PAS understands domestic, geopolitics better than Umno, says Zaid

[The] boycott of KK Mart was entirely misconceived and arose out of Umno’s “ignorance of real politics”. This has allowed PAS the opportunity of reaching out to, and accommodating, Chinese voters.

(FMT) – PAS’s announcement yesterday that it will not support calls to boycott the KK Mart convenience store chain shows that, unlike Umno, the Islamist party “understands domestic and geopolitics well”, says Zaid Ibrahim.

“PAS has shown a practical approach to Malaysian politics. It is sensible not to be anti-Chinese for the wellbeing of the Malays and the country,” the outspoken Umno member told FMT.

Zaid said the position of the Chinese community in the domestic economy is well entrenched. “No amount of racist posturing and boycotts will make a difference.”

“Collaboration with them (the Chinese business community), hard though it may be, is the way forward.

“If Umno is too proud to do this, they will suffer immeasurably at the polls. Then they will be gone for good,” he said.

Zaid Ibrahim.

The former law minister said the party’s launch of a boycott of KK Mart was entirely misconceived and arose out of Umno’s “ignorance of real politics”. This has allowed PAS the opportunity of reaching out to, and accommodating, Chinese voters, he said.

“PAS can show the Chinese that in terms of business development of the country, the party can be an important, and not a threatening, partner to the non-Muslims,” said Zaid.

He said Umno’s call for a boycott has shown the party’s inability to look beyond domestic politics.

“In geopolitics, the Chinese in South East Asia are also doubly strong, with the superpower, China, looking down on us with much interest.

“Not only is the Chinese premier coming to town, but the leader of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) international section has just been seen shaking hands with the prime minister and his deputy,” said Zaid.

China’s premier, Li Qiang, is scheduled to visit Malaysia later this year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Meanwhile, last Friday, Anwar received a courtesy call from Liu Jianchao, the CCP’s international department minister at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya.

Zaid, however, said it will not be easy for PAS to win over the support of non-Muslims.

“They still have to assure the non-Muslims that they will ring-fence the stricter Islamic laws and social norms which they want to apply to Muslims,” he said.

Zaid also said PAS would have to reassure non-Muslims that a more accessible and freer society is possible with them holding federal power.

“They need an erudite and clever tactician to put the pieces together,” he said.

As for Umno, Zaid said the KK Mart boycott exposed a lack of ideas in the party’s rejuvenation drive.

“The failed effort to inflict harm on the Chinese business community has shown them to be a weak force,” he said.

On March 13 KK Mart became embroiled in controversy after photographs of socks imprinted with the word “Allah”, discovered at its Bandar Sunway store, began circulating on social media.

Three days later the company’s founder and management issued an apology, which Umno Youth chief Dr Akmal Salleh rejected as inadequate. Akmal instead pressed for a nationwide boycott of the chain in protest.

On March 22, the party’s Supreme Council gave Akmal its full backing.

The protests, however, took a more violent turn in recent days, when two of the chain’s outlets became the subject of Molotov cocktail attacks – the first in Bidor, Perak on March 26, followed by another in Kuantan, Pahang on Saturday.

KK Mart’s founder and executive chairman Chai Kee Kan and his wife and fellow director Loh Siew Mui, were charged in court last week for intentionally wounding the religious feelings of Muslims last week. Also charged was Soh Chin Huat, owner of vendor Xin Jian Chang Sdn Bhd, which supplied the socks. The trio pleaded not guilty.