The recent PAS RUU rally in support of the private member’s bill tabled by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 turned out to be a damp squib or in simple English – a big flop!
It was a flop in several ways. Firstly, although PAS had targeted a crowd of 300,000 to show the country that the Malay electorate was behind the controversial amendment, police and analysts estimated the crowd at only 20,000. The turnout – so much smaller than even Bersih or Hindraf organized past rallies – not only shows that this issue does not resonate with the Malay public. It also shows that the reputed grassroots support for PAS has been overrated.
Although in the past we have seen the organizational ability of PAS in drawing the Malay Muslim crowd to rally alongside non-Muslims in Bersih and Pakatan rallies, this time round the Malay public stayed away.
If the thinking in PAS ulama leaders led by Hadi is that his proposed amendments would serve as its main political strategy in order to attract greater support, it is clear that grassroots supporters do not want to give wider powers to shariah courts and to be made use of by Hadi in his ambition to push for an Islamic state in Malaysia.
Which Malay in his right mind wants to see an increase in maximum punishment for shariah offences to 30 years’ jail, fine of up to RM100,000 and up to 100 strokes of the cane for offences
Which rational Malaysian wants to see the introduction of a two tier legal system in which Muslims will be discriminated against as proposed by Hadi and his men, and which could also result in hudud law being a reality in our multi-racial Malaysia?
I am sure that many if not most Malays will agree with lawyer activist, Siti Kasim, who has pointed out that PAS’ statement that the shariah laws are God’s law is incorrect. She has noted:.
“As a Malay, I am the most oppressed. We are told what to wear, what to drink, what to eat and even how to think. Every aspect of our life, we are told what to do.
“If it’s truly God’s law, I will not go against it. But I know for sure that this is not God’s law, this is Hadi’s law,”
The rally’s poor attendance was not only a big slap in the face for Hadi.
It was also a similar slap in the face for Najib and UMNO. The Malay public is well aware that Najib has been playing footsie with Hadi on Islamic issues as a quid pro quo for Hadi keeping quiet on the 1MDB, donation into the Prime Minister’s account, and other scandals which have caused Najib and UMNO to lose popular support.
During the rally, Minister in the PM’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom said he attended the PAS rally after getting the green light from Najib Razak. Besides Jamil, his deputy, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki was also there in a show of strength by the present leadership of UMNO to show off its new found solidarity with PAS.
But the ordinary UMNO members despite given the go ahead to attend the rally refused to do so. This accounts for the small crowd in what was in effect a combined PAS-UMNO rally. To me this shows the growing disillusionment of UMNO members with Najib’s and Hadi’s marriage of convenience. UMNO members must have known that they were being made use of. Thus, despite the presence of two senior UMNO ministers at the rally, they preferred to stay at home!
If the RUU 355 rally was a flop for PAS and UMNO, the opposition should take heart and feel encouraged. Amanah leaders especially should be comforted that the Muslim support for RUU 355 has been overrated. They should now go into the kampung with a campaign that shows that Hadi has little moral or religious standing or integrity because of his silence on Felda scandals , corruption, GST, and the many other issues that affect the Malay rural masses.
I hope Amanah, PKR and Bersatu leaders can analyse the RUU 355 rally in the way that I have done here and activate a plan to leverage on it since the election date is drawing closer.
The opposition can also benefit from the fact that there is now confusion in the Barisan parties as to whether Najib and UMNO are playing out the other BN parties on Hadi’s bill.
This is because prior to the rally, MCA secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan had said Jamil’s attendance was not sanctioned by the government or BN. All the other BN parties have also repeatedly said that they will vote against Hadi’s bill and strongly signalled their opposition to it.
So what was PM Najib doing when he sent his Malay ministers in charge of religious affairs to the rally. What he was doing was hitting the other BN parties below the belt. Najib should have said “No”. After all it was a PAS sponsored rally and one which will open the floodgates to a greater role in society for the religious elite who presumably will have little mercy when those responsible for 1MDB and similar crimes against the nation are brought before them.
In the coming election, the opposition must focus their attack on UMNO under Najib and PAS under Hadi. These two leaders must be exposed and rejected for their political opportunism and hypocrisy as well as their major shortcomings – one is the king of financial chicanery and the other, the king of religious trickery.