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Ulama likely to dictate Pas' future

Posted: 21 Nov 2013 04:08 AM PST

BATTLE ROYAL: The ulama's firm hold on traditional party ideals may be the key to wrest leadership from the Erdogans

While the main consensus among many quarters in the party is that Pas is capable of being on its own with its original brand of religious politics, the progressive faction has alternately reminded party members that they should focus on the bigger picture, as part of Pakatan.

Syed Umar Ariff, NST

ONE of the significant expectations among analysts is that the upcoming Pas muktamar will be the last to be attended by Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat as the party's spiritual leader.

A succession plan to replace Pas' grand old man, who leads the syura council, is still lopsided towards favouring names, such as his deputy, Datuk Dr Haron Din, and party information chief Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

Party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang may, however, not be the choice candidate to replace Nik Aziz because of an unwritten rule that a spiritual leader should be gentle in his approach, contrary to the 66-year-old's perceived firebrand persona.

"Nik Aziz is not in the pink of health and his stepping down as the Kelantan menteri besar, a post he had held for almost 23 years, is a sign that he may soon pass the baton as spiritual leader as well.

"It is also likely that his replacement will be among the council members," said Associate Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

This comes as no surprise as the council, which was set up by former party president Yusuf Rawa more than 20 years ago, has always been traditionally consisted of ulama.

Asmuni Awi, who is Pas' legal bureau chairman, said the appointments could only be made by representatives from the ulama council and central committee members with sound religious credentials.

"Appointments will usually take place after the muktamar. But there is neither a fixed schedule for the matter nor a time limit for a member to hold office."

As members are appointed and not elected, the exclusivity of the council, which is the party's foremost decision-making body, has ostensibly rooted Pas' struggle for an Islamic state and the overall implementation of syariah.

When it comes to the contest for the top leadership in the muktamar, this correlates with the inclination that deputy president Mohamad Sabu does not have what it takes to take over from Hadi to lead Pas.

Hadi was appointed to the council because of his religious credentials and close rapport with the late Yusuf, other than by the virtue of him being the president which also, conservatively, is a position that belongs only to a worthy ulama.

This has certainly raised the competition's intensity as Mohamad prepares to face the ulama representative in Kelantan, deputy menteri besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah.

Mohamad is seen as the top leader of the so-called Erdogan faction, by his position as Pas' No. 2 and his removal through the electorate would signify a consolidation of support for the ulama, while solidifying a conservative leadership stance with Amar as Hadi's right-hand man.

In 2011, the previous Pas muktamar saw Mohamad defeating Nasharudin Mat Isa. Surprises came in droves when the Erdogan faction leaders -- Datuk Husam Musa, Salahuddin Ayub and Datuk Mahfuz Omar -- won all three vice-president posts.

This has eased the formation of the opposition Pakatan pact, following the waning of the conservatives' influence, which had largely deterred any possible cooperation with PKR and, chiefly, DAP.

Along the years, voices of dissent from the ulama have echoed against the approach taken by the new leadership, which they claim to have steered Pas out of path of the party's original struggle.

Detractors from its political partners who opposed the setting up of an Islamic state and the contentious issue of hudud law, for example, have been dealt diplomatic responses.

"We can only agree to disagree (on the hudud issue)," said Salahuddin, as quoted in the past, thus resulting in the party's stance on such issues being locked in a conundrum.

This has greatly frustrated the ulama, especially those from Pas' ulama council, who believe that their role is to tailor and oversee the realisation of the party's spiritual objectives.

Even Hadi, as among the foremost ulama leaders in the party, was forced to toe the line -- as he is the only ulama in the top leadership, other than agreeing with the prospects of an alliance -- and made Pas appear subservient to its political allies' whims and fancies.

A vehement call for change and the return of the ulama leadership reverberated among the rank and file, which was sparked by the dwindling of Malay votes in the recent general election.

This has prompted ulama council chief Datuk Harun Taib to make the call to review and improve Pas' tahaluf siyasi, or political cooperation, during the party's meet in Kota Sarang Semut, Alor Star, Kedah, a couple of months ago.

He believes that Pas is not benefiting from the cooperation and had once even suggested that a motion to reconsider Pas' role in the opposition alliance to be tabled at the muktamar.

Such sentiments are weighing heavily among the delegates who are ultimately responsible for the party's future and the call to realign Pas' direction is being considered to address inconsistency in political ideals.

Universiti Utara Malaysia political scientist Dr Muhammad Fuad Othman said Pas members were taking a leaf out of Umno's book, which had adopted a rather Malay-centric approach to win back the community's vote.

"Going back to basics is considered the best way for Pas to re-ignite its stand as an indomitable party."

However, should Mohamad retain his position, then it is foreseeable that the ulama are losing their clout in steering the party, perching their hive in the syura council in constant odds with the party frontliners.

