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Perak, PAS and unity

THE ongoing Perak crisis, the upcoming PAS party elections, and Umno’s 63rd anniversary were topics covered widely in the Malay-language press from 11 to 17 May 2009.

On 11 May, Berita Harian group editor Datuk Manja Ismail wrote a commentary, Apabila yang tewas enggan terima kekalahan, saying Perak needed to learn from Kelantan, post-2004 elections.

Reflecting on the ongoing turmoil in the Perak state assembly, Manja wrote: “During the 2004 general elections, the Barisan Nasional (BN) recorded its best showing in Kelantan in 20 years after winning 21 out of 45 state seats contested.”

The BN went on to record by-election victories that whittled down PAS’s majority to a wafer-thin one seat.

“However, the Kelantan PAS government continued to function until the 2008 general election, while the BN handled its responsibilities as a strong opposition during this period.

“Unfortunately, this is not happening in Perak, even though the state government now has support from the three independents,” he concluded.

Perak state assembly ruckus

In her 16 May commentary, Pilihan raya negeri hasrat siapa?, Utusan Malaysia‘s Noraini Abd Razak said the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is foisting a false choice on Perak voters by insisting on state elections.

“Why are they only focused on one route?” Noraini asked. She said there are actually two other legal alternatives to determine the rightful state government: a vote of confidence in the assembly to determine the menteri besar, and by-elections in the disputed constituencies.

“Knowing [a statewide election] will be the best choice for the opposition (PR), they manufacture crisis after crisis to make the situation in Perak appear so uncertain that a statewide election is called,” she claimed.

In its 14 May editorial, the paper was even more explicit about a possible solution for Perak: “In this context, consider the suggestion to form a national unity government — with Perak as its pioneer and model.”

The editorial, Ada penyelesaian selain pilihan raya negeri Perak, said the BN only wanted to “continue governing in service of the rakyat.”

PAS’s future

PAS’s upcoming party elections — the most hotly contested in the party’s history — has been occupying Utusan Malaysia‘s Zulkiflee Bakar of late.

In his 17 May commentary in Mingguan Malaysia, Haron gandingan Hadi?, Zulkiflee suggested that PAS’s deputy spiritual adviser, Datuk Dr Haron Din, might make a better deputy president than incumbent Nasharudin Mat Isa.

Mohamad Sabu (Source:
“This is because apart from being an ulama, Haron is seen as the best candidate to resolve the ‘confrontation’ between the Nasharudin and (Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri) Azizan (Abdul Razak)-led ulama, and the professionals represented by (vice-presidents Datuk) Husam (Musa) and Mohamad Sabu,” he said.

“Additionally, compared to Nasharudin, Haron is more popular among Malay [Malaysians] and Muslims in this country,” he continued.

Zulkiflee’s endorsement of Haron is not devoid of context. He explained: “As long as a person identifies as Malay [Malaysian] and Muslim, he or she will not allow any effort to displace the ulama in PAS.”

Zulkiflee was referring to the ongoing allegations that the PAS professionals, who are seen as pro-PR, are trying to displace the ulama, who are seen as pro-Umno.

Zulkiflee also used this reasoning to explain how the PAS insiders he had spoken to favour current PAS youth deputy chief, Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, over Salahuddin Ayub as the wing’s chief.

“When the issue of Kerja-kerja bodoh dalam PAS, written by Nik Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz, came out, Nasrudin supported the Kelantan menteri besar’s son to the point that he was accused by some PAS members as ‘pro-muqabalah’ with Umno,” he said in another commentary on the same day.

Nik Abduh has been publicly accusing his father’s advisers, seen by many as the pro-PR PAS professionals, of being deceitful in their advice against the idea of a national unity government with Umno.

But this, according to Zulkiflee in his piece Kompromi dalam Pemuda PAS?, was necessary because Nasrudin has big shoes to fill.

“This is because Salahuddin succeeded in making PAS Youth a front that is respected by friend and foe,” Zulkiflee said.

Salahuddin was one of the PAS leaders who protested the 9 Aug 2008 Bar Council forum on conversions, and recommended that the Sedition Act be used against the council.

Malay rights vs unity

In a feature commemorating Umno’s 63rd anniversary, Transformasi Umno jangan sampai hapuskan keistimewaan bumiputera, Berita Harian‘s Jamhariah Jaafar said the ruling party has never sidelined other races.

“The only thing the party has asked for is to not challenge the privileges that are the rights of the Malay [Malaysians] as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, because these are indigenous rights that will be defended forever,” she said in the 11 May article.

In his Bisik-Bisik column on the same day, Utusan Malaysia‘s Awang Selamat wrote: “It cannot be denied that Umno has contributed much to nation and race. But as with all people, the young often forget the contributions of the old. The ‘respect’ by the young towards Umno is diminishing.

“Something needs to be done to make sure Umno continues to be relevant and can be accepted by all levels of society forever and ever,” he said.

This emphasis on Malay Malaysian rights, however, seemed to run counter to Berita Harian‘s editorial on the same day, Rakyat perlu positif cari titik persamaan perkukuh perpaduan.

“For starters, what is important is that this country’s plural society makes good values a shared beginning to strengthen unity, because our diversity has been proven to make Malaysia a model state compared with other developing countries,” the paper said.

“If we look at similarities more than differences, then we will be part of the solution; if we always concentrate on differences, then we will be part of the problem,” the editorial concluded.

The Nut Graph is discontinuing Found in Translation so that we can redeploy our resources to develop more news articles, analyses and commentaries. 

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