Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PAS Passed It?

The deafening silence of PAS leaders over the last weeks and months point to a simmering discontent underneath the calm sur-face (pun intended) portrayed by its ulama leaders.

With the threat of a change of government in Kedah ever-present, PAS seems to busy scrambling to keep its house in order, ensuring its elected representatives remain loyal to the party – bai’ah and all. All this while its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition carry on with loftier goals, commenting on anything and everything national.

It is no secret that PAS is for all intents and purposes the smallest partner in Pakatan, due in no small part to the fact that much of its rank and file are most uncomfortable with the unholy alliance with Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR and DAP.

So it should come as no surprise that as the straws pile up on the camel’s back, PAS is struggling to decide what its next course of action is, nevermind the cracks between the Pakatan partners. Hence the silence. Conspiracy theorists would say something’s cooking, but I think more likely than not nothing is because they simply cannot deal with the ingredients they’ve been served with.

Only months ago Selangor PAS Commissioner Datuk Dr Hasan Ali was making the headlines daily with his attacks on the Selangor state government. We hear not a whimper from him these days, presumably being given more than a slap on the wrist to toe the increasingly impossible line of Pakatan unity.

Deputy President Ustaz Nasharuddin Mat Isa seems to have never recovered from the bashing he received from spiritual head Tuan Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat for his overtures with UMNO. Again, not a whimper. We’ve had plenty of issues to discuss in this country for the past year and the Deputy President of a major party – the second largest in Malaysia in terms of membership – has not figured in any of them.

Not that the President, Tuan Guru Haji Haji Awang has fared much better. Anwar Ibrahim, in a recent interview, promised that he would appoint a DAP leader to the post of Deputy Prime Minister II if he ever became premiere. No mention of the PAS President being ‘given’ any Cabinet position. And of course, silence on the part of the latter.

PAS, if it knows what’s good for itself, must seriously examine its position in Pakatan urgently. The party has a core base of voters but even they cannot continue to stand by a party that is lethargic, silent and almost anonymous on all the major issues facing Malaysia. The people need leaders, and for the past year, PAS has not been even in the mainframe, nevermind leading.

A great case in point is the dwindling support of the youth vote for PAS. It once had the Malay youth vote on virtual lockdown, but since the Manek Urai by election it has lost them slowly. PAS was almost non-present during the subsequent by elections of Bagan Pinang and Hulu Selangor, resulting in the not surprising consequence of loss of support.

PAS has always been closer to UMNO both in terms of its ideology and modus operandi. Whilst PAS is slipping away into relative obscurity, UMNO has taken a leaf from the old PAS book – going from strength to strength with non stop community programs and outreach, from the Pentas Pemuda UMNO ceramah sessions around the country to sports programs like the year long local football leagues, to Pemuda Prihatin programs focusing on welfare of the grassroots, as well as more refreshing ventures such as the BN Youth Lab.

And ultimately that is what Malaysian and especially Malay politics boils down to. Engagement and touch with the community. PAS was once famous for that. Not anymore.