Commentary Politics

Gain by PAS is Umno’s dilemma

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

Feb 20, 2017

THE mammoth purple-clad crowd that filled Padang Merbok on Saturday proved that Pas’ politics of religion is not only here to stay, but still predominantly relevant.

Although it was marketed as non-political, those who are familiar with Malaysian politics surely know that the RUU355 gathering was a Pas-led event.

The crowd’s enthusiastic cheers for Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang as he delivered his speech suggested that the event was a success.

“This (Pas’ attempt to amend certain provisions of the Syariah law) is not a bunch of empty talk. It is ordered by the Quran and to implement such law, we need to enhance our Syariah courts,” he told the rain-drenched crowd last night.

The massive turn-out, estimated by police at 20,000 strong, indicated that Pas is still strong as a political party despite contentions by its former allies, particularly that of DAP and Amanah.

The Mole talked to some of the participants whose reactions crushed any claim by detractors that Pas is “on its deathbed” and in fact points to its popularity among people in Malay hinterlands such as Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.

“Mat Sabu (Amanah president Mohamad Sabu) can trash-talk Pas till he foams in the mouth and his party still wouldn’t get our votes. Unlike them (Amanah leaders and members) we are loyal to the party,” said 46-year-old boat carpenter Ismad Juri from Terengganu.

The gathering was also attended by Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and most likely some Umno supporters and members too.

Nonetheless, despite the solidarity they may share in supporting Hadi’s syariah empowerment private members’ bill (RUU355), there were no signs that a Pas-Umno political cooperation will manifest anytime soon.

“As far as Pas is concerned, Umno is still our political enemy,” said Pas information chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi when speaking to The Mole when met at the event.

“It’s not that we have gone soft with them (Umno), it’s just that we want to fight them in a more civilised and matured way. Why should Pas cooperate with Umno when we already have our Gagasan Sejahtera?” he rhetorically asked.

The reluctance of Pas’ leaders and members to work with Umno was however, not something surprising.

Kelantan Umno chief Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad had warned Umno leaders about it last week where he tacitly pointed out that the grassroots from both parties were not keen in joining hands.

“It is meaningless for us at the highest level to cooperate, but we forget to set aside the differences at the grassroots, at the village level, there is still animosity,” he said.

The question now is that whether Umno could really win more support from the Malays if it continues to tango with Pas.

That aside, what is certain is that by doing so, Umno will put non-Muslim component parties in Barisan Nasional in a tough spot.

Judging from MCA, Gerakan and MIC leaders’ consistent rejection of Hadi’s RUU355 bill, it would seem that no amount of explanation will convince them to accept it.

“Gerakan will object any bill or law that violates the Federal Constitution. I will quit the party if any Gerakan MPs (members of parliament) vote for the bill,” said Gerakan youth chief Andy Yong at a RUU355 counter gathering yesterday.

Umno could choose to “agree-to-disagree” with its allies in BN over matters concerning the bill, but this was the same approach used by the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat when it handled Pas’ hudud agenda.

That approach costs Pas, PKR and DAP their seven year-long Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

Considering that, if the next general election is to be called later in the year, Umno has only several months to decide if it wants to totally chuck away the non-Muslims votes by working with Pas on its RUU355 instead of staying true to its non-Muslim allies in BN.

Meanwhile, Hadi now finally has some good news to report to Pas’ leadership and members in the party’s upcoming muktamar this April.

He can say that the huge turnout at the rally proved that Pas “Islamic” struggle is beginning to bear fruit, even more so if his bill gets approved in the next parliamentary sitting this coming March.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at