Whom can we trust, PAS or Umno?

So, whom can we trust? A party that respects and will comply to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia or one that violates the Constitution every step of the way? That is the fundamental issue in the Kuala Terengganu by-election.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

This was what The Nut Graph wrote yesterday:

Poor Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh. Much has been made of his looks and demeanour in an election where perception could turn out to mean everything.

As the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate in the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election, Wan Farid has been advised to smile more and behave less snobbishly. In this semi-urban east coast constituency, people want their elected representative to be friendly, accessible, and to possess the human touch.

Though a local boy, the 46-year-old former lawyer grew up in a privileged family of civil servants. During the campaigning, remarks have been passed that he should wear the kain pelikat (sarong) more when canvassing among the locals. He's also been advised to not be afraid to sit on the floor of homes to show that he is one of them.

Perception problems

Another perception problem Wan Farid faces is his links to outgoing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He was the premier's political secretary for four years, before being appointed senator and made deputy home minister after the March 2008 general election. He has since resigned from both positions to contest in the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

Additionally, it didn't help the BN campaign when former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described Wan Farid as Abdullah's proxy.

Wan Farid also got caught in the web of allegations that Abdullah's cronies were given the contracts to build the Pulau Duyong marine facilities to host the annual Monsoon Cup sailing competition, and the Islamic theme park on Pulau Wan Man.

His candidacy has appeared to put BN on the defensive in this campaign. Top leaders including Abdullah and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak have been giving one explanation after another on Wan Farid's perceived aloofness, the proxy allegation, and his capabilities as a first-time candidate.

Development gains

Wan Farid's campaign message rides on the BN's development track record. He is positioned as a representative who will be able to help the electorate because of the government machinery behind him.

Najib has also promised that Wan Farid will be reappointed as a deputy minister if he wins this election. The message to voters is that Wan Farid, as a deputy minister, would have better access to federal help than a PAS Member of Parliament (MP).

However, his former ministerial post is being used against him in Pakatan Rakyat ceramah. The opposition alliance has used blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, who was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), to speak against Wan Farid, although it is the home minister who signs detention orders.

"If he wins and becomes deputy home minister again, he will sign orders to detain people like you and me under ISA," Raja Petra told a largely Chinese crowd at a ceramah in Bandar Baru, Pulau Kambing on 9 Jan.

Internal factionalism

Politically, the former senator and deputy home minister has never contested an election, whether at state or parliamentary level

In Umno, Wan Farid is the party's two-term Kuala Terengganu division chief. He won the post uncontested the second time in divisional elections in July 2008. Despite this show of Umno grassroots unity, factionalism within the division has given the opposition PAS leverage to run down his candidacy.

PAS has drawn comparisons between Wan Farid and the previous MP and deputy education minister, Datuk Razali Ismail, whose death in November 2008 forced this by-election. Razali was liked for his efforts to improve education in the state. He beat his PAS contender, the popular Mohamad Sabu, in the 2008 general election by a slim majority of 628 votes.

During the campaign, Wan Farid has been forced to say that as division chief, he never sidelined Razali, who ran for the division's vice-chief post but lost to Wan Farid's brother, Datuk Wan Hisham Wan Salleh.

Thus, the BN's announcement of Wan Farid as their candidate two weeks ahead of nomination day on 6 Jan was seen as a move to give the factions time to cool down and unite.

Wan Farid has denied any internal rivalry and said his early candidacy gave him an edge to know voters better. He will face PAS's Abdul Wahid Endut and independent Azharudin Mamat @ Adam in the 17 Jan polls.

The Nut Graph managed to interview Wan Farid, who is the father of six girls, on a campaign stop. He was at a kampung in Kuala Bekah, where a Rural and Regional Development Ministry function was being held on 10 Jan.

TNG: If you become MP, how do you propose to eradicate poverty and improve living conditions for the poor in Kuala Terengganu?

Wan Farid: I have discovered while on the campaign trail that people want more opportunities. They do not know that we have so many facilities and so many things they can participate in. My concern is to make sure they are well informed of these opportunities.

The Terengganu government has decided not to pursue the wang ehsan (oil royalties) civil suit (filed when PAS was the state government) against the federal government. Do you agree?

