Despite Umno snub, Pakatan still open to talks with BN

(MM) – Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) top leadership today again expressed its readiness to engage the Barisan Nasional (BN) government in a dialogue it said was aimed at dealing with economic and social issues threatening the fabric of Malaysian society.

Members of the Najib administration previously rejected the federal opposition bloc’s offer, made by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the eve of Independence Day following a divisive May 5 general election. They had then questioned the motives in pursuing co-operation with the ruling coalition.

“The PR presidential council that met on September 18 2013 again state its readiness to hold a dialogue with BN with the purpose of solving the country’s worsening problems like the growing government debt, soaring prices, rising crime and widening racism that is threatening the good relations of our society,” read a statement signed by Anwar (picture), DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

In an open letter and in a video broadcast on the Internet, Anwar had asked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to call for joint talks to resolve the problems distressing the country and which threaten to hobble its aim to join the ranks of high-income nations.

Najib has yet to respond to Anwar but senior leaders in Umno, the BN’s anchor party, have previously poured cold water on any possible outreach, saying the offer came too late.

They said Najib had offered reconciliation as soon as the 13th general election results were announced, but observed that PR had instead refused to recognise the ruling coalition’s win. They also pointed to PR’s raft of election petitions filed in court to back their claims.

“(Anwar) has been quite late in bringing up this issue. He should have done it way before,” Umno Puteri chief Datuk Rosnah Shirlin told The Malay Mail Online in an immediate response to the Penang-born leader’s remarks on August 30.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir both cast doubt on Anwar’s sincerity, and described his proposal as an act of desperation.

The plethora of issues he raised, such as an impending economic crisis that the opposition said was plaguing the country was “not urgent”, and could wait until the next Parliament sitting next month to be discussed publicly, the two Umno men said.

The snub prompted Anwar to accuse his rivals of being “hysterical”.

“I called for frank n open BN-PR ‘dialogue’. Umno leaders have gone hysterical. Debate? they said NO. Dialogue? They say ‘crazy’,” the 66-year-old former deputy prime minister said on his Twitter account, @anwaribrahim.

“Apa lg yg umno mau?” he asked in colloquial Malay, which translates to “What more does Umno want?”.

The phrase appeared to be a throwback to the incendiary question raised by Umno-owned broadsheet, Utusan Malaysia, with its front page headline “Apa lagi Cina mahu? (What more do the Chinese want?)” a day after the May 5 general election, following the 13-party BN coalition’s worst-ever electoral performance.