Najib keeps mum over Christmas eve dinner with King, PAS

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak joined PAS’ spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat today in refusing to divulge details of their recent Christmas Eve dinner, adhering to to the Agong’s wishes.

“We have to respect the understanding of the meeting and the Yang di-Pertuan wishes it to be a private meeting,” he told reporters in a press conference at his office today.

The Malaysian Insider reported on Monday that Nik Aziz had attended a private Christmas Eve dinner, hosted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, along with Najib and and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at Istana Terengganu.

The dinner was seen as another attempt to revive the talks on political co-operation with Umno in the name of Malay/Muslim unity, a move that that has spooked several leaders from PKR and DAP.

PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution was reported to have gone to Kelantan on Wednesday to meet with Nik Aziz but the Machang MP later denied that he had discussed the Christmas dinner with the Kelantan Mentri Besar.

“I always meet the MB, it is not a strange occurrence if a member of Parliament in Kelatan meets the Kelantan MB. It was a normal meeting, we discussed lots of things — local housing projects, Kelantan politics as well as national politics,” Saifuddin had told The Malaysian Insider.

Nik Aziz too had played down the issue and said on Tuesday that he would not reveal details of the meeting with Najib, which he confirmed was also attended by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

Najib insisted today that he, along with several PAS leaders, had attended the dinner out of respect for the Agong’s invitation.

“That is why we were present. That is all. No further comment,” he said.

Word of the renewed unity talks is causing concern among PAS’ allies in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as it took place just a week after the coalition had its second convention in Penang to discuss their policies and programmes ahead of snap polls expected this year.

However, a debate on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims had ensued during the talk, which ended discussions of a political merger between the two Malay parties then.

The Malaysian Insider understands that an Umno leader at the talks spoke about the need for Malay unity as he said non-Malays were seen to be taking advantage of a split between Umno and PAS to ask for greater concessions including the right to use the word “Allah”, in what was seen as a reference to the Catholic Church’s lawsuit to use the word in its Bahasa Malaysia publication.

However, sources said PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz defended non-Muslims and objected to that conjecture, giving a short history lesson to point out that even Prophet Muhammad’s father, Abdullah, had worshipped Allah although he was not a Muslim.

The question of political co-operation with Umno became a major campaign issue in the 2009 PAS election after it was revealed that its leaders, including PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa and Selangor chief Datuk Hasan Ali, met Abdullah and former Selangor mentri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo after Election 2008 to explore the possibility of forming a unity government.