The matter is closed. The moment the federal government returned the royalty, the case has become academic.

But there are disputes over the figures. The royalties have not been fully returned.

The opposition is making [it out] as if the federal government is taking advantage of the state government. With the final payment of RM408 million in December, everything has been settled. There are no arrears anymore.

What kind of personal advantages do you have over the other candidates, which aren't related to you representing the BN?

I was in Parliament, in the Dewan Negara for three years. And for the last nine months I was a member of the administration. I've appeared in both Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.

Your stand on hudud law.

I don't think it's an issue.

The opposition is using your post as former deputy home minister against you. What is your stand on the ISA?

In government, we cannot have individual [positions] on policies. Whoever speaks against me individually must also understand that you can't have a different view as a member of the administration.

You want to speak about this, you must understand parliamentary democracy, must understand how the cabinet works, must understand collective responsibility. Okay, if they want to attack me on this, it means they don't understand parliamentary democracy.

Should the ISA be at least reviewed?

My stand is parallel with the government's. It is good as it is. Preventive law has mechanisms and safeguards, which people don't talk about. They only talk about the so-called repressive law.

You can see, recently, whoever was arrested under the ISA could go to court and apply for habeas corpus, and there were instances where the court allowed the application. We have the necessary safeguards.

Is being the former deputy home affairs minister a liability to your campaign because of the issues the opposition is raising?

No, it's not a liability at all. Because I appear on TV almost every alternate day when Parliament is in session and the people of Terengganu know me.

Are you a reluctant candidate because you stand to lose so much in your political career?

I'm not a reluctant candidate. In politics, it's not about you. It's about the people you represent.

If you lose, what are your plans?

I'm not going to talk about that. It's premature.

By Deborah Loh, The Nut Graph


When asked about his stand on Hudud, Wan Farid Wan Salleh, Barisan Nasional’s candidate for the Kuala Terengganu by-election, replied, “I don't think it's an issue.” He did not say whether he supports Hudud or opposes it. He just refused to commit himself to the issue.

As I had written over the last few days, while UMNO and MCA have challenged PKR and DAP to state their stands on the Islamic State and Hudud, Umno itself will not commit itself to the issue. PAS can’t change Malaysia from a Secular State to an Islamic State. It can’t abrogate our common laws and replace them with Islamic laws. It can’t do that now or even in the future. As has been pointed out many times, the arithmetic just does not allow PAS to do that. It’s as simple as that. It’s all about the arithmetic. And PAS has said so many times that anything it does will be according to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and not in violation of it.

Umno, however, can. This is because, through the Barisan Nasional coalition, they have the majority in Parliament, although no longer a two-thirds majority since the 8 March 2008 general election. So we need to ask Umno, not PAS, the question. Would we ask a person who has never bought a lottery in his life what he would do with his millions if he won first prize? He may reply he would marry a second wife, go to Mekah to perform the Haj, build a school, set up an orphanage, etc. But his reply would be purely academic since he has never bought, and will never buy, a lottery in his entire life. In fact, he considers lotteries as haram and that is why he does not want to gamble. So why ask him what he would do with his winnings if that is something that is never going to happen?

But Umno is in power. They are the federal government. They are the ones, not PAS, who has the power to abrogate our laws, amend the laws, change the laws, and turn Malaysia from a Secular State into an Islamic State. So Umno must be asked this question. And when asked, Wan Farid very deviously replies, “I don't think it's an issue.”

But it is an issue. And it is an issue because UMNO and MCA have challenged PKR and DAP to state their stands on the issue. And PKR and DAP have, time and again, said they are opposed to the issue. And, to demonstrate this, two days ago they got PAS to agree to an agreement that any and all policy matters must be based on consensus. All three partners within Pakatan Rakyat must unanimously agree to any policy matters. A simple majority is not enough. It must be either all or nothing.

The ball is now at Umno’s feet. Umno claims to be the largest Islamic party in the world. This is what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared when he was the Prime Minister of Malaysia. And it is Umno that keeps raising the issue of the Islamic State and Hudud. Khairy Jamaluddin, the Prime Minister’s son-in-law, has been going around Kuala Terengganu proudly claiming that it was he who very cleverly trapped Husam Musa into making his slip-of-the-lips in the debate they engaged in.

