Updated 6.25pm on 1 July 2009
KUALA LUMPUR, 1 July 2009: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin today lauded what he called PAS Youth’s “courage” in inviting Umno Youth to an “intellectual discourse”.
“PAS Youth has shown that they are brave enough to defy, if you like, the decision of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leadership which wants nothing to do with the Barisan Nasional (BN),” Khairy told a press conference in Parliament today.
Earlier in the morning, newly minted PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan at Tantawi met with Umno Youth deputy chief Datuk Razali Ibrahim in the Parliament lobby to hand over the official invitation letter.
Khairy was unable to meet Nasrudin at this time, but said he managed to talk to Razali about it later.
Nasrudin said he had initially suggested the topic, Is it true Umno’s struggle does not conform to Islam?, saying that the discussion would be “on principles, the direction of the country, and Muslim Malaysians”.
KhairyHowever, Khairy and Razali both said that Nasrudin had left it to Umno Youth to fine-tune the topic.
“I agree with Razali’s suggestion for both youth wings to set up a joint secretariat to iron out these and other logistical matters, and I suggest setting it up after the Manik Urai by-election (on 14 July 2009),” Khairy said.
He said that the formation of the secretariat would depend on the sincerity of both sides, which could be observed during campaigning in Manik Urai.
Nevertheless, Khairy said that he agreed to and accepted the invitation “in principle”.
Public or closed discussion?
Nasrudin, however, had suggested that the discussion be open to the public.
“If we can broadcast on television, that’s even better,” he told reporters.
Khairy and Razali, however, are keeping mum on whether or not they want the discussion to be an open debate.
“Before we even go into that, we need to establish whether the two youth wings have a common aim for the discussion, and on whether it will be a one-off affair or the start of a longer engagement,” Khairy said.
At the moment, neither PAS Youth nor Umno Youth have given a suggested date or venue for the discourse.
Khairy stressed that the discourse could only be pursued if both sides were comfortable with the terms that need to be set.
When asked what his current comfort level was with PAS, Khairy said, “I don’t want to speculate on that.
“It’s like asking whether you like a girl even before you have gone out on a date with her. [PAS Youth and Umno Youth] have not even gone out on our first date yet.”
Razali (left) and Nasrudin
Blessings from top leadership
When asked whether PAS Youth had received blessings from the party’s top leadership to approach Umno Youth, Nasrudin said the decision was made within the youth wing.
“Our position is there is nothing that cannot be solved, provided both sides are sincere in seeking the truth instead of working to demolish each other,” he said.
Nasrudin also denied that this “intellectual discourse” was yet another way to pursue the controversial unity government idea that was mooted by PAS leaders earlier and welcomed by Umno.
Khairy agreed that the discussion was only between the two youth wings, but added, “If we both agree, we can persuade the top leadership of our parties to follow up [on these points of convergence]. I think this kind of idealism by the youth [in PAS and Umno] can create a healthy development.”
Khairy, however, stressed that the discussion should extend beyond Malay and Muslim issues to touch on issues of “national importance” such as the Internal Security Act, democracy and student activism, among others.
He also said he would try to include the other components of BN Youth before the discourse took place.
When met by reporters in the Parliament lobby later, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang declined to comment on the issue.
Dapsy “shocked” and “upset”
At a separate press conference, DAP Socialist Youth (Dapsy) national chief and Rasah MP Anthony Loke said he was “shocked”, “upset” and “disappointed” to hear about the proposed talks.
However, when asked if he objected to the talks, he said he did not because it was PAS Youth’s right to do whatever it wanted.
“But the PR leadership made a decision not to pursue any unity talks with the BN, regardless of how such talks are labeled,” he said.
“If it was only a discourse, why didn’t they inform the PR first so that the PR could then debate with the BN as a whole?” he asked.