May 16, 2009

In PAS They Trust

The baby has recently discovered all the old newspapers underneath the coffee table; today she pulled out all of one pile, where I discovered this Straits Times article on the Malaysian political party, PAS. The article actually came out almost a month ago (published April 25th), but I thought it was interesting enough to share some excerpts from it. (The entire article doesn't appear on line, unfortunately. What follows is what I've retyped myself.)

Some background information in case you're not familiar with Malaysian politics:
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) is a small opposition political party in Malaysian politics that, by non-Muslim/Western standards, would be considered "Islamist." They have governed several of the smaller northern states over the years, but got a thorough drubbing in the 2004 general election, being reduced to a mere seven seats in Parliament. Part of the reason for their electoral unpopularity had been their constant call for Malaysia to become an Islamic state, including the implementation of hudud and qisas laws. However, that rhetoric has been toned down in the past five years, and support for PAS has increased substantially since then, especially, as the Straits Times article points out, among the non-Muslim Indian population. (Indians make up 7.1% of the Malaysian population, according to the CIA World Factbook.) In Malaysian politics, this is newsworthy!)

Mr. Balendran's [a Malaysian Indian who is Hindu according to the article] view: "If PAS takes over Malaysia, I will be very happy because there will be no more corruption and Malaysia will be in a good situation."

The PAS Supporters' Club for non-Muslims was founded in 2004 with just 100 members, said its founder, Mr. Hu Pang Chow.

Its membership was at 10,000 last year, but has surged to 50,000 since the opposition made big gains in the [2008] general election and PAS joined the Pakatan Rakyat ["People's Coalition"] opposition alliance, he said.

...

So why do non-Muslims opt for PAS, instead of the secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) or the multi-racial Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)?

Mr. Hu said those who join the club see PAS as "being the most principled and sincere." The bulk of the members are ethnic Indians.

Some members are avoiding PKR, which is seen by some Indians as not being strong in supporting Indian issues. And some Indians feel that DAP is too Chinese-centric.

...

PAS has always been demonized by ruling Barisan Nasional coalition leaders as the party that will implement its strict version of Islam in Malaysia.

But Mr. Balendran said he is not worried about the PAS aim of setting up an Islamic state or implementing shariah laws - including hudud, which prescribes amputation and stoning - because he says such laws would apply only to Muslims.

...

The steady 18-year rule by PAS of Kelantan state has also boosted trust among some non-Muslims, said Mr. Hu.

Social scientist Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia also credits PAS' religious credentials for its popularity.

"It has religion as its backbone and the perception is that it is more sincere and will be able to uphold equality and the welfare of the people," he said.

PAS has also toned down its rhetoric on an Islamic state with the emergence of more moderate-minded young leaders.

...

PAS is now working towards setting up a full-member wing for non-Muslims within the party.

This is expected to happen by next year, pending approval from its central chiefs and an amendment to the party Constitution. ...

4 comments:

RZ said...

Salaam

That's interesting, I don't know much about Malaysian politics. so what are your thoughts on the PAS? would you support a similar party if there was one in Singapore?

JDsg said...

Wa 'alaikum salaam.

At this point I don't know, which is actually an improvement. Five-six years ago, when I first moved here and started reading about PAS, I was not impressed with them at all. They've improved their standing in my eyes, but whether they're ready for greater responsibility within the Malaysian government (both with more seats in Parliament and being able to govern more states), I don't know. Politics to me is both the ability to manage relationships (such as "back-scratching") and getting tasks done (such as infrastructure projects), with the latter being more important as far as I'm concerned. I would want to see how well PAS can improve the lives of the people in the states they govern (especially economically) before giving them a solid endorsement.

As to your second question, I'd prefer not to answer that at this time. As I'm a PR and don't have a vote anyway, the point is moot for me.

Anonymous said...

To say that PAS is 'a small party' is not at all true. One has to look back and see the number of votes they have garnered even prior to 2004's election. In 1998 election for example the majority of Malay voters voted for PAS, although the first-pass-the-post system and the alliance of UMNO with other parties in BN secured UMNO's status quo. In 1998, PAS took over Terengganu too (for the second time in history), and almost swept away Perlis, Kedah, and Pahang. In 2004, despite the Parliamentary losses, overall votes among the Malays was still swinging to PAS; UMNO only clung to power through the support of non-Malay voters. As the only party who had managed to wrest power from BN in more than one states (DAP only managed to govern Penang for a term in 1980s), these are big achievement for a 'small' opposition party, no?

Anyway, back to the article, it hits the right point by saying that the non-Muslims trust is shifting to PAS. I believe the recent Perak MB case further opens up support for PAS in Malaysia, and definitely in Perak. As per PAS' ability to govern Malaysia, dont forget the number of young enthusiastic professionals in the party in ever increasing since 1998. Support for PAS among Msian students studying abroad is all time high, so people could bank on that to safely say that for the foreseeable future there will not be a leadership crisis within PAS, something we are seeing happening in UMNO at the mo.

Anak Alam

JDsg said...

...these are big achievement for a 'small' opposition party, no?They are; it's just that PAS (and even the entire coalition of the Pakatan Rakyat) seems small against the size of BN. But there's no denying the accomplishments of PAS.


I believe the recent Perak MB case further opens up support for PAS in Malaysia, and definitely in Perak.Quite possibly, but "insha'allah." We'll see. To be honest (and perhaps it's due to my being jaded), but I was actually surprised when the KL High Court ruled in favor of the Pakatan Rakyat last week. I think it's too early to tell how well the case in Perak will affect the PAS, but there is the possibility.


As per PAS' ability to govern Malaysia, dont forget the number of young enthusiastic professionals in the party in ever increasing since 1998. Support for PAS among Msian students studying abroad is all time high...This is one thing that's more difficult for me, down here in S'pore, to assess, the demographic makeup and support for parties like PAS. If I lived up in Malaysia, I might be able to have a better feel for the subject.


so people could bank on that to safely say that for the foreseeable future there will not be a leadership crisis within PAS, something we are seeing happening in UMNO at the mo.Once again, insha'allah. In 2004, I thought the PAS had a significant leadership crisis of their own, which, to be honest, makes the PAS comeback over the past five years all the more impressive. BN/UMNO is going through their own set of problems right now, but if I've learned one lesson about politics in any country, it's that political fortunes rise and fall for any party very, very quickly. So PAS needs to keep working hard now while UMNO works through their disarray because, in a year or two's time, insha'allah, the latter may have their house in order and be back in business.