Pas, like many other political parties in the peninsula, must appreciate and celebrate the diversity in Malaysia, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
It is a question that had been begging to be answered: Why was Pas not given any seat by its political allies in the coming Sabah election?
The question couldn’t have come at a better time when the Islamist party had its general assembly recently, where its delegates waited for an answer or justification from party bigwigs, particularly its president Abdul Hadi Awang.
This is especially so when Pas reportedly expected, a few days before nomination, to contest in about 10 seats.
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And yet, Pas was not even invited to Perikatan Nasional’s candidate announcement recently in Sabah, let alone given any seat.
The snub had also to be addressed urgently as the party was subjected to several jibes from social media users where Pas was depicted as, for instance, a servile attendant (khadam) or a tool of the Barisan Nasional, a person given a plastic chair to rest in the scorching sun while holding the BN flag, and a party whose moon on its flag had been exchanged for a “give way” (beri laluan) sign.
In short, Pas was given unsavoury portrayals by its critics and political foes alike as a result of the snub.
And so, at the recent Pas general assembly, Hadi tried to soothe the delegates by saying the party was “giving way” to their allies to avoid electoral clashes or friendly fire. The spirit of camaraderie at work, it seems.
Nonetheless, PN, BN and Parti Bersatu Sabah – all allies – will clash against one another in 17 out of the 73 state seats in the election, which is decidedly “friendly fire”.
Not to be outdone, party strategist Zuhdi Marzuki claimed Pas would still be “contesting” the election through Umno and Bersatu. This assertion may backfire if applied to certain contentious seats at the next general election.
While such justifications somewhat calmed the frayed nerves of some delegates, there were reported murmurs of discontent, particularly among the Pas grassroots in Sabah. Even Pas youth was said to be unhappy.
Perhaps at this juncture, Pas members and supporters may need to indulge in some introspection to think of other possible reasons for the snub the party got.
For one thing, the recent controversial remarks made by Dewan Ulama chief Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh about the Bible being “distorted” did not sit well with Christians, particularly those in Sabah and Sarawak. Such an expression of views is divisive for our multireligious and multicultural society.
This is aside from PAS being remembered as a party that pursues controversial policies such as moral policing and hudud.
Despite the backlash from the Christian community, Zawawi refused to budge and offer apologies.
It is incumbent upon people of faith to be mindful that religion, especially in a diverse society, should serve as a uniting, not dividing, force. Nor should it be politicised for worldly gains at the expense of national harmony.
In this context, it is conceivable that Pas is seen by its political allies as a liability they can do without in their sole aim to win the election and rule Sabah.
Moreover, political pundits suspect Pas might even lose its deposits should it contest because of its “Islamist baggage”, which Sabahans generally are uncomfortable with.
It is important for Pas, like many other political parties in the peninsula, to appreciate and celebrate the diversity in Malaysia, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, where the harmonious intermingling of people from various backgrounds is a daily fact of life – and must not be interrupted.
Hence, policies that Pas champions, now that it is in the federal government, must take cognisance of our diverse nation, so the “others” are not made to feel alienated, hurt and even angry.