Unwise of DAP to demand the expulsion of PAS from Pakatan Rakyat

Written on 15/1/2015; not published

First let us go over some recent history.

Why has the DAP PAS love affair turned sour so soon?

At GE13, DAP’s enthusiasm for PAS was so great that they wanted to use the PAS election logo if they were prevented from using their own by the Registrar of Societies. To-day they are hardly on speaking terms, and, over hudud, such a high ranking DAP leader as Gobind Singh Deo calls for “chopping off PAS from Pakatan if needed” (Malaysiakini Dec 24 2014).

Such views are mirrored by comments posted by Malaysiakini readers, e.g. in the compilation “Time for agreeing to disagree with PAS is over” (Malaysiakini Dec 22 2014). These Malaysiakini readers think PAS cause great electoral damage to Pakatan (“For every step Pakatan takes forward, PAS sets you back two steps”; “Non-Muslims will not support Pakatan as it stands now”). They want PAS to leave the coalition. They are strangely confident that if PAS persists in wanting to implement hudud in Kelantan, then PAS is headed for Timbuktu and “obliteration from Malaysian politics come next national election”. They are also confident that moderates in PAS would break away to form a rival party and, together with PKR and DAP, sail away to glorious electoral victory.

I believe that the DAP PAS love affair turned sour due to confusion over the terms of the Pakatan coalition agreement first exposed by the Kajang Move, and then by DAP’s disproportionate reaction to the proposed implementation of hudud in Kelantan.

It seems clear that the love affair did not sour because the large area of common ground between them disappeared. As made clear by Kelantan deputy chief minister, Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, in his Malaysiakini interview on Dec 22nd, PAS cooperation with UMNO is strictly limited to getting UMNO’s help to implement hudud. PAS remains fully committed to the Pakatan common policy framework, such as the fight for good governance and against corruption and cronyism, help according to need and not according to race, fair and clean elections.

Confusion over the terms of the Pakatan coalition agreement

Lim Kit Siang now denies (Malaysiakini Dec 23rd) that PAS and DAP had “agreed to disagree” on the hudud issue. He also claims that since hudud was not part of the Pakatan joint common policy framework for GE13, PAS has no right to unilaterally push for it. On the other hand, PAS Secretary General, Mustafa Ali, denies PAS is breaking any Pakatan rules (Malaysiakini Dec 24th)

My recollection of the announcements made when Pakatan was formed favours the PAS position. As far as I can remember, all parties agreed on the consensus model of decision making (action taken only if all 3 parties agree), as well as allowing each party, in its own name, to have and to act on policies not agreed to by the other two. PAS made clear that it was not abandoning hudud as a condition for joining Pakatan. It was clear to all political observers a big fight over hudud between PAS and DAP is inevitable sometime in the future, with PKR probably split down the middle.

But if Kit Siang is right and I wrong about the terms of the agreement, it becomes relevant to ask why it was not applied to the Kajang Move. The Move, to vacate a Selangor State Assembly state for Anwar Ibrahim to contest, was made unilaterally by PKR. If DAP is demanding the expulsion of PAS for its unilateral move on hudud, to be consistent DAP should have demanded the expulsion of PKR for its unilateral Kajang Move. Why the double standards?

The refusal of PAS to support the ouster of Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as MB attracted significant hostility from the non-Muslim supporters of Pakatan. After Khalid finally resigned, there followed the protracted process of each component party in Pakatan submitting the names of their candidates for the MB’s post to the Sultan.  Hadi Awang decided not to attend Pakatan central committee meetings but sent representatives, whose decisions he overrode later. This lost PAS a huge amount of urban, non-Muslim support and good will. However I do wonder whether Hadi stayed away because he was being bullied by PKR and DAP to change the Pakatan model of decision making from consensus (action taken only if all 3 parties agree) to simple majority (if 2 parties agree, then the third must also agree).

What should be clear from the present arguments over hudud and the Kajang Move is that Pakatan can only survive as an effective coalition working together if what I think were the original terms of the coalition are adhered to, i.e. consensus model of decision making, agreement to disagree if necessary, and the right of a party to act unilaterally, combined with the right of the other parties to oppose its unilateral action openly and publicly.

In advanced democracies with multiple parties, it is a common saying that in politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. According to this view of politics, it is perfectly OK for PAS to work with UMNO to achieve their cherished dream of hudud in Kelantan just as it is OK for DAP, PKR and others to do their utmost to oppose this.

After the hudud battle, it is perfectly OK for DAP, PKR and PAS to come together again to fight for the Pakatan common policy framework. The same principle applies to MCA, MIC and Gerakan – they need not leave BN to oppose hudud. The concept that if you are not 100% with me, you are against me is old fashioned, outdated and stands in the way of achieving desirable political objectives

Why did hudud not become “a hot controversial issue” in GE13?

Malaysiakin (Dec 23rd) reported that Kit Siang displayed charts to show that “if hudud had been a hot controversial issue in GE13, Pakatan’s total of 89 parliamentary seats would have been slashed to 46 seats and BN regained its two thirds majority

So it is interesting to ask – why did hudud not become “a hot controversial issue” in GE13? Certainly it was not for lack of people trying. PAS never wavered in its commitment to hudud and MCA under Chua Soi Lek mounted a massive campaign telling the Chinese that a vote for Pakatan is a vote for hudud. This did not have much effect. Why? A common reason I heard was that whereas PAS is open about its Islamisation programme, UMNO implemented Islamisation covertly and through the back door. The risk of hudud was seen as preferable to corruption, cronyism, ketuanan Melayu, racial discrimination and incompetence. ABU (anybody but UMNO) was popular. This implied that Pakatan with hudud was preferred to rule by UMNO.

