Amid uneasiness over another round of Christian bashing in the guise of attacks on Anwar Ibrahim for consorting with Christian leaders, sections of the Pakatan Rakyat leadership cohort held a closed-door briefing for members of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) earlier this week in Kuala Lumpur.

According to CFM sources who attended the meeting, its purpose was to reassure Christian leaders that Pakatan's quest for an egalitarian Malaysia would be firmly on track the minute they take hold of Putrajaya, a goal that seems increasingly attainable judging from rousing receptions to the coalition's ceramah nationwide.

"The aim of the Pakatan leaders who met up with us was to reassure us that no matter what slant the attacks on Pakatan or its principal leaders take, the coalition would be unswerving in its quest for political and economic reform," said an attendee who spoke to Malaysiakini.

"That was music to our ears because we feel that only with major political and economic reform, the spate of Christian bashing we have seen in recent years would be a thing of the past," he elaborated.

NONESome 20 representatives from CFM were present at the meeting with Pakatan leaders among whom were Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Mujahid Yusof Rawa (both from PAS), Tian Chua, Chua Jui Meng, Dr Tan Tee Kwong and R Sivarasa (all PKR), and Ngeh Koo Ham and Teresa Kok (both DAP).

Perturbed by the appearance of leaflets (left) in Slim River earlier in the week attacking Pakatan supremo Anwar's closeness to Christian leaders in advance of a ceramah he was to give in the southern Perak town, Pakatan leaders requested for a meeting with CFM representatives to reassure the latter on issues such as hudud that are viewed as troubling to non-Muslims.

Anwar arrives late

Initially, the Pakatan coterie did not want Anwar to attend the meeting but the opposition leader dismissed fears his attendance would leave him at a disadvantage in fending off attacks on his Islamic rectitude stemming from perceived closeness to Christian leaders and insisted on being present.

In the event, Anwar arrived late for the meeting, his return flight from Jakarta where he had been earlier in the day was delayed by bad weather.

church christian in kuala lumpur 1Before his arrival, the Pakatan leaders who came for the meeting advised CFM representatives not to be perturbed by calls for the implementation of hudud that do not emanate from the top tier of Pakatan's leadership.

"We were told that Pakatan allows a certain berth for the expression of a range of opinions within the coalition," said the same CFM representative who spoke on background.

"They do not think that it is right for the top leadership of the coalition to stifle the gamut of opinions within the coalition with a single set of vocal chords. That's not the Pakatan style," explained the CFM rep.

He said the Pakatan leaders emphasised there will be no unilateralism on the major issues such as the implementation of hudud.

"We were told that hudud is not in the Pakatan Common Policy Framework and therefore it is not on the cards where a Pakatan government is concerned," said the CFM rep.

Bread-and-butter issues

What's on the upper tier of the Pakatan agenda is the reduction in price of oil and the abolishment of repayments on higher education loans.

"The allocation of resources for the eradication of poverty is top priority with the main thrust of the effort directed to those in need, irrespective of race," said the CFM attendee.

The Pakatan leaders were at pains to emphasise that no overnight transformation of the Malaysian polity should be expected once they are in harness in Putrajaya because the civil service would have to undergo a mindset change before it can be steered in the direction of the desired transformation.

"We were told that the civil service is imbued with the BN ethos and that this was a half-century in the making. So Pakatan would have to tread subtly and carefully to change the prevailing mindset in order to implement the wide ranging reforms that are the ultimate purpose of the coalition," said the CFM rep.

The CFM representative said he had attended the Anwar ceramah in Slim River earlier in the week out of plain curiosity to see if the leaflets that attacked the Pakatan supremo for closeness to Christian leaders had any effect.

S Pakatan dinner Anwar"I was happy to see that the leaflets had no effect because the large numbers of Malays and Chinese people who attended the ceramah appeared keen to see Anwar and hear what he had to say," he said.

He said that despite the inclement weather a crowd of about 2,000 came to the rally which was held in the forecourt of a Taoist temple.

"People appear more interested in matters to do with corruption and misappropriation of resources than in sectarian concerns.

"The crowd was largely from middle class to lower middle class and they seemed content to sit next to each other, oblivious of racial and religious differences. Those leaflets were from a different world as far as that crowd was concerned," he opined.