Malaysia’s government yesterday denied opposition claims that the two sides were holding talks to resolve the country’s political crisis ahead of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s trial for sodomy.
‘That is the craziest report I have ever heard,’ Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi told reporters. ‘There is no meeting with Anwar’s people.’
His response came after the information chief of Datuk Seri Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Mr Tian Chua, said the opposition had opened talks with the government via a third party on the political impasse.
‘We managed to break through in some discussions through a third party and soon a direct negotiation will happen between Abdullah and Anwar,’ he said.
‘Our intention in holding them is for a transition of power to the opposition, but I cannot speak for the other side,’ he also said. ‘So far, it looks good, and we will wait to see what happens.’
One of Datuk Seri Abdullah’s political secretaries has also dismissed Mr Chua’s claim as ‘rubbish’.
‘You can’t lie to all the people all the time,’ said Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad.
The claims and counter-arguments came on the day the Anwar-led opposition alliance had demanded that Parliament be recalled from recess to hold a confidence vote in Mr Abdullah and a day before Mr Anwar was due in court on sodomy charges.
Mr Anwar has maintained his claim that he has convinced enough ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs to cross over to the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat.
In an interview with London’s Telegraph published yesterday, the opposition leader said he was not ruling out the option of asking the king to intervene to resolve the political crisis.
‘We have a problem here because we have the numbers, but we can’t move,’ he was quoted as saying, referring to his inability to prove his majority while Parliament is in recess.
Pakatan Rakyat now holds 81 seats in the 222-strong Parliament, and needs 29 BN MPs to defect to form a majority.
Mr Anwar has, up to now, refused to release the list of names he says he has until Mr Abdullah agrees to a meeting.
The Prime Minister, however, has dismissed his claims as bluff and has shown no sign of stepping down as he faces calls from even within his own Umno party to quit before his scheduled departure in 2010.
Analysts said the political battle that started in March with the massive losses suffered by BN at the general election could drag on for months.
‘It will not end unless the two sides sit down and talk,’ said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.
‘Abdullah should resolve this once and for all.’
Mr Abdullah continues to face infighting within Umno, whose leaders differ over plans for him to hand over the reins of the premiership to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2010.
Some leaders appear to want the schedule to be brought forward, although Mr Abdullah has stressed he will stick with the deadline.
More signs of division among the party’s top ranks emerged yesterday, with many blogs discussing a closed-door Supreme Council meeting held last week.
Women’s wing chief Rafidah Aziz had on Monday accused an unnamed Supreme Council member of untrustworthiness for disclosing to the media that council members were pressing Mr Abdullah to make an earlier exit.
Umno information chief Muhammad Muhammad Taib took the same line yesterday.
‘Members should consider the ethics of any meeting, be it at the Supreme Council or state level, and there is also the matter of courtesy,’ he was quoted by New Straits Times as saying.
‘The person who leaked what was discussed in the meeting can be considered a traitor,’ he added.
Four Supreme Council members – Tan Sri Rafidah, vice-president Muhyiddin Yassin, Youth chief Hishammuddin Hussein, and Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Shafie Apdal were reported to have urged Mr Abdullah to speed up his transition plan to as soon as December, but Mr Hishammuddin said on Saturday that the report was ‘inaccurate’. — The Straits Times