People also felt hudud was a remote possibility as they took note of DAP’s and PKR’s assurances that hudud is not a Pakatan policy and that they would vote against it if it ever came to Parliament. Strengthening this belief was the perception of UMNO as anti-hudud. Now that we find this perception of UMNO is wrong and what we thought was remote is just round the corner, what do we expect of DAP and PKR?

A proportionate response to hudud

Certainly we expect them to vote against hudud in Parliament in accordance with their election promises. We want them to get as many cast iron guarantees as possible from PAS that hudud cannot be applied to non-Muslims. They should oppose hudud as as a critical friend and not as an enemy with a closed mind. This means examining the details of the proposed legislation for any impracticalities and possible injustices. If these problems cannot be overcome, the case for postponing or cancelling hudud becomes stronger.

For me, calling for the expulsion of PAS from Pakatan is a totally disproportionate response to hudud. It achieves nothing and loses a lot

Benefits of expelling PAS from Pakatan – none

Will expelling PAS from Pakatan stop the implementation of hudud in Kelantan? No. Will treating PAS as an enemy, refusing to speak to or work with PAS stop the implementation of hudud? No.

Losses from expelling PAS from Pakatan – many

Who will be the 3 happiest men in Malaysia if PAS is expelled from Pakatan? Tun Dr Mahathir, Ibrahim Ali, and Isma president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman. As is well publicised, Tun Dr Mahathir, laments the fact that the Malays are divided into 3 groups, UMNO, PAS. and PKR and therefore have to “beg for votes from the Chinese”. The expulsion of PAS will be welcomed as a step towards building Malay unity.

Bye bye Selangor

In the Selangor State Assembly, PAS has 15 seats, DAP 15, PKR 13 giving a total of 43 seats to Pakatan. UMNO has 12 seats and there is 1 independent (Khalid) giving a total of 56 seats. If PAS is expelled and they join up with UMNO and Khalid joins the grouping as well, you will have 28 against DAP’s and PKR’s total of 28. I am not enough of a constitutional expert to know what happens in such a tied situation. However UMNO has deep pockets and the chances of their buying over a DAP or PKR representative are high.

If Azmin Ali is determined to hang on to his post as MB, you can be sure he will be making the following calculation. If he expels PAS from Pakatan, he stands a high chance of being toppled. On the other hand, if he expels DAP from Pakatan, he will be very safe as DAP and UMNO will never be able to cooperate. So DAP, in the same way that you wanted Wan Azizah but got Azmin Ali as Selangor MB, wanting to expel PAS, you may find yourself expelled instead.

Hello two thirds Parliamentary majority for a combined BN PAS

It would hand two thirds Parliamentary majority to a combined BN PAS, allowing them to change the constitution in any way they wish. Surely DAP needs no reminder we are in the middle of a Parliamentary re-delineation exercise. If the combined BN PAS has a two thirds majority, Pakatan would be unable to prevent the EC from delineating Parliamentary constituencies with wildly differing number of voters.

ABU, where are you?

Perhaps DAP’s fierce and angry reaction to hudud is because they fear losing Chinese support due to their association with PAS. But in GE13 the Chinese has shown through the so-called Chinese tsunami that they accept ABU (anybody but UMNO). If the Chinese prove to be politically fickle, wanting to change horses in midstream, we will get the worst of both worlds – both hudud and ketuanan Melayu together.

Datuk Mohd Amar states clearly (Malaysiakini 22nd December): “there is no way PAS Kelantan can implement hudud without UMNO paving the way”. Previously MCA could try to portray UMNO as secular – vote Pakatan, get hudud; vote BN no hudud. Now UMNO’s Islamic credentials are fully revealed – vote Pakatan, get hudud; vote BN get hudud. Over the issue of hudud, there is nowhere for DAP to lose Chinese support to.

Bye bye Putrajaya after GE14

Kit Siang was proud to display charts which show how many seats would have been lost if hudud had become “a hot controversial issue” in GE13. But these charts are now useless, as whether the Chinese vote Pakatan or BN, they will get hudud. The charts which matter now, if the expulsion of PAS is being considered, are how many seats will be lost in 3 cornered fights involving BN, PAS, Pakatan or in 2 cornered fights pitting a combined UMNO/PAS against Pakatan.

Non-Muslim politicians need to up their game

For the non-Muslim community to survive well in a Muslim majority country, we need politicians who do not indulge in wishful thinking, can assess coolly and rationally our strengths and weaknesses, and can think of and plan for the long term. We do not need politicians who act in haste, shoot from the hip, or syiok sendiri today and regret tomorrow. I therefore appeal to Lim Kit Siang and other Dap leaders to think carefully about the position of PAS in Pakatan.

However fearful and angry we may be about hudud, there is at least one thing to look forward to. On the day that the private member’s bill to enable hudud in Kelantan is voted on, on that day we shall see, for the first time in their history, MCA, MIC and Gerakan voting against UMNO. What a glorious, glorious day that will be! Who knows? Having done it once, they may want to do it again!

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