PAS’ new politics

Dipetik dari TheEdge

drdzulsKUALA LUMPUR: PAS must understand, embrace and absorb the new politics lest it lose the plot and become “unelectable” as was the case in 2004, the party’s research centre director and Kuala Selangor MP Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said.

“We must be coherent and consistent with it. If we lose this plot again, we will make a repeat of this (2004). This is what I fear most now. We must think through this process and understand what is happening,” he said in an interview with The Edge Financial Daily.

He added that voters have been liberated by the new media, by giving them access to information.

The new politics, an old term that failed to catch the voters’ imagination until Bukit Gantang, exhorts all the positives and eschews all the negatives attributes of a government. It’s for the rule of law, social justice and good governance and it despises corruption, rent seeking, cronyism, nepotism and draconian laws, such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Official Secrets Act.

“This new politics is not Pakatan Rakyat (PR) per se. I described this as essentially driven by the new media. Democracy is about voters making informed decision. And the new media liberated them. That is the most (potent) enabling tool in democracy.

“So, it is not necessarily about them (voters) aligning to PR. Voters at the end of the day are non-partisan. They are only partial to anything that would defend their interest, rights and expectations,” said Dr Dzul, as he is fondly known.

He added that PR partners advocate those aspirations and are united in their vision of a new Malaysia, in building nationhood based on timeless principles of good governance, justice for all, transparency and accountability.

Whoever upholds this new politics would be seen by the people as worthy of their support, he said.

Dr Dzul said after March 8, 2008, people realised that they have power in their hands, and that translated to an empowering and liberating force.

“Suddenly it is like the people almost taking charge. The new politics is about people being the boss. It is coming back to the original democracy — government of the people, by the people, for the people. People are taking charge.

“Now they (Umno/BN) cannot hoodwink (people) by giving them goodies… and turn around and say the people are ungrateful. It (the money) does not come out of their pockets anyway,” said Dr Dzul.

He said new politics is not about changing faces or slogans but about understanding what is going on in the country. It entails a new way in which Malaysians relate to one another in terms of respect, religious conviction and cultural diversity, he said.

“It is no longer based on tolerance as expounded by BN (Barisan Nasional) and not by holier-than-thou extreme posturing, such as the way they have denied others the use of ‘Allah’. That is the kind of narrow-mindedness or parochialism and in some sense extremism,” he said.

To this end, Dr Dzul said PAS was conducting “inter-capacity buildings and seminars” to ensure its own people understand and internalise the concept of new politics.

Breaking down barriers
Post-March 2008, many of the prejudices of non-Muslims towards PAS have been eroded, and the party has been quick to capitalise on the trend. Being an Islamist party in a plural society, however, PAS must be steadfast in its political tenets while always mindful of the constraints of a plural society.

Hence Dr Dzul said there is more reason for them to go back to the Quran for guidance.

“How do you celebrate plurality, how do you manage plural politics, how you build up coalition politics. It is all there in the Quran and in the prophetic tradition.

“I find in Islam all those are well provided for. It is us failing to understand it and to contextualise these principles given the 60/40 (Malay/Non-Malay) demography in a mixed country like Malaysia,” he said, adding the party was all set to contest in more mixed seats because it believed the Chinese and Indians were less likely now to deny PAS their votes.

He said the non-Muslims are looking at PAS as a friendly party that they could relate to.

He also attributed the breakdown of barriers and perceptions to PAS Supporters Club, whose members are non-Muslims. So strong is the support that there has been talk of according the club a dewan or wing status in the party.

“My argument is that as long as we are consistent and do the right things the right way, we have broken that barrier. I somewhat believe after seeing Kuala Terengganu, Bukit Gantang and my own constituency, Malaysians are not gullible. Once upon a time, they did not have access to information,” he said.

Dr Dzul added that PR would enjoy support from the non-Malays as long as the coalition remains consistent and coherent through to the finishing line, which is the 13th general election.

“If we fumble and lose the plot, shooting at one another, then we would be digging our own graves,” he said, and cautioned that the coalition had to avoid extreme or parochial positions.

The Erdogans/professionals and the ulamaks
Dr Dzul insisted that the so-called “Erdogans” are not here to replace the ulamaks, but to add value to the party.

“Right now we want to extend our power base. The ulamaks have provided the core support of the Malay belt. We come in essentially to value-add. We are not here to replace or displace the ulamaks. They are an institution themselves. They are the pillars of the party.

“We came in to extend the support base and engage in new avenues that was once upon a time unknown to PAS,” he said.

Asked about the purported tension between the liberals and hardliners in PAS and on the relationship between Umno and the hardliners, Dr Dzul laughed and said: “Like all other parties, PAS has its own dynamics. Of late these polars of thought are more enhanced, or seen like polarised a lot more.

“I must admit that there are schools of thoughts. It is not entirely homogeneous. I think that the level of differences is still very manageable.”

He explained that differences in Islam are well-celebrated, particularly in politics where a subject is open to interpretation and contextualisation.

“You have all kinds of inclination and persuasion. Depending where you are coming from, your discipline of knowledge, professional training, your analysis of situation and problem solving methodology that you use usually ends up in apparent kind of conflict or contradictions.

“For as long as this is well-managed, it will be a source of strength. We should not deny others the right to say their piece even though how much we disagree with them. It is quite true that we have variants of ideas but basically the core ideological persuasion of the party is upholding the Islamic principle of justice, good governance. On that score we have no dispute,” said Dr Dzul.

He also said that PAS rank and file are more politicised, a state of affairs that is much preferred to blind allegiance.

“There must be managed dissent in the party where people are able to voice out, debate, iron out and finally to take a position that is most meaningful and beneficial to the party’s struggle,” he said.

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