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Unprecedented show of cooperation and unity between Pakatan - malaysiakini

Malaysian Insider's report:

By Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — The four Pakatan Rakyat menteris besar and one chief minister will convene for a two-day "MB council" starting this month to streamline policies and to also rebuild ties between PKR, DAP and Pas amid internal disputes which have threatened the fledgling alliance.

A coalition building retreat scheduled for this week where party leaders were expected to thrash out differences and set out a concrete framework for their political alliance has been postponed for PR to focus instead on the campaign for the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat.

PR member parties will now use the by-election campaign as another test of how well they can cast aside deeply rooted differences to work together as a kind of unified coalition.

However, a gathering of its four menteris besar and Penang chief minister scheduled for Jan 18 and 19 will proceed.

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua, a member of the joint PR secretariat, told The Malaysian Insider that the large-scale retreat was scheduled for this week itself.

Planned to be a "100-man" meet with equal representation from each of the three opposition parties, it has now been moved to March, although it could be brought forward to February pending a post-mortem on the by-election.

It would have been the perfect forum for leaders to thrash out issues which led to recent infighting concerning the Klang central bus station, local elections of village chiefs in Perak and the speculation surrounding the non-appointment as Ipoh mayor or deputy mayor of DAP's Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran.

The Klang bus station issue had led to fierce arguments between Selangor PR leaders, with accusations of selling out to Barisan Nasional and a threat by Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam to quit PKR.

He instead resigned as the Selangor PKR deputy liaison chairman.

Going back further, there has been discomfort over the re-emergence of the conservative faction of Pas in advocating the control of alcohol sales and the implementation of hudud laws.

In November, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had said that, among other things, the retreat would firm up policies in the administration of PR-ruled states.

The de facto PKR leader said that PR was progressing steadily and that state-level coalition secretariats were also being formed to ensure better cooperation within the tripartite coalition.

Policy matters in PR states will now take centrestage at the first meeting of the "Menteris Besar Council."

Also a secretariat member, Pas secretary-general Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar had told The Malaysian Insider that the council had first been mooted immediately after the March 8 general election when the coalition claimed Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor.

Another secretariat member, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, the Pas research chief, had cited examples such as Bumiputera equity and multilingual road signage when speaking to The Malaysian Insider as issues that need to be discussed even though "there are no problems but there must be a mutual agreement and understanding."

According to Pua, inter-state issues such as water supply would also be touched upon in the meet.

"The council may not necessarily decide on matters immediately but at least the issues will be brought to the table to be weighed up by the respective states," said the Petaling Jaya Utara MP.

"The aim is to streamline policies so that it is consistent between the different administrations," he added.

Malaysiakini's report when out.