A hard Hadi question for PAS

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang is a much-changed man from the days when he used to deliver fiery speeches against his political foes. But his announcement not to contest the next general election has caught many by surprise.

“I was given leadership responsibilities at a very young age. I became vice-president (of PAS) in my 30s … I have been around too long,” he was quoted by the Bahasa Malaysia tabloid as saying.

By Baradan Kuppusamy, The Star

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has dropped a bombshell – he does not wish to contest in the general election.

He has said that if the party insists, he would only contest in one of the two seats he is holding.

“I leave it to the party to decide,” he said in an exclusive interview on Saturday. Hadi, 65, is the Rhu Redang assemblyman and Marang MP.

The reason he gave for this sudden decision is that he has been a YB for 30 years and it was time to make way for younger blood in the party.

“I am from the era of Tun and the second generation after him, until now,” said the Al-Azhar university graduate, referring to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who retired in 2003 after 22 years as Prime Minister.

“I was given leadership responsibilities at a very young age. I became vice-president (of PAS) in my 30s … I have been around too long,” he was quoted by the Bahasa Malaysia tabloid as saying.

The sentiments expressed by Hadi are commendable, compared to the party’s spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat who, at 84, still wants to contest and remain active in politics as Kelantan Mentri Besar.

The statement shocked Hadi’s supporters in the party who were unprepared for it.

They were unsure what to make of it as the revelation came in the form of a media interview.

“If the statement had come after a party CWC meeting and after all the party leaders had discussed and deliberated on it, then it would be understandable,” said a PAS CWC member who declined to be named.

“If the party had issued the statement then the members can accept it, but with some reservation,” he said, adding that the statement was “suspect” as it came from a newspaper interview with the party president.

“We have to wait until Feb 12 for a clearer picture,” he said, referring to the monthly working committee meeting scheduled that day to discuss the matter.

Hadi could be playing a political stunt in the face of massive gains the moderate elements in the party led by Nik Aziz and deputy president Mohamed Sabu have made since the 2008 general election.

He might be shaking the PAS tree … rattling it, so to speak, in the hope that he gains an upper hand especially with PAS under attack from its former Selangor commissioner Datuk Dr Hasan Ali and other ulama in the party.

Hadi has a history of radicalism behind him, as the man leading the ulama faction with his Amanat Hadi Awang that resulted in the kafir-mengkafir issue when he declared that Umno members were not true Muslims.

The issue roiled Malay society in the 80s and 90s before dying off in the late 1990s as PAS exploited the reformasi wave under president Fadzil Nor following the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as deputy prime minister in 1998.

Hadi took over as party president on Fadzil’s untimely death in 2002 and has been elected uncontested since.

PAS under Hadi played a double-faced strategy throughout the reformasi period, supporting it but at the same time defending its Islamic state policy, a key plank in Hadi’s political strategy.

Led by Hadi, PAS nearly faced demise in 2004 when voters bade farewell to Dr Mahathir and welcomed Tun Abdullah Badawi, rejecting not only Hadi but also his fiery brand of Islam that centred on the setting up an Islamic state.

Throughout the four years since 2004 under Hadi, PAS attacked Abdullah’s Islam Hadhari concept as not the true face of Islam. However, it was the release of Anwar and his ability to identify his grievances with that of the people’s grouses, that tilled the day for PAS.

In 2008, PAS captured Kedah and kept Kelantan and won state and parliamentary seats in other states across the nation, even providing the Mentri Besar (briefly) for Perak.

It emerged a victorious party with Hadi riding on Anwar’s coat-tails. Hadi’s fiery rhetoric receded and he gave way for the moderates to take control of PAS.

His role diminished and Nik Aziz, Mat Sabu, Salehuddin Ayub and Khalid Samad and other moderates rose to control the party.

The culmination of the moderate wave that swept PAS, for the conservatives and for Hadi himself, was the sacking of Dr Hasan, who is now on a roadshow around the country attacking PAS as unIslamic and taunting them to remove the word Islam from the party’s name.

Hadi could be standing on quick sand with the liberals and moderates taking over the party and deciding policy like the sacking of Dr Hasan, which he is forced to follow.

His statement to retire could be to force the issue and to fight his increasing isolation in the party. Hadi is one hardcore radical who has successfully transformed himself into a “moderate” in keeping with the times, especially with a non-Malay following that PAS has earned for itself in its march to rule the country someday.

Or it could be that after exactly 30 years as a YB, he is genuinely tired and wants a way out.