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PKR talking to PAS on dropping stance: Karpal
The Sun (11/5/08): DAP chairman Karpal Singh has disclosed that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is trying to talk PAS into giving up its Islamic state ideology.

He said the Islamic state ideology as espoused by PAS is a big obstacle to cooperation among the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) component parties. He did not discount the possibility that the Islamic state issue may prompt DAP to again leave the opposition alliance.

Karpal, who is the Bukit Gelugor MP, told Nanyang Siang Pau in an interview the Federal Constitution clearly says Malaysia is a secular state.

Former prime ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn had also stated that Malaysia is a secular state, he said.

He said PAS has stated that "should the party come to power (at the federal level), it would declare Malaysia an Islamic state".

"Based on this point, PAS accepts the fact that Malaysia, at present, is not an Islamic state," he said.

"PAS needs to obtain two-thirds majority in the parliament as well as amend the constitution in order to fulfill its Islamic state ideology."

Karpal Singh said PR is a good front with potential to obtain even better results in the next general election.

As such, PAS should stop making remarks on Islamic state.

He also said PAS cannot regard itself as the backbone of PR as it has only 23 parliamentary seats, whereas PKR and DAP have 31 and 28, respectively.

"PR is at its infancy stage and there is lot more work to do, such as fighting for the abolition of the Internal Security Act and other draconian laws," he said.

"As such, PAS should put more efforts in these areas and be mindful of their remarks to avoid giving the public the impression that PR is in a mess."

Karpal Singh also said DAP does not accept the party-hopping culture, adding that PR should not use party-hopping to strengthen itself but wait for another four years to show its strength.

He said party-hopping is a betrayal of the voters' trust and if PR accepts party-hoppers, one day it will also be betrayed.

Anwar has said PR will get enough MPs to cross over from BN to form the next federal government by Sept 16 (Malaysia Day) or earlier.

Karpal Singh said he personally does not agree with any move by PR to form the federal government with the help of party-hoppers.

"A political party must have integrity, otherwise it will lose the people's trust," he said.
Impractical to turn Malaysia into Islamic state: opposition leader
Mangalorean (25/4/08): Malaysia's newly formed three-party opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR) that includes the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Parry (PAS), which is committed to an Islamic state, has said it would strive to retain a multi-racial character.

The other two parties in the alliance, which goes to the 12th parliament with an unprecedented 82 members and control of four states, are the Parti Keadalan Rakyat (PKR) and the Democratic Action Party (SAP).

"We must recognise that Islam is the country's official religion but it is impractical to turn multiracial and multi-religious Malaysia into an Islamic state, everything must be based on the federal constitution," the alliance's parliamentary leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said in an interview to Chinese language daily Sin Chew.

Visualising a government headed by her husband and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, Wan Azizah said it would champion the cause of 'Ketuanan Rakyat' (people's supremacy) instead of shouting for 'Ketuanan Melayu' (Malay supremacy).

She said: "Although it is PAS' ideology to create an Islamic state, it can only be practiced in the overwhelming Malay-majority state of Kelantan, and not the whole of Malaysia due to the country's multiracial makeup."

In a multiracial society, she said, PKR's coalition partner PAS will definitely not be able to set up an Islamic state, The Sun daily said quoting the interview Friday.

"The fact is, we all accept that Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, and the three parties should cooperate within the framework of the constitution," she said.

"The reality is that the Malaysian society is made up of Malays, Chinese, Indians and other minority races, making it impossible to establish an Islamic state."

Anwar Ibrahim has claimed that many lawmakers of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) want to cross over following the electoral upset last month.

He said his alliance would remove the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by September.

Majority Muslim Malays, the indigenous people called 'boomiputera' or sons of the soil, form over 60 percent of the Malaysian population of 28 million that has significant ethnic minorities of 33 percent Chinese and eight percent Indians.

While many Chinese practice Buddhism, there are significant groups of Christians. Tamil Hindus account for over two million and there is a Sikh community of 100,000.
The elephant in the Pakatan Rakyat room
Parti Islam SeMalaysia’s aim of setting up an Islamic theocracy will remain a thorny issue within Pakatan Rakyat and the crucial factor that may shorten the opposition coalition’s lifespan, writes Zubaidah Abu Bakar.

NST (18/4/08): PAKATAN Rakyat, assembled as an afterthought following the opposition's triumph in the March general election, is ambitious. The yet-to-be-formalised coalition is already thinking it is the main player in Malaysian politics.

Pakatan Rakyat's birth was encouraged after its three component parties collectively won 82 of the 222 parliamentary seats and jointly took control of the state assemblies of Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan.

