The Malaysian Insider

PAS wrapped up its 55th muktamar today, electing both conservatives and progressive professionals while sticking to its Islamic principles but widening the door for non-Muslim membership.

If all that sounds confusing, what is clear is that the Islamist party’s assembly has shown Malaysia the difference between it and its political rival Umno, apart from the fashion and keeping the women’s wing assembly from outsiders.

The key difference are:-

#1 – Neither slagging off of non-Malays nor stress on “Ketuanan Melayu” at the PAS muktamar.

The party delegates also do not refer to Chinese or Indian Malaysians  as “Kaum Pendatang” – a phrase that Umno politicians and party-linked newspapers have used in the past, and some continue to use.

#2 – There is less of a slavish agreement with ideas and proposals put forward by the leadership.

Yes, Nasharudin Mat Isa and some of the conservatives won in the party polls but the unity idea pushed by president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang got slammed, unlike Umno where even the most ridiculous proposal by leaders are swalloed without any debate.

For example, even the PAS Youth concern over the removal of the 30 per cent quota for Bumiputeras did not go unchallenged on the final day of the muktamar.

#3 – While there is clear demarcation between clerics and professional class in the Islamist party, there is little by way of factionalism based on personalities, unlike in Umno. The nationalist party is famous for its personality-based followings, where members are in silos, following warlords and known either as being in this camp or someone else’s supporters.

Witness the number of people who sided with either Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when the party was declared illegal in 1988. Or those who quit when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim left in 1998 and again last year when Dr Mahathir left the party he founded.

PAS members appear to be more influenced by ideology and philosophy than personality.

#4 – There was little discussion of money politics at the muktamar despite the best efforts of Utusan Malaysia to create the impression that vote buying was extensive.

Compare that with Umno where even to this day, the scent of money politics and stench of corruption continues to follow some winners like Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

Conclusion: in PAS, what you see and hear is what you get. There is little pretence about this party.

And, there will always be a tension in the party between the religious class and the professionals.

Why? Because a significant portion of members still believe that the party leadership is the preserve of the clerics.

But as the composition of the central committee shows, the professional class is making serious inroads in the party.

And over the next few years, we will witness the fight for control of the party between clerics and professional class being played out – in the open.


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