Abdul Hadi Awang's 'willingness' to be the prime minister has rekindled a previous controversial call he made for a 'unity government' with Umno.
KOTA KINABALU 20/11/2012: Late last year there were speculations filtering out of Umno corridors in Kuala Lumpur that emissaries of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim were in “negotiation” over the latter and his daughter Nurul Izzah’s future.
Whispers then were linked to the imminent outcome of Anwar’s Sodomy II and rumours were that Anwar was being asked to “leave” politics “temporarily” and the “powers-that-be” would allow Nurul to grow (politically).
The comment at that time was: “Najib has no personal angst against Anwar… but if he [Anwar] wants a future [Nurul Izzah]; he [Anwar] must go”.
It just seemed like random speculation last year as during the very same period there were also talks of Najib and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah “ironing out details”. Talk was that Razaleigh would have his own “independent” team contesting in the 13th general election.
Much has happened since.
Anwar was acquitted of his Sodomy II charge in January 2012, and while PKR was immediately jubilant, its coalition partners in Pakatan Rakyat – PAS and DAP – were wary, waiting for the “catch”. Many thought the “catch” was in the appeal the government filed but that was rejected.
The months in-between have been a volley of exposures by PKR’s young turks with BN on the defence. Nurul Izzah, too, has come under some heavy criticism, the latest potshots came for defending religious freedom.
Amidst the cacophony of disclosures and criticism from both sides, Najib has made an unprecedented number of visits to Sabah.
With its 25-plus one (Labuan) parliamentary seats, Sabah is crucial to Najib’s personal future. Talk is rife that deals are being struck here with individuals on the outside who are “federal friendly”.
Sabah is also crucial to Anwar. And he, too, has struck deals; among them with former Upko deputy chairman Wilfred Bumburing, a devout Christian whose platform Angkatan Perpaduan Sabah (APS) aims to “lead” the Christian Kadazandusun community.
Sabah, like Sarawak, has a large Christian community. But unlike in Sarawak, in Sabah many are closet Christians mostly due to fear.
PAS may not be significant in Sabah but one cannot discount the impact of its president Abdul Hadi Awang’s headlining “I welcome being elected as the prime minister” statement on Sunday in Kelantan.
Hadi supported ‘unity government’ call
Hudud-leaning Hadi’s “willingness” to be prime minister will not resonate well in Sabah where Christianity has been a victim of Umno’s “Islamisation” policy dating back to the 1970s.
If popular political blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin’s posting on Monday is any measure, then PAS is sure of its position in Peninsular Malaysia and couldn’t care less how its partners – DAP and PKR – and allies fare in Sabah in the coming election.
According to Raja Petra, if PAS wins 60 seats and DAP and PKR collectively have 60 seats, then “PAS will have a say on who should be prime minister” within the opposition block.
“Hence it is not impossible for Abdul Hadi to become the prime minister if PAS wins more seats than PKR and DAP,” noted Raja Petra.
At the closing of PAS’ annual muktamar (national conference) in Kelantan on Sunday, Hadi had publicly conceded to a delegate’s call that he accepts the position of prime minister if the opposition coalition wins the 13th general election.
His “willingness” has reminded observers of a call he made, together with Nasharudin Mat Isa and Hasan Ali, post-2008 general election for a unity government with Umno. Hadi’s call took many members by surprise and was a clear indication that PAS under his leadership was willing to compromise.
Political observers have not forgotten this and Raja Petra has suggested that perhaps PAS may have been in the know of a rumoured “deal” between Najib and Anwar last year involving his Sodomy II case and others.
The question Raja Petra has now posed is: “Was Anwar’s acquittal [in January] an independent decision by the judge or was the judge’s decision to acquit Anwar a brilliant political move by Najib to drive a wedge between PAS and PKR?”
According to him, many in PAS are not convinced about Anwar’s innocence (sodomy charges).
“They are convinced that Anwar is guilty. But they do not want to be the ones to say so,” he said, adding that some had hoped the courts would have made the decision for them by convicting Anwar.
But with the 13th general election closing in on the opposition pact, pressure is mounting on PAS and Anwar to state their stand on a pivotal issue in Peninsular Malaysia and Christian Borneo – hudud.
While DAP’s stand on hudud is well known, PKR under Anwar has dodged the question at every turn.
On Sunday, responding to Hadi’s willingness to be prime minister, all Anwar told reporters in Shah Alam was: “No problem…”
How this “no problem” will echo in Sabah and Sarawak is left to be seen. One fact is now clear, Anwar is no longer a clear choice for prime minister.