Did the opposition jump the gun with hasty Pakatan Harapan launch?

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at a press conference in Subang, September 22, 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at a press conference in Subang, September 22, 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 ― With the Sarawak polls around the corner and Barisan Nasional (BN) plagued by controversy, it was no wonder that PKR, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) rushed through its launch yesterday of Pakatan Harapan, a new alliance that they hope will finally consolidate the country’s opposition forces.

But Malay Mail Online understands that the decision to proceed with the launch did not sit well with some of those who participated in the roundtable session prior to it.

Some leaders, it is believed, felt the parties involved should first firm up the new pact’s framework and policies, and most significantly, its relationship with PAS.

Another key concern is the need to ensure that Pakatan Harapan will not turn out to be another Pakatan Rakyat (PR), which fell apart earlier this year following months of friction and disagreements among its components.

According to those from the launch who spoke to Malay Mail Online, this has yet to be ironed out.

“It was impressed at the meeting that they should not make any announcement (about Pakatan Harapan), the parties should have just said that the discussions on formalising a new coalition will continue.

“But now they've jumped the gun, with a hasty announcement… no details except for wanting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister.

“How is this different from Pakatan Rakyat?” a senior PKR leader told Malay Mail Online when met after the launch announcement by Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail yesterday.

The PKR leader added that by going ahead with the announcement, the three parties of Pakatan Harapan had ultimately alienated PAS, even though they extended the Islamist party an open invitation to be a part of the alliance.

The leader said it would be “difficult” now for PAS to accept the offer.

“You make such an important announcement without PAS, when the engagement process still has to go on. Why should PAS want to join Pakatan Harapan when you have already decided on this without PAS?” the PKR leader added.

PKR co-elections director Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail admitted that there were differing views during the roundtable meeting on the announcement of the new coalition, but insisted that the only issue was concerning the timing of the announcement.

“In these kind of discussions with different personalities, it is impossible for everyone to be on the same page, this is normal.

“Some felt that the announcement should have been delayed to allow the respective parties to firm up the details for the new coalition, but this is something which can be worked on along the way.

“The important thing is that the opposition parties are united in moving forward,” he told Malay Mail Online.

Prominent lawyer and activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan who was present during the meeting confirmed that there were “differing views” but added that the final decision was in the hands of the political parties- and they now have to prove themselves to their supporters and critics.

“I will just say there were certainly differing views but it is ultimately the decision of the political parties. The NGOs played no part in the final decision which is the way it should be.

“Now it is up to the new coalition to prove itself,” Ambiga told Malay Mail Online.

She was present in her capacity as president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam).

Parti Amanah Negara deputy president Salahuddin Ayub said that he had no regrets about not including PAS in the announcement of the new coalition, and pointed out that he had personally extended an invitation to his former party to attend yesterday's meeting.

“Why should I regret? I personally asked PAS to attend, three times and they did not come.

“We have to move on, Pakatan Harapan is the new reality, so I have no regrets about this,” he told Malay Mail Online.

University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) political analyst Associate Prof Dr Ahmad Nizamuddin Sulaiman said that there is so far nothing that differentiates Pakatan Harapan from PR, and that the new coalition's biggest hurdle would be whether the three parties could go the distance.

“What I can imagine is that they are the same as before. The continuity of this pact will not be determined by how strong or weak BN will be. But on how long they can stand as a pact.

“If they can continue in a long term, although slow, they will have a future. Right now people are pessimistic as the difference are stark, some of them are like 180 degrees from the other. One moving this way, and the other that way,” he told Malay Mail Online.

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