May 17, 2015
Bumbling Hadi is vulnerable within his party
by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: Like washing hung out to dry on a wet day, Islamic party (PAS0 President Abdul Hadi Awang is discovering that his support for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to continue in office has made his position within his party vulnerable, where some time before it had seemed impregnable.
The Chinese newspapers in the last few days have carried reports that the Prime Minister has said he is not in favour of hudud. Not unxepected, none of Najib’s implied rejection of hudud has been reported in the Malay and English newspapers, a sure sign that the double game being played by UMNO on the matter of enforcement of the Islamic penal code in Kelantan is deliberate rather than willy-nilly.
The Chinese newspaper reports on Najib’s hudud stance follow hard upon the opinion voiced by Nancy Shukri, de facto Law Minister in the PM’s Department, that if hudud is implemented in Kelantan it will give a fillip to the breakaway faction in Sarawak. That faction is experiencing a groundswell from the blowback stemming from the federal government’s stance on the Allah issue on the Peninsula, and now from UMNO’s apparent double-dealing on hudud.
Hudud implementation in Kelantan is bound to add wind to the Sarawakian secessionists’ sails. Furthermore, it is in Najib’s interest not to do anything that will endanger support for him to stay on as PM, should matters arrive at a vote of confidence on his premiership in Parliament.
Sarawak on his side
A parliamentary vote of no-confidence is one of several ways being mulled by the forces wanting to end Najib Razak’s tenure on account of the scandals plaguing the misbegotten sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB. The Prime Minister would want all of Sarawak’s 25 BN parliamentarians lodged solidly behind him if matters come to a vote in the Lower House on his future..
All this makes Hadi’s support aired earlier this week for Najib to stay on as Prime Minister in the face of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s insistent demands for him to quit, an act of political naivety on a scale comparable to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s decision within days of the 1990 general elections, to visit Sabah at the invitation of then Chief Minister Pairin Kitingan.
Pairin had just taken PBS out of the BN and joined Razaleigh’s Gagasan Rakyat (People’s Might) coalition that grouped Semangat 46, DAP and PAS.
PBS’ eleventh-hour withdrawal and backing for Gagasan made things look as if the BN was headed for a voter-denial of its traditional parliamentary super majority in the 1990 general election.
Then Prime Minister Mahathir deviously turned the visit into grist for UMNO’s propaganda mills that drenched government-controlled TV channels and newspapers with sinister talk of a PBS-hatched scheme to turn Malaysia into a Christian state, an early precursor of the claims in recent years by Malay right-wing groups about similar goals of the DAP. The propaganda worked and what seemed like a looming denial of BN’s two-third majority was transmuted into a comfortable BN victory.
Fear of being had by UMNO
Hadi’s backing for a continuation of Najib’s premiership is the quid for the anticipated pro quo of UMNO’s backing for the private member’s bill he proposes to table in the next session of Parliament beginning Monday (May 18, 2015).
Najib’s support for the bill, which is to open the way for hudud to be enforced in Kelantan, was implied by the decision of all 12 UMNO state assemblypersons in the Kelantan legislature on March 19 to vote for the amendments to a Syariah Enactment that PAS had passed as long ago as 1993. That move was stalled by the absence of federal constitutional warrants for it. Hadi’s bill, if backed by UMNO, would presumably clear the way for hudud enforcement in Kelantan.
All this, of course, is now up in the air because of Najib’s apparent prevarication, as reported by the Chinese press. This has made Hadi look more and more like washing hanging out on a clothesline in fickle weather.
The thing that the PAS faithful most despise is being had by UMNO; they are apt to turn on leaders whom they feel have walked into traps prepared for them by UMNO.
More mortifying still for Hadi and his band of supporters in PAS is the news that some corporate financiers of the party, long a discreet group, are beating a path to his challenger,Uustaz Ahmad Awang, to offer financial help for the campaign to unseat Hadi for the President’s post in the elective PAS muktamar scheduled for June 3-6 in Kuala Selangor.
In the lead-up to the vote, now that nominations have closed and acceptance to contest announced, PAS delegates are being discreetly reminded of the advice given long ago by respected former President, Fadzil Noor, and reiterated by the revered Nik Aziz Nik Mat, that if the President’s post in the party is occupied by an ulama, the Deputy President’s post should be reserved for a candidate from the professional wing of the party.
In pairing Ahmad and Mohamad Sabu (left), the incumbent Deputy President who is from the professional wing, for the posts of No. 1 and No. 2, the opposition to Hadi within PAS has a twosome that satisfies the criteria set by Fadzil and Nik Aziz, leaders who have passed on but whose legacy is still strong.
Mat Sabu is being challenged by Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who is a candidate from the ulama wing of the party, and allied to Hadi.
Although a theologian of benign disposition to the professionals, unlike several of his ilk who are decidedly hostile, Tuan Ibrahim is solidly ranged with the conservatives of PAS.
The ulama wing, said to be aiming to extirpate the professionals from the top ranks of the party, has belatedly discovered that their preferred pairing does not adhere to the Fadzil/Nik Aziz stricture against a double-teaming of professionals or theologians for the top two posts.
Presumption, haste, and a lack of premeditation have marked the campaign of the PAS ulama just as it has coloured the political pronouncements of the incumbent President.
Will this prompt the party’s electorate to critically reappraise what the front-running Hadi and the conservatives have wrought for PAS which at this stage looks like more frustration for their campaign on behalf of hudud in Kelantan, amid more double dealing from an abhorred adversary?
This remains to be seen in the fluid days to a pivotal vote in PAS which will be critical to their future in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat and perhaps even to what the ulama wing would like – collaboration with UMNO.