THE Perak crisis, PAS’s upcoming party elections, violent snatch thefts and mat rempit misbehaving occupied the Malay-language press from 4 to 10 May 2009.
In his 10 May Bisik-Bisik Mingguan column in Mingguan Malaysia, Awang Selamat said of the 7 May ruckus in the Perak state assembly: “There are frightening signs in the Perak chaos.
“The signs are getting clearer that Malaysia is going to be dragged into becoming a republic as championed by one particular party in the opposition coalition,” Awang claimed. Nowhere in his article, Negara di ambang republik?, did he clarify which party he was referring to.
Chaos during the 7 May Perak assembly sitting
But he did say this: “It is not hard to guess. It relates closely to the party which, since independence, has been dreaming of a republic and is assisted by a Malay [Malaysian] leader obsessed with power.”
Regarding what Perak Regent Raja Nazrin Shah said to popularly elected Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, Awang provided a direct quote from the prince:
“‘I only want to deliver my speech, so respect my speech when I deliver it. You understand? If you want to engage with me in future, you must respect my speech. Understand?'”
Awang concluded his article by saying that for the Pakatan Rakyat, “insulting the monarchy is considered a democratic right”. According to him, “They are already midway to creating a republic. Do we want to let them?”
Utusan Malaysia also highlighted the ongoing leadership tussle in PAS several times during the week, starting with its Pro-Anwar dibidas front-page lead on 4 May.
In his commentary on 6 May, ‘Makhluk perosak’ dalam PAS, Zulkiflee Bakar claimed that the friction between the professionals and the ulama in PAS was due to the influence of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“In the writer’s meetings with several PAS leaders and strong supporters, they admit Anwar’s influence has been entrenched in PAS for the past 10 years,” he said.
“The younger generation in PAS, especially at the grassroots level who are new to politics, worship Anwar more than (party president Datuk Seri) Abdul Hadi (Awang) or (spiritual leader Datuk) Nik Abdul Aziz (Nik Mat),” he elaborated.
PAS is holding its party elections in June this year during its annual muktamar. Like the Umno elections in March this year, PAS will probably see contests for most posts except for the presidency. The convention of having both the presidency and deputy presidency filled by ulama is being challenged by Datuk Husam Musa, who has been nominated for the deputy presidency. The PAS professionals are also known as the “progressive” or “Erdogan” faction, while an influential section of the ulama are sometimes labeled “pro-Umno”.
According to Zulkiflee, “What is interesting is that some PAS Erdogans have been promised several positions in [a potential Pakatan Rakyat] cabinet, including senior ministries such as the finance ministry, education ministry and defence ministry.”
In his 10 May commentary, Kriteria professional dalam PAS, Zulkiflee made an even stronger endorsement of the ulama.
“Actually, PAS is more needed by the DAP and PKR [rather than vice versa], because in the coalition, PAS is the core Malay party. Without PAS’s support the coalition cannot go anywhere,” he said.
“If PAS’s background were taken into account, PAS should be the leader in the opposition coalition, and not be in third place after the DAP and PKR, which is such a young party,” he claimed.
“But who has developed PAS to this level? The ulama or the professionals? Of course the answer is the ulama,” said Zulkiflee.
Even former Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin could not resist throwing in his two cents in the same issue of Utusan Malaysia. In his Minda Dr Maza column titled Ulama atau professional jadi pemimpin?, Asri said the question of whether an ulama or a professional should lead an Islamic party was a red herring.
“There have been many non-scientist leaders who have managed to develop science and technology in their countries. On the other hand, if a leader has Islamic credentials but has no desire to uphold justice as enshrined in Islam, then the goals of Islam will still not be fulfilled,” he said.
“The issue is not that of labels, or the robes someone wears, but integrity and ability to administer and manage the rakyat’s lives.”
The final solution?
The increasingly violent wave of snatch thefts also received prominent treatment during the week.
In its 8 May editorial, Setiap individu perlu waspada hindari kes ragut, Berita Harian said, “The most effective strategy lies within us. We cannot rely too much on enforcement authorities such as the police, who are unable to monitor every location all the time because crime can happen at any time, any place.”
However, Utusan Malaysia made a link between snatch thefts and the mat rempit phenomenon.
In her 7 May feature, Banteras mat rempit, Utusan Malaysia‘s Norila Daud wrote, “[Mat rempit] are getting out of hand and they are involved in more serious crimes such as snatch thefts, rapes, gang thefts and even murder.”
In its editorial on the same day, Ajar peragut, mat rempit dengan hukuman berat, Utusan Malaysia said, “The challenge to all sectors of society now is, until when will we allow snatch thieves and mat rempit criminals to lord over our streets?
“What happened to all the suggestions about religious education, counselling and education centres, and stricter law enforcement, which were so hotly discussed at one time when these problems first emerged?” the paper asked.
“If we believe that stricter and harsher laws rather than the usual measures can educate and solve the problems of snatch thefts and illegal racing, then just do it.”