Anwar in damage control mode over PAS split
FROM THE MALAYSIAN INSIDERBy Syed Jaymal Zahiid
KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 – PKR’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has moved to contain the fallout over cracks in the PAS leadership, denying his party’s Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partner was split over Umno’s offer of talks with the Islamist party.
Anwar told reporters in Parliament today that he did not believe that PAS was divided, claiming that the matter could be resolved if its spiritual leader, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and his pro-unity government president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, talk things over.
In an unprecedented outburst today, Nik Aziz said his party’s deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, should join Umno if he persisted in wanting talks with Umno.
But Anwar believes Nik Aziz, representing the voice of PAS’ grassroots, had only made the statement out of frustration.
“And I think Nik Aziz should talk to his leaders on this matter and I believe it can be resolved,” he said.
He also revealed that the unity government talks was raised by PAS leaders during a PR meeting last Sunday and said that the party had maintained its stand that it has no intention of joining Umno but instead only wanted to engage them on issues of national interests.
Anwar also said that Hadi reiterated his commitment to the PR alliance.
But the term “engagement” instead of the formation of a coalition with Umno, was only adopted recently by both Hadi and Nasharuddin in the aftermath of heavy attacks from party grassroots and other PR leaders on the matter.
Hadi claimed PAS would only engage Umno on specific issues like reforming the Elections Commission and the judiciary.
Nik Aziz’s remarks came just after PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali pledged the party’s commitment to Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
Mustafa said this morning that PAS would only have talks to form a unity government if the negotiations included its PR partners, in a statement designed to assuage the growing sense of betrayal being felt by DAP and PKR.
Umno leaders have in recent weeks aggressively pushed the idea of opening talks with PAS, and this has opened up a rift between the PR partners and put the federal opposition alliance on the back-foot for the first time since last year’s general election.
Nasharuddin had been at the forefront of secret talks last year between Umno and PAS soon after the general election. But those talks did not result in any pact with the BN, and PAS decided instead to commit itself to PR.
But Nasharuddin and Hadi have grown weary of Anwar’s prominence and are concerned that PAS may be sidelined in a PR government led by the former deputy prime minister. Umno has taken full advantage of the turn of events.