KUALA LUMPUR, 22 June 2009: The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Council of Leaders has unanimously rejected the idea of a unity government with Barisan Nasional (BN).
“All the component parties of PR reiterate their commitment to each other and to strengthen the coalition in order to help form the future federal government,” Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said while reading from a statement today.
“The PR Council of Leaders reaffirms our rejection of the idea of forming a unity government with Umno/Barisan Nasional, which is clearly a malicious and desperate attempt to compromise the integrity of the PR,” Anwar said.
He was speaking at a press conference after a one-and-a-half-hour meeting in Parliament by the PR leaders. The meeting was called to specifically discuss the issue of proposed talks between PAS and Umno that were supposedly meant to explore the formation of a unity government.
The press conference in progress (Pic courtesy of Merdeka Review)
Today’s PR statement was signed by Anwar, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang.
Other PR leaders who attended the meeting included PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub, and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali and vice-presidents R Sivarasa and Azmin Ali, and PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustapha Ali were present. From Perak, PAS’s Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin and DAP’s Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham were also at the meeting.
When asked whether today’s statement meant that PAS would not pursue a unity government with BN, Hadi said: “We will not. If that is the way [of doing things].”
“Umno has played up [the unity government] issue to try to say that PAS will leave PR and join them,” said Hadi. “This is evil slander, designed to create conflict, instead of unity.”
Hadi‘s statement today was an about-turn. The PAS leader was the one who first proposed the idea of a unity government with Umno/BN. At the party’s recently-concluded muktamar in early June, both Hadi and deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa were seen as supporting the idea of unity talks despite being criticised from within their party.
Nik Aziz Last week, on 17 June, PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat told Nasharuddin to join Umno if the latter was so keen to support the idea of a unity government with Umno/BN.
In the meantime, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has been calling for the unity talks to be sped up, even going as far as to say Umno would accept any terms set by PAS.
Crisis of confidence
When asked whether the recent talk about a unity government had affected relations within PR, Kit Siang said that it was the coalition’s “first crisis of confidence”.
“But we’ve come together. This joint statement has shown that we are committed to move forward,” he said.
Anwar said the PR would still “adopt an open approach”, adding that the Opposition coalition was willing to hold discussions with BN leaders on “issues of national interest”.
“[These are issues] such as economic recovery, improving the quality of education, restoring the integrity of the judiciary,” Anwar said.
The PR would also be willing sit down with the BN to discuss abolishing the Internal Security Act (ISA), dealing with the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal, and curtailing police abuse of power, Anwar said.
He added that the PR would also talk to BN on the possibility of dissolving the Perak state assembly to hold free and fair elections to resolve the crisis there.
On Nik Aziz telling Nasharuddin to leave PAS, Mustapha said the matter would, “God willing”, be resolved at a PAS meeting tonight.