For the first time in 40 years, the opposition had denied Barisan Nasional a two-thirds parliamentary majority. DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang aptly described the coalition's birth as "the next logical step after the March 8 political tsunami in order to bring about the changes that the people want".

"This is a response to the clear and unmistakable message from the people," he said, "that they want change, justice, freedom and fairness."

Some political analysts view the forging of a loose electoral pact among the three parties as a personal triumph for opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, whose negotiation skills helped bring the rival groups together on the basis of principles held in common by the three parties, such as freedom, justice and democracy.

Pakatan Rakyat's components are hardly strangers to each other. They are the same players who teamed up to form "Barisan Alternatif" to contest the 1999 general election as an electoral pact.

The loose pact did not hold. It was paralysed by internal bickering, particularly between Islamist Pas and the secular and socialist Democratic Action Party over the former's insistence to set up an Islamic state. DAP left the coalition in 2001.

Today, Pas, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and DAP, with their dissimilar aims and ambitions and diverging policies, are offering Pakatan Rakyat as a credible alternative to BN's coalition of 14 political parties.

Their leaders have once again agreed to put aside their differences. Their struggle now is for common principles like human rights, justice, corruption-free government and democracy.

But doubts remain over Pakatan Rakyat's prospects for long-term survival, especially when there are voices expressing personal opinions contradictory to those mutually agreed at the top level.

Fearing the acrimony among its members will sink Pakatan Rakyat before it's even able to disclose its policies to the people, coalition leaders directed members to desist from expressing such views publicly.

"Pakatan Rakyat is not the forum nor the place for any group or individual to champion personal ideologies or those of its component parties," the grouping said in a statement signed by PKR leaders Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and Anwar, Lim and Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

The statement went on to emphasise Pakatan Rakyat's commitment to creating a prosperous society irrespective of ethnicity, religion and culture in upholding human rights.

By disallowing unwarranted and unsolicited comments, the group's leaders hope their members will remain steadfast in achieving a shared vision and targets.

It seems that the Islamic state and Pakatan Rakyat have become mutually exclusive; an "irreconcilable difference". To DAP and some sections of PKR, it is simply a mismatch.

It would also seem an exercise in futility to believe that DAP will eventually accept an Islamic state, as Pas' spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat hopes.

"I have no qualms admitting and predicting that if Pas and DAP insist on fighting over this issue, the Pakatan Rakyat is definitely going to be short-lived," said Pas think-tank head Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad.

While he insists that setting up an Islamic state shall remain Pas' abiding vision and political aspiration, it is not about to realise it now.

"Pas' manifesto calls for 'a fair, clean and trustworthy government towards a nation of care and opportunity'," Dzulkifli says. "We should make it categorically clear that an Islamic state is not on the agenda of Pakatan Rakyat."

Rita Sim of the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research, think-tank of MCA, said she could see continuous tension brewing not only within Pakatan Rakyat but also within Pas.

"The progressive leaders in Pas may be more flexible, but the question is whether the conservatives in the party will step in."

Sim said Pas must also accept that many people voted for the party because they wanted an Islamic state, and there were also those, including non-Muslims, who voted for them because of the promises in the party's welfare-state manifesto.

Prof Mohammed Mustaffa Ishak of Universiti Utara Malaysia does not think the Islamist and secular stands of the three component parties will blend well. Indeed, they may be untenable.

"The Islamic state issue is a fundamental issue that Pas, DAP and PKR will have a hard time resolving," he said.

"It looks like there is no way for compromise. The moment DAP succumbs to Pas, the Chinese will not forgive DAP for allowing Pas to dominate. It is not going to be easy for Pas members to embrace the leadership's decision to be silent about its ultimate goal of an Islamic state."

Opinions are forming among senior Pas leaders that DAP, if it is truly committed to Pakatan Rakyat, should not insist on Pas renouncing the Islamic state as a prerequisite to the formation of the coalition.

They said such an insistence would be as vain as asking DAP to renounce the "Malaysian Malaysia" idea -- which would be as implausible.

What Pakatan Rakyat urgently needs is the basic ground rules and guiding principles to forge the coalition, and a working mechanism to check and operationalise the relationship.

Pas insiders also say the statement by party vice-president Datuk Husam Musa -- that Pas would not pursue its Islamic state agenda through Pakatan Rakyat -- would be strongly criticised at the party's muktamar or convention in August.

Mohammed Mustaffa also observed that the Pakatan Rakyat's problems stem not just from the differences between Pas and DAP but with PKR as well, and Anwar may find difficulty facilitating a cordial relationship among coalition members.

If Pakatan Rakyat continues in disarray, its candidates may find themselves practically unelectable in the 13th general election.

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