Exciting PAS Youth polls for a change

Black hands, animals, famous sons and the good and dark side of social media are some of the talking points in the race for posts in the PAS Youth wing.

Joceline Tan

PAS politician Zulhazmi Shariff knew he would be the underdog when he decided to go for the No. 1 post in the Dewan Pemuda, as the party’s Youth wing is known.

What he did not expect was to be labelled “a dog” on Facebook. Zulhazmi had thought it was a joke when friends alerted him of it.

It was no joke and there was even a superimposed image of a forlorn-looking black dog in place of his photograph. He was very upset and lodged a complaint with the PAS election body.

“This sort of thing has never happened in a party election. It is not only about me, it affects the image of the party. I am urging my colleagues in PAS to condemn it,” said the corporate lawyer with the rocker hairdo.

Battling it out: (From left) Muhammad Khalil is going for the deputy’s post while Suhaizan, Zulhazmi and Kamaruzaman are going for the No.1 post in the PAS Youth wing.

The offensive picture of Zulhazmi was placed alongside that of the other two candidates for the Youth leadership, Suhaizan Kayat and Kamaruzaman Mohamad.

Zulhazmi, 37, is only an ordinary member and although he has been making the news, the real fight is between the other two contenders.

Both Suhaizan, 43, and Kamaruzaman, 40, are graduates from local universities with a background in information technology but the former is backed by the Erdogans and the latter has the backing of the ulama group.

Suhaizan was the Johor Youth chief before becoming the Pulai division chief. Party leaders think highly of the activist because he is hardworking and has ideas.

But he does not seem to have much luck when it comes to elections. He has contested and lost in three general elections.

His most recent defeat might have something to do with the fact that he had once declared it was unIslamic for Muslims to wish Christians “Merry Christmas”. A Christian DAP leader from Johor labelled him a “warped zealot” for that.

Suhaizan was ready to go for the top Youth post in the 2011 party polls but the then incumbent Nasruddin Hassan had pleaded for another term. Nasruddin promised to make way for him in two years and persuaded Suhaizan to go for the deputy chief’s post.

Suhaizan agreed but lost the deputy’s post to Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, the son of Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat. And things are not easier for him two years down the road either because so much has changed inside and outside the party.

Back in 2011, many blamed a senior leader from Terengganu, whom they called the “black hand”, for pushing Nik Abduh to take on Suhaizan. The same “black hand” is being blamed again this year because another famous son is in the fray. The party president’s eldest son Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi is going for the deputy’s post.

Khalil is fair, handsome and looks nothing like his father Datuk Seri Hadi Awang. He is an ulama and he will probably beat his non-ulama candidate Dr Raja Ahmad Iskandar without breaking sweat.

But Suhaizan’s worry is no longer about “black hands” or famous sons. His chief competitor Kamaruzaman is not an ulama but an ultra-conservative who is loved by the ulama group because he is fearless in defending the party’s Islamic agenda.

Kamaruzaman is quite famous for opposing pop concerts and any activity that will lead to maksiat or vice. At the last muktamar, he tried to move a motion to censure the party organ Harakah for not being 100% PAS.

He was the Federal Territory Youth chief before becoming the new Putrajaya division chief. Incidentally, his running mate is Khalil and they are on the way to victory if the Dewan Pemuda trend at the state level is any indication.

Young ulama figures have been voted to victory in the Youth wing at state level. The Dewan Pemuda leadership in eight out of 14 states are now headed by young ulama figures.

On top of that, the state committees are dominated by young ustaz or religious teachers and preachers.

It is ironic that while the senior level of the party is dominated by the Erdogans, the Youth wing is going the conservative way.

The campaign for posts in the PAS election has been the most intense in the history of the party. There has been an unprecedented use of social media, especially Face­book and Twitter, particularly at the Youth level.

Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of abuse and the Internet has become the new version of the old poison pen letter. However, not everyone buys into the underhanded campaign, going by the comments rubbishing some of the allegations made.

By yesterday, the Facebook fan page had issued an apology to Zulhazmi, claiming that the posting was done by a new and immature member. But the page remained unapologetic towards the Erdogan candidates who are perceived as undermining the party’s Islamic agenda and sidelining the role of the religious scholars.

“PAS is an Islamist party but you’ve got to remember that members are also human. They want to win,” said a PAS official who has been assigned to investigate the complaint filed by Zulhazmi.

Power or even the thought of power has that sort of effect on all politicians. Elections in PAS used to be rather staid and sleepy but now, everyone wants a party post because that will be their ticket to the big time if they get to Putrajaya.