As Najib’s grip loosens, Umno to accept all terms set by PAS
By Wong Choon Mei [Update 3]
In a show of haste indicative of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s weakening hold on his Umno party, his deputy has quickly stepped in, agreeing to accept all terms set by arch rival PAS in order to fast-track talks for forging a unity government.
“We will not impose any conditions and we accept whatever terms set by PAS. As far as I am concerned, we have to be open,” Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was quoted as saying by Bernama on Friday.
It is unclear if Muhyiddin, who is also Umno deputy president, was trying to throw a curve ball to the Islamic-based PAS and its Pakatan Rakyat partners PKR and DAP.
Nevertheless, his comments are sensational given that PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali has said PAS would only hold talks with Najib, who is also Umno president, if PKR and DAP were included.
“If Najib is not willing to have that, then we will not have talks with Umno,” Musatafa said on Wednesday.
In an immediate reaction, PKR strategic affairs director Tian Chua took a swipe at Najib and his No.2, questioning their sudden U-turn after having accused PAS of insincerity earlier on.
Najib had only this week said Umno was willing to embrace PAS, just two days after Muhyiddin had said no!
“Isn’t it odd that Umno looks so desperate in wanting unity talks with PAS. Perhaps, it is not just a ploy after all but a telling revelation that the Umno leadership is in crisis,” Tian told Suara Keadilan.
“It is probably driven by a real fear amongst the party that Umno is really losing ground support. Hence, it desperately needs to cling to PAS for support. But as always with Najib, it may be a bit too late. PAS has already stated clearly that all talks must include Pakatan members.”
Bringing out the Forgive and Forget rhetoric
Muhyiddin also urged PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat to forgive past conflicts between the two parties in the 1970s.
According to him, if PAS could cooperate with Umno to form the Kelantan state government at that time and even became part of the Barisan Nasional coalition, there was no reason why it could not do so again.
“As Muslims we are encouraged to forgive. That was in the past,” said Muhyiddin.
Unable to stomach the entrenched corruption in Umno-BN, PAS had later broken away, vowing never to return or to trust Umno again.
In particular Nik Aziz, the senior-most leader in the party, has been adamant about having nothing to do with Umno – a position that is at odds with president Hadi Awang and his deputy Nasharudin Mat Isa.
Both Hadi and Nasharudin have said PAS would remain in Pakatan but may offer the government economic and political recommendations. Nevertheless, there have been concerns they could later steer PAS towards Umno.
Pakatan is due to hold its top leadership council meeting on Monday, where Hadi is expected to make clear his stand at the meeting.
PAS will also be having its own meeting to discuss whether Hadi and Nasharudin should continue to invite discourse with Umno.
Najib’s latest gambit to cling on
Meanwhile, Muhyiddin continued to fudge his way through.
Describing Nik Aziz’s rejection as an internal PAS matter, he took Hadi’s side, calling for a meeting to take place as soon as possible.
” We hope that the meeting takes place in the next few days, anytime, no problem,” said Muhyiddin.
Both Umno and PAS have come in for heavy criticism for trying to cut a deal without consulting the non-Malays.
However, that did not stop Muhyiddin from ignoring BN components MCA, MIC and Gerakan. The DPM side-stepped the issue by saying that a unity government was essential to unite the Muslims in the country.
Analysts that Suara Keadilan contacted said that whichever way Muhyiddin spun on his boss’s behalf – no matter that he may even appear to be driving a wedge within PAS and between the Pakatan partners – the message was still unmistakable.
Prime Minister Najib’s back is to the wall and he knows it.
As Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim pointed out earlier this weak, Najib’s support base even within Umno was fast crumbling. He needs PAS to help him to cling on.
Just a day ago, the Sultan of Johor made no bones about rejecting his prized third-bridge proposal. If implemented, this would have been Najib’s first mega-project but the public slap in the face was just another sign that Malaysians have grown weary of his bullying ways and empty double-speak.
“Umno has over 3 million members. It is weak when its leaders are weak and Najib is now the weakest part of Umno. If the party loses the federal government, it can still come back and fight another day. But not Najib, he would be finished,” said a veteran political watcher.
“So this is his bid to cling to the federal government, for his personal self – not Umno, not the Malays.
“He knows he can’t get back the non-Malay votes, so he is cutting loss there and banking on the Malays using unity amongst Muslims as his guise. But maybe he has forgotten that the Malays dumped Umno not because of the Chinese and the Indians. They voted PAS and PKR because they were fed of the corruption and the elitism in Umno.
“But this is another very good move in the sense that it once again exposes the insincerity of his character. It reaffirms the distrust the non-Malays feel for him. What I wonder is what makes him think the Malays trust him!”