My answer is “No” to PAS Vice President Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man’s question whether I consider PAS worse than UMNO but Tuan Ibrahim is wrong in thinking that I am wooing UMNO.
DAP would not have formed Pakatan Rakyat with PAS together with PKR if we in the DAP had regarded PAS as worse than UMNO, and I am still hoping that Pakatan Rakyat can remain as a political force to be reckoned with provided all the Pakatan Rakyat component parties remain true, sincere and faithful to the PR Common Policy Framework as well as the PR consensus operational principle that no one political leader or single political party can make or veto any decision arrived collectively by consensus of all three PR parties.
The Pakatan Rakyat stalemate and crisis have arisen because of PAS’ failure to abide by the PR Common Policy Framework and the PR consensus operational principle, and unless both these principles can be restored, it is impossible for PR to continue to be a political alternative to Barisan Nasional and a political force to be reckoned with, as both the credibility and legitimacy of Pakatan Rakyat would have been destroyed by the own doings of PR component parties.
I have just returned from a week-long study tour of Jordan and Egypt with four DAP Members of Parliament, Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Liew Chin Tong (Kluang), Zairil Khir Johari (Bukit Bendera) and Steven Sim (Bukit Mertajam) meeting local intellectuals and activists and with Malaysian students in Amman, Mafraq, Karak, Alexandria and Cairo where we learned not only about the political developments in these two countries but also the concerns and aspirations of Malaysian students in the Middle East.
As I have told Malaysian students in Alexandria and Cairo, it is a disservice to Islam to lump those who have differences of view with regard to hudud and its implementation as anti-Islam, as this will not only be lumping the first five Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah, but also UMNO as “anti-Islam”, and even those who had co-operated with UMNO as “anti-Islam” – which would include PAS which had formed a coalition government with UMNO for four years from 1973 to 1977.
Furthermore it would have grouped Islamists and Islamic scholars who have differences of views about immediate implementation of hudud as “anti-Islam”.
Prof Tariq Ramadan has called for a moratorium on hudud implementation while renowned scholar Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi stressed that Sharia cannot be divided up into sections with some accepted and others rejected as Sharia must be applied in all its aspects, and not just Qisas and Hudud which represent only a small part of Sharia.
Sharia (the literal meaning of Sharia is “the path Allah intends people to follow”) includes religious, civil, moral, cultural and commercial rulings. It governs personal, family, national and international relations. All these are included under the rubric of “Sharia Law”.
I am attracted by an anecdote quoted by Dr. Qaradawi from an eighth century scholar in Basra, Iraq, named Imam Hasan al-Basri. During one of Hasan’s sermons, a clamour arose in the street. When Hasan asked what the noise was about, he was informed that a thief had been arrested. Hasan commented, “So the thief who steals secretly (the government official) has arrested the thief who stole openly.”
Qarawadi noted that corrupt businessmen who are close to Arab rulers and who steal millions from the national treasury are not prosecuted, whereas an unemployed labourer who steals to feed his family is punished.
What about Malaysia today?
The following is a criticism of the “Apply Islamic Law” advocates which I read in Cairo from Islamic scholars for their “misguided Islamization by demanding that people fulfil their duties before receiving their rights” as “Islamic law is an undivided unity, within which the Hudud form only a small part”:
“This stance is in diametric opposition to the priority of Islamic law, which first gives people their rights before demanding their duties. The state should first satisfy the rights of its citizens, which include their natural entitlements to food, clothes, education, health, transportation and settlement. If they, for example, steal after the state has fulfilled all these obligations, it may be possible to apply the specified punishments to him, but only under such circumstances, seeing as the Hudud comes at the end, and not at the beginning of the spectrum of duties vis-à-vis rights. Therefore the need to reverse the priorities by promoting the fulfilment of human basic needs in order to show their mercy to people instead of frightening them with threats of harsh punishments.”
We in Malaysia should therefore not make the mistake of lumping those who have differences of view with regard to hudud and its implementation as anti-Islam, creating the myth of an enormous number of people in Malaysia who are “anti-Islam” than is really the case.
