February 11, 2013
A canard swiftly slain
by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: Never give a sucker an even break. That seems to have been the spirit of the PAS authorities towards the bit of foetid air that Mingguan Malaysia let loose through the orifice of its columnist Awang Selamat.
The alacrity with which PAS denied the Mingguan Malaysia story yesterday that claimed their syura council had rejected the choice of Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister in the event of the opposition coalition’s victory at the 13th general election is commendable, though speculation on that score is not expected to disappear with the expeditious denial.
On the eve of a spine-tingling general election, the swift denial of a canard by voices within the Pakatan Rakyat repertoire attest the coalition’s readiness for the equivalent of hand-to-hand combat that a closely fought election is expected to spawn.
But more vital than speed at stifling brazen lies would be prescience at avoiding situations that invite the deployment of the imaginative lie by Pakatan’s adversaries, something the Utusan stable of newspapers is adept at.
Pakatan has to be careful, in the immediate prelude to the general election, not to allow daylight between the positions of their component parties on issues of crucial importance to both the opposition coalition – such as who is to become PM should the coalition win the polls – and to sections of the electorate – such as the whether the use of the term ‘Allah’ for God is permitted of non-Muslims.
Admittedly, uniformity on the latter score is not easy to bring off. However, except for the Allah issue where there is daylight between the individual stance of PAS (non-Muslims cannot use the term freely) and collective one of Pakatan (the term is not exclusive to Muslims), this uniformity has been broadly achieved.
The appearance of a shaft of daylight between the PAS and Pakatan positions on the Allah issue was enough opportunity for the Utusan editorial spinners to exploit.
The UMNO-owned Utusan group cares a fig whether Malaysia has just fallen 23 slots on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by the Paris-based NGO, Journalists Without Borders.
In fact, an editor from the group told a defamation trial last year that imaginative invention towards the group’s editorial targets is better value for money than prosaic reporting of facts.
In other words, the paper would not let facts get in the way of their level best to forestall the Malaysian Plutocrats Incorporated’s collective nightmare: A Pakatan victory at the polls with Anwar emerging as prime minister.
Yesterday, in pursuit of that goal, columnist Awang Selamat mused that the PAS syura council, at a recent meeting, had vetoed the choice of Anwar as PM, a decision the scribe sly said party president Abdul Hadi Awang (right) did not think fit to demur with.
Awang suggested that the syura council’s veto was prompted by Anwar’s acquiescence in DAP’s stand on permitting non-Muslims to use the term ‘Allah’ for God, a stance that was reiterated last month as the common position of Pakatan and that was firstly formulated in January 2010 – at that time, to no apparent objection from the jurists in PAS.
The columnist went on to suggest that the vetoing of the choice of Anwar as Pakatan PM by the syura council was also owed to moral defects in his character, a sly bit of toxin to go with plausible bits on Anwar’s differences with the council on the Allah issue as the reason for its distaste for the PKR leader.
Hours after the column saw the light of publishing day, the secretary of the syura council pronounced it fitnah (libel) and the person who chaired the meeting, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who occupies the august chair of spiritual head of the party, decried it as nonsense.
Nik Aziz (left) said the matter of Anwar as Pakatan PM-designate was not even raised at the meeting.
Two denials of the story from personages of importance within the council meant that the tale was lopped off at the head so that its rudderless body rolled into oblivion pretty quickly.
But the speculation about PAS’ misgivings about Anwar as Pakatan PM-designate is not likely to slide off the ledge.
That is because of the bit of histrionics at the annual convention of the party in Kota Baru last November when a delegate proposed during the debate that party president Abdul Hadi Awang be nominated for the position and the floor erupted in approbation.
This bit of parochial drama, in subtraction of a sufficiently long-running Pakatan consensus on Anwar as PM-designate, is caviar for the coalition’s adversaries who are adept at making things that are less than an even break into something of a cornucopia.