February 8, 2013
Anwar-Haron Din Meeting filled with august obscurity
by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT:Hardly anyone seems able to tell what the meeting last Monday between PAS Deputy Spiritual Head Dr. Haron Din and PKR Adviser Anwar Ibrahim was all about or what it portends.
The meeting in Kuala Lumpur was requested by Haron who came unaccompanied, while Anwar was there with a colleague. All three are certain to treat the encounter as private and confidential.
That makes speculation about it as difficult as deciphering the rise and fall of apparatchiks in the Chinese Communist Party’s hierarchy used to be for China watchers stationed in Hong Kong as they scrutinised reports in the People’s Daily on party affairs during the Cold War years.
No statement was issued and no talking on background to journalists has been initiated by either of the principals since the meeting took place.
Thus what transpired at the meeting is likely to stay immured in the attendees’ consciousness for some time before ongoing events intervene to prompt the participants to give one or the other interpretation to the substance of what was discussed.
Only then would the gist of the meeting spill out and unravel as developments spurt and twist in the political arena, making P&C discussions of a receding past weaken the demand it places on the attendees’ discretion.
This was what happened to the substance of the meeting in a Munich hospital in September 2004 between Haron Din and Anwar, who was then recuperating from back surgery after his release from a six-year stay in prison on trumped-up charges. The third person at the meeting was PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang.
Only some years later did it emerge that the meeting, arranged on the initiative of Haron, discussed the offer of the post of PAS President to Anwar (left in pic), with Hadi stepping down to Deputy President, should Anwar return to the political arena after convalescence from intricate back surgery.
It was an extraordinary offer, reflecting Haron’s high estimate of Anwar’s leadership mettle and Haron’s intercessory panache at securing Hadi’s acquiescence in what would have been, had the offer been accepted by Anwar, a demotion for Hadi.
Sacrifices of this kind are not the done thing among politicians, save for those who view their mission in supra-secular terms.
In earnest discussion
If memory serves, there was at that time only one photo of the meeting of the three of them, probably having appeared in Harakah, the PAS organ, showing a track-suited Anwar in earnest conversation with a solicitous Haron and an attentive Hadi.
But this was a picture that wasn’t what is sometimes said about the genre’s more graphic examples – they are worth a thousand words: you could not divine the gravity of its import from what was captured on print.
It showed the three of them in earnest discussion, their arched expressions redolent of the weight of their concerns. But only a clairvoyant could have lit upon the proffer that was made by the PAS pair.
It was not known whether Anwar declined the offer expressly or asked for time to mull the proposition.
But it’s not difficult to speculate what would have been his reasons for not acceding to it: he was committed to building up PKR, a multi-racial political vehicle at a time when he felt that mono-racial parties, and their analogue in the religious sphere, were becoming obsolete in an evolving national scenario.
It was the second time that Anwar would turn down an offer to lead PAS; the first was when he was preferred leader of the party about three decades ago when their long-time leader Mohd Asri Muda, of nationalist more than theocratic inclinations, was ejected by the ulama wing of the party who blamed him for the party’s decline in strength in its parliamentary and state assembly redoubts in Kelantan and parts of Kedah.
Anwar was then still President of ABIM and only in his mid-30s, but already regarded as PAS’ favoured candidate to lead it. To a party that was already moving towards leadership by ulama, the choice of a non-ulama to lead it was extraordinary. But in April 1982, Anwar caused a sensation when he accepted newly-installed Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s offer to join UMNO.
Thereafter, there began a saga whose finale has yet to be written, in which the contents and nature of last Monday’s meeting are not likely to be just another footnote.