Among the new myths which have bedeviled race and religious relations in the country in the past few years despite all the publicity of 1Malaysia is that the Malays and Islam are under siege and under threat of being wiped out – which is completely false as it is absolutely inconceivable and unthinkable that the Malays and Islam in Malaysia are under any danger or threat.
But it is exactly such dangerous and subversive myths that have aggravated the “fevered” imaginations of fringe extremists responsible for the immoderate manifestations like the protest by some residents in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya demanding that a church housed in a shoplot there remove the red cross it displayed outside or a Isma statement that the visit by DAP MPs to Jordan and Egypt was dangerous as “polluting the motherland of Muslim prophets” and “erode the identity of Malay Muslims”.
Returning to Tuan Ibrahim’s question, he is wrong in thinking that I am wooing UMNO with my idea of a Grand Coalition to “Save Malaysia”, which is post-BN and post-PR.
This “Grand Coalition” idea has nothing to do with the ‘”Unity Government” (UG) concept of UMNO and PAS as to be a variation like UMNO and DAP “Unity Government”, but a completely different creature altogether.
It has nothing to do with “Save UMNO” or “Save Najib” but is about “Save Malaysia”.
I have said I am prepared to work with Tun Mahathir to “Save Malaysia”. Whether he is prepared to work with me to “Save Malaysia” is yet to be seen.
The “Grand Coalition” idea is based on the premise that Malaysia will enter a new political landscape when is not possible to salvage both political coalitions of Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat and the Malaysian Federation is faced with a survival test for the first time since its formation 52 years ago with the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement facing their greatest challenge with the latest UMNO-PAS power play over hudud implementation.
If the three pre-conditions for a new political landscape do not exist, then the basis for a Grand Coalition which goes beyond political parties, but based on MPs from both sides of the political divide as well as both sides of the South China Sea, Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, to defend constitutionalism and rule of law with a new Prime Minister and a new Malaysian Government, does not exist.
Tuan Ibrahim had wondered whether my proposed new coalition would work in the absence of a free press, an independent Election Commission and an independent Judiciary, stressing: “We are a stunted democracy. This issue must be addressed first.”
I fully agree with Tuan Ibrahim.
If he refers to my statement about such a new Grand Coalition post-PR post-BN, I said on March 27 that such a post-BN, post-PR federal government coalition must repair the multitude of wrongs, weaknesses and scandals that have crept into Malaysian governance in the past decades – in particular the principle that the Prime Minister is primus inter pares, “first among equals”.
In the present Cabinet, Najib is not “primus inter pares” but has almost a master-and-servant relationship with his Cabinet Ministers, which is totally against the spirit of parliamentary democracy.
Two important objectives of a post-BN, post-PR coalition must be the restoration of the important principle of the separation of powers among the executive, legislature and the judiciary and the restoration of the independence, credibility, professionalism and integrity of national institutions.
I proposed six important agendas, including:
i. Restore the integrity of the judicial system and guarantee transparency and full independence of the Judicial Appointment Commission.
ii. Restructure the workings in Parliament to make it more transparent, democratic and able to perform its role of “check and balance”.
iii. Guarantee the direct accountability to Parliament of bodies such as the Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, Human Rights Commission, Petronas, Khazanah and others.
iv. Ensure that the appointment of positions such as the Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General, the Anti-Corruption Commissioner and the Auditor General requires the approval of Parliament.
v. Create a National Ombudsman Department.
vi. Free all media, amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, enact a Freedom of Information Act and ensure Internet freedom.
I am glad that we are on the same page about the prerequisites of any such successful and meaningful Grand Coalition, post-BN and post-PR.
The idea of a Grand Coalition post-BN, post-PR is not a vehicle for an UMNO-DAP government, but a basis for “National Reconciliation” to “Save Malaysia” to defend constitutionalism and the rule of law, open to all MPs from all political parties, whether presently in BN or PR, including PAS.