Is wooing PAS a good idea? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Malaysiakini : Renji - Another well argued article. Why is Thayaparan the only writer on what’s going in in Malaysians politics worth reading? In my view it’s because he is objective, honest and truthful. The paucity of comments demonstrates that few really want to see the wood from the trees.
“In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.” - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
| This is God’s honest truth. I am more wary of the crypto Islamists
within Pakatan Harapan – more so now that Harapan is the establishment –
than I am of PAS.
There was a meme floating around before the
Cameron Highlands by-election, that Harapan should be working in some
form or another with PAS. After the by-election, Deputy Prime Minister
Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was asked, considering the results, if it was
time for Harapan to woo PAS.
Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegaram advances the same idea in his post-mortem
of the Cameron Highlands by-election: “And they should not exclude a
possible alliance with PAS for this, thus pulling the carpet from under
Umno. This may require a leadership change within PAS and the dropping
of DAP’s virulent opposition to the Islamic party.”
About the only
thing I disagree with Guna’s point is that it is not so much the DAP's
virulent opposition to PAS, but rather that the DAP has hitched its
wagon to Amanah’s narrative of Islam, and any sort of relationship with
PAS would be defined by PAS trolling Amanah in the religious, political
and social discourse.
I do not think people understand how
damaging the fallout has been with Amanah splintering from PAS, or how
PAS blames the DAP for this. When the so-called moderates of Amanah left
PAS, a vacuum was created in the Islamic discourse in PAS, which has
not been filled. This suits PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang just fine.
Two points I have made
before need to be considered. The first when I warned not to
underestimate PAS: “Some opposition analysts think that PAS was crippled
when Amanah broke away, but my thinking is different, especially when
speaking to PAS grassroots-level organisers. While a political party
needs a robust dialectic within it to remain relevant, PAS is now free
to define (centrally) its own version of moderation without having to
rely on non-Muslims (or Muslims who are simpatico to non-Muslim
politicians) input to craft a narrative which resonates with their
And the second, when I warned
of PAS’ foreboding green tsunami: “PAS has remained true to its
principles, and in numerous articles that mainstream English speakers
can’t be bothered to read, told their supporters that winning the
federal government at the expense of their Islamic values is not
something which PAS desires. What they want is a Malay/Muslim tsunami
which legitimately leads them to federal power or to create coalitions
with like-minded political hegemons, so long as power-sharing does not
involve them in betraying their Islamic values.”
Non-Malays think Hadi (photo)
is the problem. He is for them, but for most of the base, Hadi is doing
a great job. Strategically, PAS is not working with Umno. It is Umno
that is working with PAS. Hadi has managed to define, sometimes through
proxies, the Islamic narrative in this country and had made federal
Islamic institutions irrelevant when it comes to the Islamic narrative
in this country.
While people may snigger and claim that Hadi has
been bought and paid for, the reality is that PAS has leveraged its
indifference to moderation, as a means to federal power, into a powerful
symbol of racial and religious unity.
Anecdotally speaking, one of the benefits of attending the anti-Icerd rally
was to observe and listen to the PAS base and what they thought of the
political climate, which on the one hand does business as usual and on
the other attempts some kind of reform. What people do not get
about some PAS partisans is that when they see politicians caving in or
back-tracking on policies that undermine the Islamic narrative of PAS,
they become more convinced that the politicians are cowards and out to
subvert Islam, and that PAS is the line in the sand when it comes to
Brilliant moves of Harapan?
may think these are brilliant moves of Harapan in burnishing their
Islamic/Malay credentials, but all they do is remind people that Harapan
political operatives are duplicitous and weak compared to the political
operatives in PAS, who have always made their positions clear.
discussion about “constructive” dialogue, when it comes to Islamisation
and moderation, cannot happen in the current political climate, and it
is not because of PAS. Forget about PAS’ history of socialism or
whatever left-leaning ideas that were the foundation of the original
struggle. What we have today is an Islamic party committed to the
religious dogma it has imported from external forces that seek to define
the Islamic narrative in Southeast Asia in this post-Pax Americana
unbiased reading of the conflict between DAP and PAS is that it is not
an overt religious conflict, but rather that PAS believes that the DAP
is carrying out a sub rosa agenda of Christianisation and a racial
agenda under the cover of the kind of multi-cultural agenda they are
Whether this is true is beside the point. If the DAP had
remained committed secularists and did not demonise the MCA as betrayers
of the Chinese community, thereby defining the conflict as racial with
the BN hegemon, this would have redefined the religious and racial
narrative with PAS.
PAS understands all to well that it would be
more difficult for them if they were dealing with committed secularists
and a race-neutral political party. They know it would be harder to
convince a sizable section of the Malay community of a nefarious
Christian agenda if there was no circumstantial evidence of such
political operatives talking about their religion.
If we had an
authentic non-Malay political party which did not think that securing
the Malay vote meant pandering to the same preoccupations that the Malay
power brokers do, it would be harder for PAS to make the argument that
the Malay community is victim to a plot to destabilise race and religion
in this country.
A post-May 9 PAS is not interested in moderation
as defined by the non-Malays. Why should we, one PAS strategist asked
me: “Look at the Harapan manifesto. They buat (make) so many promises. When we object they called us racist. Now dia bikin the same thing as us. Dia (Harapan) tipu (deceive) and they say we cannot be trusted. How-lah, Thaya?”
my opinion, working with PAS is not the answer. What Harapan needs to
do is to redefine the Malay discourse in this country, which does not
necessarily mean official proclamations of needs-based policies.
Limiting the Islamic bureaucracy, democratising the spaces in which
Malays hold their discourse, and facing head-on Islamic transgressions –
as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (photo, above) claimed he used to do – is what will keep Islamic extremism at bay.
policies for the Malay community through independent institutions,
reforming the education system (minus religion), constantly monitoring
corruption in agencies tasked with helping Malays mitigates the
corrosive politics of race and religion that PAS and Umno are dishing
All these reforms do not necessarily cater to the non-Malays,
which should be an idea of how Harapan can out-manoeuvre PAS and Umno,
while still playing the race and religion card.