Hadi not riding into sunset yet


The attempt to mount a challenge to the leadership of PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang has started in what will be the fiercest and most intense election in the history of PAS.

Joceline Tan, The Star

PAS vice-president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man does not exactly stand out in a crowd. He is not very tall and he is quite shy and reserved as most ulama in PAS tend to be.

But he found himself the centre of attention when he showed up at the nomination centre for the Chempaka by-election in Kelantan.

The media immediately made a beeline for him because the night before, the party’s Kota Baru division had nominated him to contest the for the presidency in the PAS election taking place in June.

The move caused a stir and everyone could see that the Kota Baru division was sending a strong message ahead of the party election.

They were telling the incumbent Datuk Seri Hadi Awang that it was time to go and if that was not clear enough, Kota Baru chief Datuk Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah said that Hadi has heart problems and needs to call it a day.

It was a rather explicit language and some of Hadi’s supporters are said to be seething.

Some had expected Kota Baru to nominate deputy president Mohamad Sabu for the top post because he has support in the division.

But Mat Sabu, as he is known, is not ready to break yet another glass ceiling and will likely play safe and defend his No 2 post.

Naming Tuan Ibrahim to replace Hadi was a strategic move. Tuan Ibrahim is a respected ulama from Pahang and it will assure members that the “Leadership by the Ulama” doctrine is intact.

They hope that this will be the spark that lights a forest fire.

But it looks like the Kota Baru move, like the Kajang Move, will be problematic because Tuan Ibrahim has politely declined the nomination.

Besides, party insiders said that Hadi and Tuan Ibrahim have met and it is understood that Tuan Ibrahim has agreed to go for the deputy presidency.

Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, another possible contender for the No 2 post, has been persuaded to vie for one of the three vice-presidents’ posts.

The understanding is that the two top posts in the party should once again be occupied by the ulama or religious scholars. As such, should anything happen to Hadi, the party will still be led by an ulama.

Mat Sabu is well-liked among PAS members but the thought of him as president gives the pro-ulama group nightmares.

This year’s PAS election will be the hottest and most intense in the party’s history.

The popular Sinar Harian has been devoting four to five pages daily on the PAS election but the PAS news organ Harakah is behaving as though nothing is happening.

PAS used to ban any kind of campaigning and candidates seen to be campaigning would usually fail to do well. But everything changed after the Erdogans, as the professional group in PAS are known, began to move up the party hierarchy.

The political temperature is rising. So far, there have been open demonstrations against leaders seen to be against Hadi, a car of one of those leaders was torched, while another figure seen as the intellectual ring-leader was attacked outside his house. And there are all sorts of fierce stuff circulating in cyberspace.

A massive Muslim gathering stretching over four days is being planned in Rusila later this month.

Rusila is Hadi’s political base and has often been likened to Qom, the political base of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

The gathering, known as the 3rd International Forum for Ummah Solidarity, is associated with Hadi’s role as the deputy president of the World Ulama Organisation. The president of the organisation is the Muslim superstar Dr Yusof Al-Qardhawi.

But the most interesting part about the forum is the prominent role given to the leading ulama leaders in PAS.

The organising chairman is none other than Tuan Ibrahim. It will be opened by Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob while Hadi will feature prominently throughout the programme. Unfortunately, Dr Yusof will only be present via a recorded video message.

But Sheikh Rashid A Ghannoushi, a renowned Islamic scholar from Tunisia, who was among Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012, will be there.

It is apparent that the forum is to raise the profile of the ulama figures in PAS and to create a momentum ahead of the muktamar.

In short, it is Hadi’s way of telling his detractors that, God-willing, he will be around for another term.

The battle lines are clearly drawn.

The PAS division meetings will be in full swing this month. Some of the early signs of where the wind is blowing will come from who the divisions nominate for the top five posts of president, deputy president and three vice-presidents.

Who the divisions invite to officiate their AGMs will also hint of where the wind will blow.

For instance, the Sepang division had wanted to invite Sepang MP Hanipa Maidin. But when news broke about Hanipa’s wild outburst against Hadi during a central committee meeting, the division promptly decided to invite Kelantan’s Mohd Amar.

Hadi’s fiery speech at the last muktamar in Batu Pahat is still ringing in the ears of many of his admirers. He had asked members to cleanse the party of “hypocritical elements and the weak-spirited who have lost focus of the struggle”.

He wanted the party to return to its original objectives and said that coalition politics should not mean giving up on their Islamic policies. And he rubbished talk that PAS would hook up with Umno.

In hindsight, it seemed like he was laying the ground for the party election and for the ulama to return to centre stage after a decade of playing second fiddle to the Erdogans.