Is the landslide BN victory in  Indera Kayangan a rejection of the Islamic state ala-PAS and an endorsement of Islamic state ala-UMNO?

- Perak DAP forum on “Should Malaysia become an Islamic State”
Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Sunday)Yesterday, the Barisan Nasional won a landslide victory in the Indera Kayangan by-election in Perlis while the Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN)  candidate on the Barisan Alternative ticket suffered a rout, with the MCA candidate achieving a totally-unexpected bigger majority of 2,593 votes as compared to a 1,974-vote majority in the 1999 general elections.

As an Opposition party, DAP would want the Opposition to win in the Indera Kayangan by-election in order to rein in the politicial hegemony of the Barisan Nasional government which poses the greatest threat to justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia.

However, DAP decided not to assist in the Opposition by-election campaign as we had no role in an electoral contest where PKN and PAS  disagreed fundamentally  with the DAP that the two  key issues in the by-election would be the post-911 political scenario and the Islamic state question.

The Barisan Alternative by-election strategy was based on the fallacy as if the September 11 terrorist attacks had never happened and that the Islamic state question was a non-issue, allowing the Barisan Nasional to fully exploit its two-prong attack - the 911 terror card as well as painting the Barisan Alternative as standing for a Taliban Malaysia, with PAS as the chief proponent and PKN as the abettor, as illustrated by the nightly 90-second political propaganda footage camouflaged as news over national television for three weeks  before and during the by-election.

In the Indera Kayangan by-election, the primary Opposition campaign issue should have been the unilateral and unconstitutional declaration by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that Malaysia is already an Islamic state, abandoning the 45-year “social contract” of our forefathers on the  fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation without consulting Parliament or the people.

But neither PKN or PAS could mount a serious campaign on this issue, for they were not only put on the defensive but were quite naked to the ferocious Barisan Nasional attack to create fear and alarm  that Barisan Alternative stood for an Islamic State ala-PAS not very different from a Taliban Malaysia.

If the DAP had campaigned in the Indera Kayangan by-election, DAP leaders would have  warded off and neutralised the Barisan Nasional offensive on the Islamic State issue by calling on the voters to make a clear stand against turning Malaysia into an Islamic state, whether ala-PAS or ala-UMNO, and defend the 45-year “social contract” of the three major communities during Merdeka in 1957 that Malaysia remain  a democratic, secular and multi-religious and not become an Islamic state.

But such a DAP campaign theme in Indera Kayangan would be at odds with PAS and  antagonise the PKN, opening the DAP to the accusation of wanting to sabotage the BA by-election campaign -  and this was why the DAP leadership decided to stay out of the Indera Kayangan by-election campaign.

Now that the shock result of the  Indera Kayangan by-election is out, the question is what is its meaning. Is the thumping victory of the Barisan Nasional candidate, securing 71.7 per cent of the valid votes cast as compared to only 67.4 per cent in the 1999 general elections, a rejection of the Islamic State ala-PAS and an endorsement of the Islamic State ala-UMNO as declared by Mahathir?

UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan and other BN component parties are claiming that the Indera Kayangan by-election is a clear and resounding vote against an Islamic state ala-PAS in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and I can go along with this claim.  But I cannot agree with their further claim that the 4,279 Barisan Nasional  votes in Indera Kayangan by-election on Saturday also tantamount to an  endorsement of  an Islamic State ala-UMNO.

This  is because the Indera Kayangan by-election was cast as a choice between Islamic State ala-Pas and Islamic State ala-UMNO, and the people were never made to realise that this was a false choice.  The real decision that must be made first is whether Malaysians want to abandon the 45-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation  and to turn it into an Islamic state - before deciding as to what form of an Islamic state Malaysia should adopt, ala-PAS or ala-UMNO.

It is not only the people of Indera Kayangan, but the 23 million Malaysians, who must realise that the issue before them is whether to jettison the democratic, secular and multi-religious concept of Malaysia and turn the country into an Islamic state -  not to choose between an Islamic state ala-PAS or ala-UMNO.

We must make sure that this issue is clear to all voters come the next general elections expected within  18 months  -  that the choice that must be made is between  secular or an Islamic state - and that it is not cast, as in the Indera Kayangan by-election, as a choice between Islamic state ala-UMNO or  ala-PAS.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman