SHAH ALAM, Oct 23 — The 69th PAS Muktamar ended yesterday with the Islamist party signalling its ambition of taking over control of the federal government.
Still riding the so-called “green wave” that drove it to unexpected success in last year’s 15th general election, the Islamist party used its annual assembly across the weekend to burnish its credentials of being potential administrators of the country along with its Perikatan Nasional partners.
Here are three things we learnt from the 69th PAS Muktamar.
‘SG4’ as the model to running the country
With doubts still lingering over its ability to govern Malaysia effectively despite having been part of the PN and Barisan Nasional administrations prior to GE15, PAS played up its governance of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu — its so-called “SG4” states — in an apparent attempt to communicate its ability to be administrators.
The menteris besar of the four states used their speeches to talk up their respective governments’ accomplishments, including how some could be emulated at the federal level.
Perlis Menteri Besar Mohd Shukri Ramli said his state did not face any problem when it comes to rice supply, as it is working to be less dependent on the federal government.
“God willing, on the other hand, we hoped with the development of SG4, as advised by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, we could develop these four states as the economic power feared by the PMX administration,” he said, referring to the former prime minister who was made an informal advisor to the SG4 states.
Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Nassuruddin Daud from Kelantan, which PAS has governed for more than three decades now, highlighted a programme to help locals obtain affordable homes with interest-free loans.
“We lent RM300,000, they paid back with RM300,000. Thank God, the Kelantan government doesn’t face bankruptcy for aiding our people,” said Nassuruddin.
His counterpart from Terengganu, Datuk Seri Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, summed up the responsibility of administering a state government: that just talking is not enough.
“The role in governing the state and nation is to speak and execute on what was spoken,” he said.
However, all four also notably avoided any persistent issues with their states, such as Kelantan’s long-running water supply problems.
Courting non-Muslim votes for GE16
PAS also appeared to finally concede at its Muktamar that it could not afford to ignore the non-Muslim vote, despite gaining nearly all its recent electoral success on the back of Malay-Muslim support.
PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang broke from his norm to say his party must work hard towards winning the hearts of the non-Malays to win in the next general election, in an awkward departure from his usual vilification and denigration of the community.
In his speech, Hadi said ethnic minority distrust of the Islamist party was a key obstacle to the party’s ambition to wrest control of the federal government.
“We did a post-mortem and we found weaknesses and strengths... among the weaknesses were our failure to get voters who are not Muslims and the insufficient number of seats,” he said.
“Thus, for this year’s Muktamar, PAS will continue with its trajectory and approach by giving its assurance to all Malaysians, both Muslims and non-Muslims that at both the national and states governed by PAS and PN our lawmakers will make it compulsory to fulfil our electoral win by implementing three important concepts — fair, empathy and welfare,” the Marang MP added.
Over the years, PAS has attempted to build non-Muslim support, such as by forming a Supporters’ Congress that gave restricted membership to non-Muslims, but this has not made up for the party’s regular provocation of the group, such as labelling them as infidels and accusing them of being “roots of corruption” in the country, as Hadi did.
At the Muktamar, PAS election director Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Nor also said the party must move beyond its “green wave” success and explore new horizons in order to win in the 16th general election, including appealing to young voters and moving away from traditional politics.
DAP is still the nemesis
One thing that has not changed, however, is the Islamist party’s burning hostility towards former ally DAP.
PAS secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said during the Muktamar that it would be impossible for his party to cooperate with those who hold extreme views, an apparent swipe at DAP.
Hadi also asserted that Muslims are prohibited from pledging their ultimate allegiance to non-Muslims, but could engage in “tahaluf” and other less binding affiliations without transgressing the principles and boundaries of Islamic struggle, using the Arabic term that mean “cooperation” or “consensus”
At a press conference after he delivered this year’s policy speech, Hadi denied that his provocative remarks were directed at non-Muslims or non-Malays for supporting the rival Pakatan Harapan, insisting instead that they were aimed solely at DAP.
“Those statements were directed at the DAP who adopts an extreme position against Islam. And much of it was misinterpreted by the media,” he claimed, without elaborating.
While debating Budget 2024 last week, Pengkalan Chepa MP Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary labelled DAP as “kafir” (infidel), causing uproar in the Lower House and prompting a rival lawmaker to refer him to the rights and privileges committee.
However, PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man claimed the term “kafir” has been abused to the extent that non-Muslims have completely misunderstood its meaning and find it insulting.
“It is not meant to be insulting. There are a few types of ‘kafir’: those who are hostile to Muslims, those who have no problems living among Muslims, and those who have made a pact with Muslims to keep peace.
“As long as they do not go against those pacts, we too should keep to the promise and it is our duty to protect them at all costs from those attacking them,” he said.