Three things we learned from: PAS Muktamar 2020

PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang  officiating the 66th PAS Annual Congress at the Kelantan Islamic Training Center in Pengkalan Chepa, Sept 13, 2020. — Bernama pic
PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang officiating the 66th PAS Annual Congress at the Kelantan Islamic Training Center in Pengkalan Chepa, Sept 13, 2020. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — This year’s PAS Muktamar, or annual congress, is the first to take place after the Islamist party became part of the federal government in March.

It, however, still chose to hold the event in its traditional homebase of Kelantan even though the Muslimat wing had opted for Kuala Lumpur.

The focus of last year’s Muktamar was PAS’ cooperation with Umno under the umbrella of Malay unity.

This year’s topics all revolved around the theme of “Islam to Strengthen Unity” and the party’s preparations for the next general election with new allies, Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Muafakat Nasional (MN).

Notably, PAS’ usual demand for more power for the Shariah Courts via the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 to implement hudud laws across Malaysia was more muted.

So, with that in mind, what were the three main takeaways from PAS Muktamar 2020?

The new normal

Delegates and guests of the 66th PAS Annual Congress are seen at the Kelantan Islamic Training Centre Hall (PUTIK) Pengkalan Chepa September 13, 2020. — Bernama pic
Delegates and guests of the 66th PAS Annual Congress are seen at the Kelantan Islamic Training Centre Hall (PUTIK) Pengkalan Chepa September 13, 2020. — Bernama pic

This year’s Muktamar was relatively low key with less of the party’s trademark cry of “Takbir” than before due to restrictions imposed by the party in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For starters, there were only about 400 delegates inside the main hall and scattered around Pusat Tarbiyah Islamiyah Kelantan (PUTIK).

In fact, delegates from Perlis, Kedah and Sabah were advised not to attend, with most speakers conducting their debates and talks virtually.

However, Sabah PAS’ delegation, Aliakbar Gulasan, as well as PAS spiritual leader Datuk Hashim Jasin from Perlis were allowed to step foot inside the hall to give their speeches.

Perikatan Nasional and GE15

As one of its founding members, PAS called for cooperation and unity within the PN coalition.

PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang delivering the opening speech of the 66th PAS Annual Congress at the Kelantan Islamic Education Center in Pengkalan Chepa September 13, 2020. — Bernama pic
PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang delivering the opening speech of the 66th PAS Annual Congress at the Kelantan Islamic Education Center in Pengkalan Chepa September 13, 2020. — Bernama pic

Its president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang reminded party members to uphold the spirit of political cooperation as they head into the 15th general election (GE15), stating that they have never lost while remaining steadfast to their Islamic beliefs.

In his opening speech at the Muktamar, Abdul Hadi said that each and every party member should be doing their duty to promote and defend the Islamic faith.

“All party members are part of the machinery of constant struggle.

“Let history repeat itself: PAS has never lost when cooperating politically with other parties as long as we stick to our Islamic beliefs,” he said.

The sentiment was also repeated during debates of his speech, where members were urged to trust the leadership and accept its decisions, including PAS’ agreement not to contest the Sabah state election that is taking place at the end of this month.

Talk of political cooperation aside, no prominent leaders from Umno, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia or PN graced the Muktamar due to both the ongoing recovery movement control order (RMCO) restrictions as well as the fact that campaigning for the Sabah state election kicked off yesterday.

Only the president of Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, who is allied with PAS through Gagasan Sejahtera, attended the Muktamar’s opening.

PAS’ performance on social media

The debate over the role of social media in PAS heated up after the PAS Youth delegate from Batu Krau, Abu Anas Omar Khayyam Mohd Hanafiah, spoke about the purported failure of Mujahid Cyber (PAS’ cybertroopers).

He quoted a report by PAS Youth that their performance only gained 12.5 per cent evaluation from the party.

Party information chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad also said that PAS members should be more active online and function as cybertroopers to counter negative sentiment about the party with positive narratives.

“In GE13, the information penetration from new media was about 30 per cent. In GE14, it was about 60 per cent. In GE15, I forecast that this will be around 90 per cent.

“So I call upon ‘tuan-tuan’ to turn yourselves into cybertroopers.

“If we fail to grasp this opportunity, then the enemy will take the chance to use it as propaganda against us,” he said during his closing speech.

Melaka delegate, Bakri Jamaluddin, summed it up by saying that Pakatan Harapan and the Opposition only presented the kleptocracy narrative on social media and suggested that PAS emphasise their purported lies instead.

“If they play the ‘curi’ (theft) card, we can play the ‘kencing’ (lies) one.

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