Can PAS help bring about change in M’sia?

by Koon Yew Yin
Centre folr Public Initiatives

A few days ago, someone sent me an anonymous e-mail appeal addressed to voters. According to the appeal, the coming elections, more so than others, is a vital election because we are at a crossroad. If we get it right we will prosper; if we get it wrong, we will suffer as we have seen in our neighbouring countries. I cannot agree more with these sentiments. In the last three years, I have written about the socioeconomic and political crossroad that the country is at, but that has been to a general audience.

I am glad that I now have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this subject with a PAS audience. This is the first time that I am addressing PAS supporters and this is also probably the first opportunity PAS has had to interact with someone like me.
Let me begin by posing a question. The question that I and many other Malaysians want to ask PAS is how will PAS help the country and ordinary Malaysians take the right road to a brighter and harmonious future? Which is the road that PAS and its leaders want Malaysians to follow?

The wrong road

Let me tell you which will be the wrong road. The wrong road is one which aims at setting up a religious state. The wrong road is the one which seeks to ‘Arabize’ our country or wants to ‘out-islamicize’ Umno. The fact is that we are a multi-religious and multi-racial country with a constitution based on the principle that Malaysia is a secular state and with Article 3 providing for Islam as the religion of the Federation. This is a principle that all Malaysians accept and no party should undermine in any way.
The great majority of Malaysians – if a referendum is taken right now – will reject the establishment of a religious state. It is not only Malaysians who are not in favour of a religious state. This is the same everywhere in the world – whether in Asia, Europe, Africa or the American continent. Even in the Middle East which is the heartland of Islam, the clamour of the masses – especially the young – is not for an Islamic state. Allow me to read you this analysis of the ‘Arab Spring’ or what is happening in the Middle East today:


Numerous factors have led to the protests, including the 2009 Iranian protests, dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, government corruption, economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the population. The catalysts for the revolts in all Northern African and Persian Gulf countries have been the concentration of wealth in the hands of autocrats in power for decades, insufficient transparency of its redistribution, corruption, and especially the refusal of the youth to accept the status quo. (Wikipedia, ‘Arab Spring’)

Clearly the motivations for change are not for a religious state. They are about the elimination of bad governance.

The right road

From what I can see, the fight against corruption and injustice is also what is driving PAS and its supporters in Malaysia. Affirmation of this can be seen in the mission statement of PAS which refers to the need for a clean and virtuous government. This is also apparent from the preamble to the PAS constitution which provides the reason for the party’s mission. Page 1 of the PAS constitution 2011 reads:

BAHAWA dengan sesungguhnya adalah diisytiharkan, demi untuk menyempurnakan taqwa kepada Allah dan kebaktian kepada sesama manusia, yang dijadikan bagi menegakkan al amru bil ma’ruf wan nahyu ‘anil mungkar dalam kehidupan bermasyarakat dan bernegara, maka inilah diisyiharkan sebuah pertubuhan yang dinamakan “Parti Islam Semalaysia.English translation

“Therefore verily it is hereby proclaimed, that to be pious to God, and to do good works amongst mankind and in establishing virtue (truth) and forbidding evil (falsehood) in the society and nation”, the organization named Parti Islam Malaysia is established”.

It is important that PAS supporters realize that no religion has a monopoly on truth or goodness; and that a similar focus on a clean and virtuous government is emphasized by all other religions, and perhaps even more, by secular faiths and value systems.

As to the right road ahead, the direction is clear from the last elections and it should be continued for the coming elections. In the last election, PAS teamed up with PKR and the DAP to reject the road that the BN has taken the country down. That election saw the PR – against all odds – win unprecedented support from the public. The PR coalition in Perak in particular – under the outstanding leadership of Datuk Seri Nizar [Jamaluddin] – provided hope to all Perakians that the state would enter a new era of corruption and crony-free development in which racial and religious fairness and moderation would not be given lip service but would be prioritized and implemented in the policies and programmes of the state government.

In the first year of the PR state government in Perak between March 2008 and Feb 2009 – before the BN coup d’etat – many people-friendly and non-discriminatory actions and initiatives were undertaken by the PR state government. In particular, Datuk Seri’s administration’s grant of freehold title to Perak land owners – many of them non-Malay new village landholders – deserves a place in our history books. This initiative was intended to correct a major historical injustice which was blatantly ignored, if not perpetrated by Barisan state governments for the past 50 years.

From what I understand, as many as 7,000 lot owners in 134 new villages and 102,000 lot owners in 349 planned villages in Perak (Malays and non-Malays) would have been allowed to convert their land titles from leasehold to freehold. The thumbs-up to this wise and brave initiative is best reflected in the words of former MCA secretary-general and minister of Housing and Local Government Tan Sri Ting Chew Peh who was quoted by a Chinese newspaper as saying: “Upon hearing the good news, my townsmen, relatives and friends applauded till their hands hurt! One who wins the hearts of the people wins the world. Pakatan Rakyat has brought the house down this time.”

Let me also refresh your memory that almost every act of the Perak PR administration was criticised by the Malaysian mainstream press, especially by Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian which embarked on a campaign of hate and poison. Not only that, but Nizar’s administration was hounded by constant accusations of selling out to the non-Malays. These dirty tricks and political spinning have not only continued but have gotten worse. Increasingly racial and religious extremist sentiments are coming to the forefront which all of us, especially PAS, needs to condemn more vigorously if our country’s social fabric is not to be torn apart.

