Malaysia’s political trickster

The leader of the nation’s most prominent Islamist party has managed to upend the opposition’s march to victory in the next election.

By Kazi Mahmood

The war within Malaysia’s fragile opposition coalition has entered a new phase, with the sleek Pan Malaysian Islamic party leader, Hadi Awang, taking no punches from those who can only be described as his ‘frenemies’, fending off attacks with his trademark wit and humour.

Also using words as a weapon, Lim Kit Siang, the eternal leader of the Democratic Action Party, is continuing his attacks under the belt, accusing Hadi of all the ills associated with the disintegration of Malaysia’s opposition coalition.

Actually, it is the DAP that started the fracas with its absolute refusal to accept Islamic laws in Kelantan, a state where it has zero impact!

In this catch-22 situation created by Malaysia’s governing party, UMNO — so says some PAS members — in which Hadi has acted as the hero of the Muslims by pushing for the implementation of Hudud laws in the absence of longtime opposition stalwart Karpal Singh (who passed away in an accident a year ago), Kit Siang is viewed as playing the boogeyman who is against — at all cost — Hudud — but Muslims, who make up the majority of Malaysians would willing in their large minority -or slim majority — accept the Islamic Laws.

Here’s the catch:

It is said that UMNO is taunting the PAS to push for the implementation for Hudud in Kelantan, the very birth place of the idea in Malaysia, on the basis that such a move will break the coalition.

UMNO was aware, says PAS members, that DAP would oppose to the death of the coalition against Hudud, and true enough, they did.

The Malaysian state of Kelantan has long harbored the idea of implementing the traditional set of Islamic laws known as Hudud.- Picture by Tony Jones (Wikimedia Commons)

If the PAS were to lay low by not picking up the challenge from Umno, it would be called a betrayer of the Muslims. Now that it has picked up the baton, Umno now risks being called the betrayer of the Muslims if it does not allow the bill to pass through the Parliament!

But DAP will be seen as shallow and weak, if it does not oppose Hudud. Thus DAP has ended the coalition, simply for the sake of showing who’s the boss.

DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, second from right, has fiercely opposed the implementation of Hudud, even in Kelantan, where the Chinese-dominated party has little power or influence.

If the DAP does not do that, it will lose out on the Chinese who will say they might as well as heed former Malaysian prime minister Tun Mahathir’s wishes that Chinese voters join Malaysia’s ruling alliance, Barisan Malaysia, to salvage Malaysia from the “extremists” in PAS.

Hadi Awang has many supporters among the PAS, Malaysia’s most powerful Islamist party.(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Hadi Awang indeed is the sleek in this game, as by pushing for Hudud — he will win the support of more hardcore Malay voters — and BN will be forced to play along.

Unfortunately for Kit Siang and his team, their party fell into the trap so easily.

This sequence of events show that in Malaysia, the DAP may still be new to the game of cards, while the Malay-run PAS is showing its mettle.

In fact, I’ve been told that none play local politics as well as the Malays in PKR, PAS and Umno.

So far, kudos to Hadi. But the war is far from over! ▩

Kazi Mahmood was born and raised a proud Mauritian. He now resides in Malaysia but retains a strong interest in his home country.

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