This is the sixth of my kopitiam ceramahs in five Johor State Assembly constituencies in the past three days to take the political pulse in the country by sharing with the people the latest political events in the country and to learn about their concerns about what is happening in the country.
Undoubtedly, the top issues of the day jostling for pole position include the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal; the 6% GST tax; the revolt of Dr. Mahathir calling for Najib’s resignation as PM; the two scandals in the administration of justice – the unanswered question as to who was the mastermind of the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu and the second jailing of Anwar Ibrahim; the Permatang Pauh by-election; the worst racial and religious polarization in the country as highlighted by the protest of a group of Malay residents at a sight of a cross in a Christian church in Taman Medan, Selangor and the future of Pakatan Rakyat.
The protest by a group of Malay residents at the sight of a cross on the ground that it was a threat to Malays and Islam is testimony of the failure of over half a century of Malaysian nation-building.
Such a reaction and protest would be quite unheard-of and even unthinkable in the first five decades of our nation-hood from Merdeka in 1957, but it seems to become quite commonplace and the norm in the country in the past five years, which is most ironical as it coincides with the period when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is going the world as a globe-trotting salesman of his “Global Movement of Moderates”!
The deepening 1MDB scandal, to the extent that Mahathir has even agreed to my proposal for a Royal Commission of Inquiry provided it has Commissioners who are well-known as respected, credible and independent Malaysians; the oppressive 6% GST; and the Mahathir vs Najib ongoing battle are topics which jostle for premier place in every kopitiam discussion, but not to be left out are questions about the future of Pakatan Rakyat, whether the coalition of DAP, PKR and PAS can survive the unilateral demand by the PAS President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang to push for hudud implemention in utter contradiction of the Pakatan Rakyat Common Policy Framework and the PR consensus principle of the PR Leadership Council.
The people of Johore are particularly concerned about the future of PR for Johor was the cynosure of the country in the 13th General Election, transforming itself from a political back-water for more than half-century as the UMNO/MCA/MIC “fixed deposit” into the front-line state for change in Malaysia.
The voters of Johor not only elected 5 Pakatan Rakyat MPs and 18 State Assemblymen, the Barisan Nasional suffered the largest fall of nearly 10 per cent of the total votes cast in a state, falling from 63.1% in the 2008 General Election to 53.9% in the 2013 General Election.
The percentage of votes for Barisan Nasional in Johor have been on a downward slide since the 2004 General Election, when BN secured 77.4% of the votes cast in the state.
At the rate of the decline of Barisan Nasional in popular votes in Johor state, BN is heading towards garnering only a minority vote in the State in the 14GE in two or three years’ time and yielding up the Johore state government.
Such a political scenario is now put at risk by Hadi’s unilateral decision to push for hudud implementation although I do not see that there are the numbers in Parliament when it reconvenes on May 18 for the passage of Hadi’s private member’s bill on hudud implementation.
During my recent 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 we well as Malaysian students in Amman, Mafraq, Karak, Alexandria and Cairo, I told Malaysian students that it is a disservice to Islam to lump those who have differences of view with regard to hudud and its implementation as anti-Islam.
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 Islamic scholars and theologians in the Middle East openly disagreed with what they described as “misguided Islamisation” in demanding that people fulfil their duties before they receive their rights as “Islamic law is an undivided unity, within which Hudud form only a small part” – and that the Islamic priority should be to promote fulfilment of human basic needs including entitlements to food, clothes, education, health, transportation and housing instead of threats of harsh punishments.
The proponents for political change in Johor will face an even greater challenge if PAS is not loyal to the PR Common Policy Framework and PR as originally conceived is no more a viable vehicle for change – for we will have to find the resources and commitment to build on the political breakthroughs we have achieved in Johor in the 13GE and not to allow whatever setbacks and disappointments we have to face from undermining our political objective for Johor and Malaysia.
(Speech the kopitiam ceramah in Stulang, Johor Baru on Tuesday, 28th April 2015)