When Nizar was first appointed as Menteri Besar many non Malays, including I, were apprehensive of PAS but as time went by, Nizar won the approval of the non Malays. During that period of uncertainty, I wrote an article to appeal to the Perak Sultan to dissolve the State Assembly so that the people could vote again to choose the Government of their own choosing. Although the Sultan has the right to dissolve the State Assembly he did not do it. Allow me to reproduce the relevant excerpt of my article on this issue which is especially pertinent in view of the coming elections.

Duty of Perak royalty :

“To safeguard the interest of the country and the institution of the monarchy, the voice and will of the rakyat must be respected. It has to be called on to be heard – in one way or another – because though the wheels of justice grind slowly, they grind exactingly.

To the letter of the law a government must be answerable, and the one standing above politics must be accountable as well. In my humble opinion, Perak will regain its shine and the people’s trust when the Sultan accedes to the dissolution of the state assembly.”

Finally, I am optimistic that PAS with its progressive and multi-racially and multi-religiously oriented leaders such as Dato Seri Nizar is up to the challenge of working with fellow Malaysians of all races and religions to bring about the positive change that is badly needed in Malaysia.

To show my confidence in PAS, I would like to make a donation of RM100,000 to the party to be used to support its work in the coming elections.

* Speech on occasion of PAS fundraising gathering, Ipoh (May 28, 2011), first published in the Centre for Public Initiatives website.

  1. #1 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 1 June 2011 - 10:57 pm

    MR. KOON, what more can we say? I salute you for your open approach and your action to put your money where your mouth is, so as to say! By being more open, our society will learn to understand each other better. Don’t allow them to draw circles around each community and then rob us blind!

  2. #2 by donng55 on Thursday, 2 June 2011 - 2:29 am

    Islamization is the greatest idée fixe of PAS’ political aspirations, the raison d’être of its existence.

    Can we deny this indubitable fact?

    Can we trust that upon entering Putrajaya PAS won’t turn the verbal nosegay that being thrown around into a bunch of fool’s-parsley?

    Look at what they have done in Kedah and to the non-Malays there and tell me.

  3. #3 by ablastine on Thursday, 2 June 2011 - 2:37 am

    Anybody can make forcast but I do expect a little bit more realistic assessement from somebody who professes to be a ‘specialist’ and ‘intelligent’. Lots of big claims there which I think are difficult to justify at the moment. For instance the author quoted that “BN is set to remain in federal power in the next general polls” and ” or “The BN is well positioned to win the poll, although how wide its margin of victory will be remains unclear”. I am not exactly sure why he is so cock sure that BN can save themselves from defeat by Pakatan in the next election. Long standing dictatorships in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria are in danger of being toppled or already toppled by their downtrodden people in their respective country. Thanks to widespread internet and modern communication which has now enabled instant and widespread awareness. As I see it, the reason why Malaysia has not followed suite and suffered the warth of a disgruntled nation is because many still hope that democratic election will do the job of changing the present regime. If the will of the people is frustrated by serious electoral fraud later I am sure the marches will come. In Sarawak itself, where money politics had a field day because of ill advised and informed natives, Pakatan could still gardner 45% of the votes. Does the author seriously think that Pakatan will do worse in the Penisular where they already control a few States and the people better informed.

    “It said snap polls are unlikely this year because BN would fail to obtain the full support of Chinese voters, which is crucial to regaining its two-third majority in Parliament and wresting back the four states ruled by Pakatan”. If BN cannot obtain the full support of the Chinese voters this year what make them so sure the Chineses voters will flock to BN the next year to give them the edge over Pakatan? Using this as a reason for the PM to delay the polls is therefore not really sound.

    “Pakatan could be undermined in the next polls by the newly formed civil rights group, the Malaysian Civil Liberty Movement (MCLM) and the recently founded Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita) led by former PKR leader Zaid Ibrahim”. I think the chance of MCLM and Kita collaborating with Pakatan against their common enemy is more likely. Zaid Ibrahim and Raja Petra are decent and intelligent people who know full well that if BN does not fall this time Malaysia will collapse. I do not think they will undermine Pakatan, a party which almost share the same vision and goal of knocking out BN.

    “rumour that Umno’s campaign funds have been heavily depleted due to Sarawak election”.
    The author probably has underestimated the ability of UMNO to siphon money from the national treasury to bolster its own campaign funds. Frankly they are the ones holding the key to the safe. Who is to stop them?

    ““Without him, the ties that unite the disparate parties making up the Pakatan – PKR, PAS and DAP – are likely to fray”. I think this is an insult to all the brave and talented individuals in Pakatan. No doubt Anwar was instrumental in bringing the three parties together but that has already being done. The three parties already have contingency plans long ago for the worst case scenerio of Anwar going again to jail. I myself do not believe that UMNO will risk making Anwar a martyr by putting him in jail. He might be more dangerous in jail than out of it. In any case what is the point because the moment Pakatan takes over he will be out. What I know they will definitely do is to try to wear him out, get him fully engrossed with his own trial so that he has less time going around swaying the fence sitter electorate to vote for Pakatan.

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