on Pakatan Rakyat.
Not the feelings of the multitude of non-Malays who supported Pas candidates.
Not the future of the two party/coalition system in Malaysia.
Nasharuddin knows all this and more.