PAS remarks a 'ploy for unity'

Posted by Penarik Beca Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Leader's push for Islamic laws meant to unite warring factions, say insiders

Singapore Straits Times (24/12/08): When a top Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) official said he would push for the implementation of Islamic criminal laws if the opposition came to power, Umno politicians saw it as a tactical mistake that would bring them easy votes in a crucial by-election days away.

But PAS leaders have countered this, saying: Not so fast.

Some party leaders are now quietly saying that the remarks by vice-president Husam Musa were not a mistake, but a ploy that could unite a party split into pro- Anwar and anti-Anwar factions.

A more united PAS will then have a better chance of winning in the Malay-majority Kuala Terengganu constituency from Umno, they add.

The arguments follow Datuk Husam's comments, which reflected a bitter struggle between the two factions that arose after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim led the opposition parties to their best-ever victory in March.

The by-election was called after the death of Umno MP Razali Ismail last month. Campaigning will start on Jan 6 and voting is on Jan 17.

'PAS has always wanted to implement Islamic laws. By saying this now, we affirm that we remain true to the struggle and bring our supporters together,' a Kelantan leader told The Straits Times yesterday.

Mr Husam spoke about the PAS plans for hudud, or Islamic criminal laws, in a debate last Saturday in Kelantan. He gave a 'guarantee' that PAS would push for the laws to be implemented if the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition won in Malaysia.

While he did not say what he meant by hudud, it is understood to mean that the laws will include controversial provisions to chop off the hands of thieves and stone adulterers.

Mr Husam said yesterday he did not understand what the fuss was all about, adding that there was nothing new in what he said.

What had changed was that 'in terms of implementation, there won't be unilateral action. It must be a multilateral decision by all (opposition) members', he told the Associated Press.

Mr Husam is seen as one of the leaders of the pro-Anwar faction in the 800,000-strong Islamic party. This faction wants PAS to become more multiracial in outlook by working closely with Pakatan, which consists of PAS, Anwar's multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party.

The pro-Anwar faction is called the Erdogans, a reference to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Anwar, a friend of Mr Erdogan, had taken refuge in the Turkish Embassy when he was accused of sodomising an aide.

The faction's opponents, however, accuse the Erdogans of wanting to implement a 'diluted version' of Islam. Called the Terengganu faction, the anti-Anwar faction is led by top PAS leaders from the state, including party president Abdul Hadi Awang and strategist Mustafa Ali.

The split has resulted in the Islamic party being unable to pick a candidate for the Kuala Terengganu by-election, as each faction wanted to field its own candidate. The party will make a decision only on Jan 1 - while ruling coalition Barisan Nasional last week already named the division chief of Umno Kuala Terengganu as its candidate.

Some sections of PAS see Mr Husam's comments, however, as an olive branch from the Erdogans for the by-election.

'The Terengganu leaders have said they do not want a candidate from outside the state. Can we work with their man? I hope so,' said a pro-Anwar PAS chief based in Kuala Lumpur.

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