Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nasharudin: PAS has overcome its apprehension of Islam Hadhari

By David Chew

SINGAPORE, May 19 (Hrkh) - PAS secretary general Nasharudin Mat Isa yesterday (18 May) made it clear his party had already overcome its apprehension of Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi's concept of "Islam Hadhari "or Civilizational Islam which had dealt it a crushing blow in the last general election.

This was mainly because Badawi had failed to deliver his pre-2004 general election pledges through Islam Hadhari.
"Although Dato' Seri Abdullah Badawi stepped up as the new Prime Minister with an Islamic image full of pledges to combat graft, mismanagement of government funds, freezing of mega government projects, etc., etc., he is no different from his predecessor. Although the PM has professed his Islamic blueprint image through "Islam Hadhari" as opposed to PAS' Islamic state concept, we are yet to see his commitment on it since Islam Hadhari is also said to be based on Islamic principles," said Nasharudin in his speech "The Future of PAS in the Abdullah Era".

Nasharudin was addressing an audience of about 50 people, mainly researchers civil servants and journalists in the auditorium of the Pyramid Club in Singapore. The seminar is one in a series on contemporary Islam organized by the Institute of Strategic & Defence Studies (IDSS). Together with him were PAS Central Working Committee member and MP for Tumpat Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar and IDSS Head Barry Desker, who chaired the session.

In his speech, Nasharudin noted that initially PAS was quite fearful of the impact of Islam Hadhari, particularly during Badawi's first year as PM from October 2003. But on closer scrutiny after two years, PAS found out what Badawi intended as something new to overcome Mahathir Mohamad's unpopular policies did not quite work out. In short Islam Hadhari was simply an extension of Mahathir's failed Islamisation initiatives and failed to impress.

Nasharudin stressed that Badawi had also intended Islam Hadhari to defuse PAS' influence among Muslims. His success somewhat in the 2004 general election had encouraged him to use it to remove the word "Islam" from PAS' name so as to win the next general election expected in 2008.

But it would be different then as Badawi and his party have failed to "walk the talk" and that Islam Hadhari principles "conspicuously lack the completeness of Islamic teachings substance", Nasharudin said.

Next general election 2007?

Nasharudin predicted that the next general election was likely to be 2007 mainly because the government did not want Keadilan adviser Anwar Ibrahim to contest as a candidate. Anwar had failed in his appeal to overturn his corruption conviction last year which disqualified him from contesting until 2008 or 2009. Right now Anwar's supporters are trying to get a royal pardon for him so that he could contest the next general election.

However Anwar would not be the sole contributing factor to political change in the next polls as there are also other salient issues not to the ruling party's favour such as the slowdown in the country's economic growth and political squabbling within UMNO, Nasharudin said.

Turning back to PAS, Nasharudin noted the party's comprehensive post-mortem report blamed its defeat in the last general election on a biased Elections Commission which had collaborated with the ruling party. The gerrymandering process by the EC after the 1999 general election had severely disadvantaged PAS.

"The redrawing of constituency boundaries saw the creation of new safe seats for the ruling party and the incorporation of non-Malay votes into PAS strongholds that made it difficult for the opposition party to defend its seats, " he said.

PAS has to date submitted a memorandum to the King asking for an independent royal commission of inquiry to probe its allegations of electoral fraud, and as expected, Badawi had rejected its call for this royal commission, Nasharudin added.

PAS's muktamar

Turning to developments in PAS, Nasharudin pointed out that as the party heads towards its muktamar in June, a growing trend from the nominations received by the various party divisions nationwide, seems to indicate the preference for younger candidates as new party leaders.

However what is even more important is for PAS to operate as a total package where change should not affect basic party principles, he stressed.

Answering a question from the floor on PAS' relations with non-Muslims, Nasharudin said although PAS proposed Islam to be the cohesive power in Malaysia, other religions and great traditions of the East or West would not be ignored and non-Muslims would always be protected under the Syariah.

Although it is impossible to be equal in all aspects in Malaysia's multi-racial society, Nasharudin nevertheless felt that the being "fair to all" was very important in PAS upholding the concept of meritocracy. He pointed out that it all boils down to distribution of resources for meritocracy to be meaningfully implemented.

If Petronas can channel 2.5% of its 2003 profit of $15 billion to zakat, all qualified students, including non-Malays, should be able to get places in the 8 or 9 public universities, he said.

PAS and Singapore relation

On how PAS views Malaysia/Singapore relations, Nasharudin said although PAS may be concerned with the problems of the Singapore Malays, PAS will not interfere Singapore's domestic politics as in the norm among sovereign states.

He also disclosed that PAS has close ties with the Singapore High Commission personnel in Kuala Lumpur and called on them to explain and clarify issues when the need arises.

Kamarudin Jaffar views

Dato' Kamarudin Jaffar told the audience that conditions in the last general election in 2004 were repeated in the next polls, it will be very difficult for PAS, and that is why the party has been calling changes to the unfair electoral system.

Kamarudin also said that PAS recognized the need to form race-based coalitions as the best way to serve the different communities based on political realities in Malaysia that genuinely multi-racial parties are not viable.

He cited the example of the Gerakan which started off as a genuine multi-racial party in 1969, but subsequently degenerated into a Chinese-based party when in joined the ruling party in the 1970s. PAS should be frank as far as possible and respect the social contract between the races when the country became independent in 1957.

Kamarudin reiterated the pledge of the late PAS president Fadzil Noor in 1999 that even if the BA were to form the government, there would not be an Islamic state in Malaysia unless all BA components agree.

The IDSS seminar which had Nasharudin speaking for about 40 minutes with the rest of the session devoted to questions and answers began at 10.30 am and ended about 2 hours later.


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