Soon Li Tsin & Muda Mohd Noor Feb 5, 08 2:13pm
There will be new faces - up to 50 percent of them - among PAS candidates in Terengganu for the upcoming general election, revealed party president Abdul Hadi Awang.
In an interview yesterday at the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, the enigmatic PAS leader also said more women and youth candidates would be given opportunities to contest.
Abdul Hadi, 60, who was spotted uploading the HarakahDaily website on his computer, was in jovial mood during the interview at his 4th floor office. Teak furniture and religious scrolls dotted the room.
He spoke extensively about the cooperation between PAS and PKR, how non-Muslims should not fear an Islamic state and how a welfare state will develop the country.
Laughing, as he to pointed out the bird’s eye view of the Umno building from his office, he said a wave of change is coming and that PAS will be ready to ride it.
These are excerpts from the hour-long interview with Abdul Hadi, who is also the Ru Rendang state assemblyperson.
Malaysiakini: How does the PAS candidacy list look?
Abdul Hadi: The list of potential candidates has been approved by Majlis Syura Ulama (council of religious scholars) which screens the candidate’s personal and moral (character and) ability, but does not decide where they will stand. This is to ensure that none of them are ‘actors’ like MCA’s candidate (disgraced former health minister Chua Soi Lek, photo) in the video tape. The politics and election committee will determine which candidate will contest where.
The majlis has approved 90 percent of the candidates. There could be two or three candidates for each seat - the actual candidate and an alternative. The names are there but as to the exact details, we have to wait until the election date is announced.
How many seats is PAS contesting?
(We will be contesting in) no more than 70 parliamentary seats and in every state including Sabah and Sarawak. The remainder will be contested by PKR. We will not contest in DAP areas. We want to ensure a one-to-one fight (with ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, BN) and that all seats are contested. We don’t want any BN candidate to win uncontested.
Will there be new faces in the PAS line-up?
I can tell you that 50 percent of the candidates in Terengganu will be new faces. I don’t know about other states (laughs). There will be many new faces including ulama (religious scholars), professionals and community leaders from many different backgrounds.
What is the party’s election target?
Our target is to defend Kelantan, capture Terengganu and Kedah, to retain our current 27 parliamentary seats and if possible, increase it to 40 seats. We are aiming for a PAS candidate to win in every state and represent (the party) in every state assembly. We believe if the current political trend among non-Malays in the east coast and Peninsular Malaysia continues without being threatened or media interference, we can achieve more than what I’ve listed.
How are discussions going with PKR?
Discussions are always taking place - (on everything from) candidates to a joint manifesto for both state and national levels. At state level, PAS is leading Terengganu, Kelantan and Kedah. In these states, PAS is permitting PKR to contest and we recognise that their role exists. There must be cooperation in every state. In states where we are merely an opposition, we hope to be an active opposition.
PAS has talked about Terengganu, Kelantan and Kedah. What about other states like Selangor or Perak?
We’re not the only ones who think there will be changes in other states. According to (former finance minister, photo) Daim Zainuddin, there are hot states. If this heat is not doused with water or if there are threats and abuse of democracy, then major changes can happen. This can affect the quality of the nation and reduce BN’s two-thirds majority.
Can we say PAS is ready to rule the country?
I don’t want to make statements that are too big. We leave it to the people. We hope that the people are not scared of BN’s threats.
What about PAS women candidates this time around?
We will increase the number of women as well as youth candidates to more than before.
A lot of voters are concerned with PAS’ stand on the Islamic state.
Could you comment on this? What is important are the objectives and execution which must be seen by all races. How can people accept communism until they are willing to fight in the jungle?
This is because they are fighting for the communist ideology. Communism wasn’t from a Chinese or an Indian, it’s from Karl Marx who was German. It’s the same with socialism and capitalism. These are from the West and not from China. The people follow because they see good virtues in those systems.
So what is wrong with accepting an Islamic political and economic system without being Muslim?
Under the Islamic system, Islamic ruling only applies to Muslims. Other races and religion can still execute their own rules. Regardless of religion, we would all still be subjected to the same traffic laws, economic distribution and justice. What is important is the reality. Don’t be scared of Hudud (Islamic criminal code) law - it is only applicable to Muslims.
Non-Muslims will not be subjected to this but they can choose if they want to be subjected to it. This is what we have done in Kelantan. It is still being discussed and nobody has had their hands chopped off. (Implementation) is still open for discussion.
The welfare state system is part of the Islamic state, which is also practised by the British. The British borrowed this from Islam. Social justice is an idea taken from communism and socialism.
We won’t rob the people of their wealth like BN but reinforce social responsibility. This is the difference that the people must see.
Do you think the Malays will be angry if PAS allows more Chinese and Indians to become party leaders?
When there is justice, it will make anger disappear and create love. It’s like rich Malays helping poor Indians and Chinese - rich Chinese and Indians should help the poor Malays. This is what we’ll do. We don’t have this right now (under BN).
If PAS became government, how would it develop the economy?
Development will depend on the justice of the people and (lead) towards a welfare state. A welfare state does not mean there will be no taxation but (the larger burden) will be borne by those who are able to. At the same time we won’t stop the economic advancement of all races but the rich must contribute to those who are poor, regardless of race.
Illegal contributions such as bribery can be given back to the community as charity. Free medical treatment and education can be offered, as in many countries like England. We can help the very young and the old who are unable to work any more - it won’t just be retired public servants who will get a pension.
This can be done if there isn’t any corruption or mismanagement. We tried to execute this in Terengganu when we were in power. For example, when state government companies overcame their losses and debts and started to make profit, we asked them to build a hospital. The rich contributed for the poor to enjoy free medical treatment. This is based on zakat (Islamic social welfare principle). We don’t just distribute to the poor but also to students in religious schools who have been marginalised.
