(Penang, Friday): The Pendang and Anak Bukit by-elections, with a “1-1”
score for Barisan Nasional and PAS, has a plethora of mixed messages for the
political future – both immediate and long-term.
A “2-0” win by Barisan Nasional would not be good for
the country, for it would be exploited as an endorsement for the “929
Declaration” by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that
Malaysia is an Islamic State - which
is an unilateral, arbitrary and tectonic
shift from the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building
cornerstone that Islam is the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic
state - that the Anwar Ibrahim
issue is dead and that the Barisan Nasional government is mandated to continue
with its “911 abuses” to resort
to more undemocratic measures which violate
human rights, undermine the rule of law and flout the most elementary
notions of fair play and justice.
But a “2-0” score by PAS immediately after the equally
unilateral and arbitrary passage of the Terengganu Syariah Criminal (Hudud and
Qisas) Bill would be disastrous, as
it would be used to claim increasing support for
the Terengganu Enactment which is:
Against the Malaysian Constitution;
Violates human rights;
Discriminates against women;
Destroys the 1999 Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto,
Flouts widespread objections of the civil society; and
Will put great pressure on UMNO in the unhealthy competition between the two parties to out-Islam each other.to the great detriment of the orderly development and progress of plural Malaysia.
In the circumstances, the best result in a very unhappy
political situation in the two Kedah by-elections yesterday
is probably the “1 –
1” score, with Barisan Nasional losing Anak Bukit and the two-thirds Kedah
State Assembly majority, highlighting the need for greater popular check and
balance to protect democracy (including disapproval of the arbitrary and
unilateral “929 Decaration”); and the PAS loss in Pendang, illustrating the
unacceptability of the Terengganu PAS hudud and qisas enactment and for a halt
to the unhealthy PAS-UMNO
competition to “out-Islam” each other.
PAS has suffered the greater setback than UMNO
in losing one of the two seats it won in the 1999 general election.
PAS should return to the 1999 Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto on the
restoration of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, where each
subscribing party committed itself to the fundamental principles of the 1957
Constitution and 1963 Malaysia Agreement – which means no Islamic State or
hudud and qisas laws – and undertake not to pursue the hudud and qisas
enactment in Terengganu unless there is national
multi-racial and multi-religious consensus.
But PAS is not the only casualty – as Parti Keadilan
Nasional may be the greater loser although it did not directly contest in anyone of the two Kedah by-elections,
for two reasons:
The failure of the Anwar Ibrahim issue to maintain the centre stage; and
The serious loss of credibility and crisis of identity arising from Keadilan’s preparedness to go along with PAS on issues like the Islamic State, the hudud and qisas enactment and the violation of the 1999 Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto.
For UMNO, the results also produce a mish-mash of
consequences. The most immediate is whether Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
would announce his No. 2 as he indicated before the by-elections, and if so,
whether he would hew to the choice publicly announced by Mahathir – Datuk Seri
Be that as it may, the most important message from the two
Kedah by-elections is the urgent need to strengthen the political centre in
Malaysia to preserve the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the “social contract”
and 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Islam is the official religion but Malaysia is
not an Islamic State.
DAP is prepared to work with all political parties, whether
in Barisan Nasional or Barisan Alternative, to strengthen this political centre
and, in the words of the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman and the third
Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, in February 1983, ensure that Malaysia is not
“turned” into an Islamic state.