Pakatan Rakyat has laid the matter to rest. The issue is no longer an issue. It is now a non-issue. So what is Umno’s stand on the Islamic State and Islamic laws? That is what the voters, in particular the non-Malay voters, would like to know. Is Umno ferociously opposed to the Islamic State and Hudud? Or does it not dare state its stand, one way or the other?

Umno does not dare state its stand. Umno would rather say: "I don't think it's an issue." But, to many, they do think it is an issue. The temples being demolished are in Umno-run states. The churches being denied permission to be set up are in Umno-run states. The Malay language Bible is being denied permission the use of the word ‘Allah’ by the Umno-led federal government. Those being detained by the religious authorities for ‘immoral conduct’ are in Umno-run states and they are being detained by federal agencies.

Where is PAS’s hand in all these? All we see is the hand of Umno. PAS is said to be an extremist party. But it is the Umno-run states and the Umno-led federal government that appears to be doing all these extremist acts, in the name of Islam. PAS, on the other hand, approves churches and temples in the states it runs — while the many years the state was under Umno control the non-Muslims failed to get permission.

There is currently an ongoing court case in Sabah. Chong Kah Kiat, the 13th Chief Minister of Sabah, the former president of the Liberal Democratic Party (a member of Barisan Nasional), is taking the Umno state government to court for not allowing a Buddhist statue to be built in the state. Chong, who was the Deputy Chief Minister, also resigned his post in protest. It is not PAS but Umno that is blocking the Ma Tzu or Goddess of The Sea statue in Kudat, Sabah.

Stop asking PAS, DAP or PKR their stands. Their stands are clear. Their stands are: no changes without consensus. And all changes must be according to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and not in violation of it. And that goes for the internal Security Act as well. PAS, DAP or PKR are opposed to the Internal Security Act.

When asked about his stand on the Internal Security Act, this was what Wan Farid replied: “In government, we cannot have individual [positions] on policies.”

When asked whether the Internal Security Act should at least be reviewed, Wan Farid replied: “My stand is parallel with the government's. It is good as it is.”

Read his lips, very slowly. He does not have an individual opinion. His stand is parallel with the government. The ISA is good and will remain. The fact that the ISA is unconstitutional does not matter. Umno is prepared to violate the Constitution. PAS said it would not do anything that goes against the Constitution. Wan Farid says the Constitution does not matter.

The Constitution says no one can be detained without being told of his/her crime and must be produced in front of a magistrate within 24 hours. The Internal Security Act allows one to be detained without being told of his/her crime and they can be held without being brought in front of a magistrate for the rest of his/her life.

According to the Constitution, a person is innocent until proven guilty. And the onus is on the Prosecution to prove guilt. The Accused needs not prove innocence. All he or she has to do is to raise reasonable doubt and the benefit of the doubt must be given to the Accused. Under the Internal Security Act, the government needs not prove guilt and the Accused has to instead justify that his or her detention is invalid. But the detained person will not be allowed a trial. Instead, a panel will hear the arguments of the Accused in secret, behind closed doors. And, in all cases, the panel will reject the arguments of the Accused.

And that is why PAS opposes the ISA, because it violates the Constitution. PAS respects the Constitution. And PAS respects the Constitution not only with regards to the right of an accused to a fair and open trial but also with regards to converting Malaysia into an Islamic State and the implementation of Islamic laws. Umno, however, according to Wan Farid, says: “In government, we cannot have individual [positions] on policies.”
So, whom can we trust? A party that respects and will comply to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia or one that violates the Constitution every step of the way? That is the fundamental issue in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. PAS has spoken. Umno too has spoken. And both voices are loud and clear. The issue is not just about the Internal Security Act or Hudud. It is about laws that are implemented which do not violate the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. Umno does not care about the Constitution. PAS does. So who makes a better government?

You, the voters of Kuala Terengganu, can decide this on Saturday, 17 January 2009. And you need not be a rocket scientist to figure out which of the two makes a better government.