Pas will most likely work towards a more liberal approach, which did not prove to be effective in garnering support from its main voting base, which forms the largest electorate in the country.

Nevertheless, despite suffering another degree of the probable loss, the Erdogans' current adoption of the tahaluf siyasi may well be in favour of the secular allies, who fear that should Pas go ballistic on Islamisation, Pakatan will lose more votes in the next general election.

The three-day muktamar, which commences tomorrow, is set to be the platform for party members to air their grouses pertaining to the party's position in the alliance.

It will be aired live on the party's website and a slip of the tongue may be costly and further erode the pact's loose unity or land the party into hot water.

While the main consensus among many quarters in the party is that Pas is capable of being on its own with its original brand of religious politics, the progressive faction has alternately reminded party members that they should focus on the bigger picture, as part of Pakatan.

With pundits placing their bets on the ulama winning the race to dictate Pas' direction and cooperation in Pakatan, their political worth is at stake


Tunku Aziz: Life goes on after politics

Posted: 20 Nov 2013 03:15 PM PST

"While involved in a political party, I was never a politician. I was an anti-corruption activist. I was, at that time, promised a platform to pursue my ideologies. I saw it as an opportunity to carry out my main interest which is to fight corruption and promote integrity." 

D. Kanykumarai, The Star

A life in politics - filled with controversy, drama, and the constant stress of being under limelight. That's what Tunku Aziz walked away from. 

After entering the arena at a ripe old age, the former DAP national Vice Chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim, 79 can look back with some amusement on his days as a politician. 

Born in 1934, Tunku worked as a financial advisor in Malaysia after his education in the United Kingdom.

In order to fight corruption, Tunku Aziz helped found Transparency International-Malaysia (TI) in 1998. In March that year, he was elected vice chairman of TI's Board of Directors, a position he held until October 2002. He has also served as special advisor to then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York.

However he really grabbed the headlines with a high profile entry and exit into the political scene.

In an interview with the Star Online, Tunku Aziz recalls his heady days as a politician.

"While involved in a political party, I was never a politician. I was an anti-corruption activist. I was, at that time, promised a platform to pursue my ideologies. I saw it as an opportunity to carry out my main interest which is to fight corruption and promote integrity," he says.

"Basically, I joined the Democratic Action Party (DAP) because no other political party seemed to be serious about fighting corruption at that time and that was important because it was the basis with which I entered politics."

"Leaving politics, has not in any way changed my passion which is ultimately to achieve a corruption-free country. That is the fight,my ambition. It is not something that can be eradicated but I am working to at least reduce it by continuing my involvement in international NGO's such as the CAUX round table which is a US based forum made up of senior business executives. I am also the Director of the International Institute of Public Ethics."

After gaining and losing popularity with equal speed, Tunku Aziz says he really doesn't miss much about the political game.

"To be honest, there is nothing at all I miss. Truthfully, I enjoy being out of politics as I can be more detached in terms of views. In my case I really had no need to be involved much with the people as I was not fishing for votes. I had only joined DAP in 2008, which was when I was well over 70 years of age."

"If I had gotten into politics to gain political mileage, then I would have joined UMNO or Barisan Nasional. Even now I have people telling me that I now support BN, but the fact of the matter is that I appreciate the transformation initiatives made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. He strives to unite rather than divide and looks at giving equal opportunities to everyone. However, I am still waiting to see if he walks the talk."

Still he does feel some frustration over his time in DAP.

"Although I studied political science, I had no interest in becoming a practitioner of politics. I was very naive and thought politics could be better in our nation. I believed we could see a more open and transparent politics driven by integrity and honesty. DAP was a multi-racial and multi-ethnic party which claimed not to tolerate corruption. It was not what it claimed to be and soon enough i learned that it happens in all political parties."

"I just wish I was able to have improved national integrity and bring down corruption as it is the single most damaging aspect of governance which presently holds Malaysia back. Not only BN but even the opposition is corrupted."

"I would personally define corruption as the abuse of power and people need to understand that bribery and corruption are two different things. Corruption is when the authorities misuse the power they have been entrusted with. Unfortunately, this practice is largely tolerated in our community."

Does he have any advice for present and future politicians?

"They should hold faithfully to the oath of office that they have taken. This would certainly help in making politics an honourable profession. Right now,as we are all aware , politicians are regarded as a bit of a joke. No one respects politicians as a breed and they are regarded as liars, cheaters. With such an image, it is not likely to attract the best people."

"There are many who follow a political party based on social influence. People, especially young people need to understand that they are already playing an important role in mapping out the destiny of the nation. These youngsters can only do so if they understand the history of our nation. Supporters should become more knowledgeable so that their decisions will be informed decisions. If they really would want to bring about change for the country, they must become more knowledgeable and rational and make up their own minds. For all its many faults, Malaysia is not dysfunctional. However, it could be better."



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