KUALA KRAI (June 19, 2009): Umno wants talks on a unity government to be speeded up and asks PAS leaders to forget past conflicts in the interest of the unity of Muslims in the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today he wanted the talks to materialise because he feared that if the matter was allowed to prolong it would create disunity among the Muslims.
His statement is the strongest signal yet from Umno that it wants the talk, and throws the ball in the PAS court to make the next move. Earlier, Umno president and prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had said he sensed PAS was sincere in wanting the talks and that he was open to it.
"We will not impose any conditions and we accept whatever terms set by PAS. As far as I'm concerned, we have to be open," Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, told reporters after a special meeting with educationists at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Sok here.
The Umno deputy president urged PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat to forget about the conflicts between PAS and Umno in the 70s when both parties cooperated to form the Kelantan state government but PAS later pulled out because of internal problems.
"As Muslims we are encouraged to forgive. That was in the past," he said.
Muhyiddin said PAS leaders who were disagreeable should see that the past conflicts had occurred under the old administration and PAS was now helmed by new leaders with a new direction and objective.
Nik Abdul Aziz, who strongly opposed the unity government proposal, told Nasharuddin Mat Isa on Wednesday to quit as PAS deputy president and Member of Parliament for Bachok and join Umno if he persisted in discussing the matter with Umno.
Muhyiddin said Nik Abdul Aziz's rejection of the proposal was an internal matter which PAS had to resolve.
To him, the important thing was PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's aspiration to make the unity government a success, he said, adding that PAS must make the first move to initiate the effort.
"We hope (that the meeting takes place) in the next few days, anytime, no problem," he added.
He said that initially the meeting should be between PAS and Umno only before the matter was discussed in a comprehensive manner with component parties of Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition alliance.
He was obviously referring to a statement by PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustapha Ali that Pakatan Rakyat partners DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) must be included in unity talks, as they did not want to betray their friends.
On claims by the opposition that Umno was weak for wanting to work with PAS, Muhyiddin said the BN was still strong in the government as was evident from the fact that it had more MPs than the opposition in the Dewan Rakyat.
Earlier, in his speech, he said it was Umno's aspiration to see Muslims in the country united and of one mind despite having different political ideologies.
It saddened him to see the Muslims disunited now, all because of political differences which caused unity and integration among the Muslims to be sidelined, he said.--Bernama