Even non-Muslim timber giants and corporate leaders contribute to zakat because we reject corruption, we fight it until the end. If they want to contribute, they can show that they can help develop the community be it Muslim or non-Muslim.
Will welfare aid be the same for non-Muslims?
Yes. You can ask the Chinese in Wakaf Tapai (in Terengganu) whose application for a cemetery site has been pending for 20 years. We approved it when we were in power. Ask the Chinese in Kemaman, their application for burial land was approved when we come into power. As for non-Muslims in Dungun, they asked for land to build a kindergarten. This was ignored for years until we came into power. I don’t think they have forgotten that we abolished payment of quit rent and assessment (in Terengganu) because many people benefitted from the move.
So this concept will be applied throughout the country if PAS is in power?
Yes, these are just examples. We don’t want a country conducting business, let the people do the business.
A commercial state?
No, we should be a welfare state because the government is a trustee for matters that affect the people. If government leaders want to be corporate figures, they should quit politics and go into business. (They cannot) hold a government position and use it to their advantage to hold corporate positions.
What are the people’s response to this welfare state idea?
What we have right now is control of information (because the media does not give wide coverage to such issues). It is because the people are not getting information that our message is not reaching them.
This is a major problem whereby our message is only being spread though ceramah (political talks), forums and dialogues, (and even that, depending) on whether the police interfere or not.
If the crowd is big, provocation by the police takes place and they accuse us of rioting. In fact, if they don’t disturb us, nothing happens.
The media is also scaring people. Of late on TV every night, (RTM’s) Berita Perdana (prime news) shows my picture up alongside (DAP veteran leader) Lim Kit Siang and (PKR de facto leader) Anwar Ibrahim, as though we are planning to create a riot. They use a fierce-looking picture of me.
Sure, we are trying to decide on our candidates. Umno is also arguing who is going to be the next Kedah or Perlis chief minister. But the media portrays us as disorganised and the BN as perfect in all aspects. So the people are being used. This is most unfortunate for our country.
Our success in Kelantan or in Terengganu when we were in power has not been given any media coverage. Only the negative stories selected by them are reported. Even if news about us is reported, it is only found in the Internet media, and only a few people have access to these.
How can this problem be solved?
We have to do more like organise ceramahs, make CDs and visit people. If the police disturb us, we try to be patient. In our campaign this time around, we’re trying to push forward two messages - first, to strengthen democracy and second, to ‘clean up’ our democracy.
This is to fight mismanagement of the elections and to fight for democracy, and this will not end with the elections. This is an early warning that I’m giving to BN. It’s not that we want to create chaos, we want to save the country because it is (already) in chaos due to the rising crime rate.
Are the rights on non-Muslims ensured if you come into power?
Yes. As long as it is within the law and within the laws of their own religion, we cannot interfere. If something is forbidden in Islam but permitted in their religion, we cannot disturb them. In the aspect of property we cannot take away their riches of non-Muslims. We cannot limit their freedom to conduct businesses and other freedoms. What we should do is get their help to assist the poor from their own race and also from other races. Rich Malays should also help poor Malays and also poor non-Muslims.
I am confident we can solve it. Of course that cannot be done today because a RM20 screwdriver is RM400 and RM2 billion submarines require RM400 million in commission. To build a Crystal mosque (in Terengganu) costs RM200 million. Building stadiums and such costs hundreds of million. What’s given to the people is only 20 percent. The other 80 percent is divided among specific bodies. How can you develop the country like that? If you’re relying on BN to do something, well they can’t.
Can PAS solve the country’s currency problem?
Can PAS solve the country’s currency problem?
So this means a lot of government mismanagement is going on?
Yes and the people know it. Even (former PM Dr) Mahathir Mohamad knows it. I support his call that the people should vote for the candidate and not the party. Mahathir once told me at a Ruler’s Conference as witnessed by several chief ministers, it was decided that (oil) royalties rightfully belong to Terengganu. However, the decision to take away the royalties from the state was made at the Umno general assembly after some members proposed it.
The Malays are at the core of Malaysian politics and because Umno controls the Malays, Umno becomes the core. So, change cannot happen until Umno is toppled. Mahathir has said that Umno is rotten and corrupt. So he’s saying ‘don’t vote for Umno’. (laughs)
Can prices of fuel and goods be reduced under a welfare state system?
Fuel for domestic use can be lowered. When the price of fuel for the international market goes up, it should benefit the country. If a farmer here grows corn and sells it at 50 sen a cob, it is stupid to say that the price in England is (the equivalent of) RM20 a piece and (therefore it is sold at that price).
If you are selling it abroad, then price it at international rates. If it’s domestic, then sell it at domestic rates. The profit from selling it abroad can support the lower domestic price. A welfare state will not bankrupt the state but develop it further.
What’s happening now is that Umno economists are traitors. The profit from the global oil market can lighten the burden of the people by supporting a reduced price in the country. The reduction will influence the cost of manufacturing, industry, transport and affect the price of goods as well as taxes.
Can we say that a welfare state will be tax-free?
We will remove some and impose some. In Terengganu, we removed quit rent and the basket tax (on small farm operations) but we increased timber and industry taxes. We charged a higher tax for timber, but we cut fewer trees and produced better returns. When BN came into power, many trees were felled, but the return was low.
The timber companies have no issues with higher tax. In fact, they have to fork out more money for bribes now. Corruption costs more than taxation.
An equitable economy is what national unity is all about. If there is love among the people, unity will happen. An independent judiciary will also foster national unity.