The little matter of trust at stake in PAS’ 60th muktamar

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KUALA LUMPUR: For a party that is so obsessed with the principle of amanah (trust), PAS is in a bizarre position as the Islamist party has lost so much trust in so little time since the 13th general election last year when the coalition it is a part of won more federal seats.

But the Selangor menteri besar (MB) impasse has put the spotlight on the party’s 60th muktamar (general assembly) next week where the question is about how much of that lost trust it wants to win back.

As PAS heads into its assembly, this deficit of trust is like a wound that splits its upper echelons all the way down to the people who voted them in. Its leaders cannot trust each other to carry out collective decisions. Its partners in Pakatan Rakyat cannot trust PAS will support their schemes in the states they rule.

Voters, meanwhile, can’t trust them not to sneak in a controversial, constitution-changing religious law when they’re in power.

Although there is much talk of whether party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang will be censured or ousted for his actions in the Selangor MB impasse, observers feel that it will not change the fact that the Islamist party has probably reached a certain ideological limit.

How it behaved in the Kelantan Hudud Bill issue and the Selangor MB crisis showed that the party is unable to reconcile some of its long-held aims with the demands of working in a modern political coalition.

This general assembly will then be about whether the party has the imagination and courage to transcend those limits.

A senior PAS leader did not want to sugar-coat the mood in the party when asked about his thoughts going into the muktamar. “It’s bleak,” said the PAS leader who requested anonymity.

The point of no return was when Abdul Hadi decided to ignore his central committee’s decision on who to nominate to replace Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as the Selangor MB.

Political analyst Dr Wong Chin Huat said Abdul Hadi’s move undermined one of the key tenets of modern political parties in that they must be predictable and follow certain rules.

Since a president is beholden to a collective decision made by his central committee, he should predictably follow it through.

This anger towards Abdul Hadi’s conduct is expected to make itself felt in the assembly either through speeches from the floor or a motion of no confidence against him.

PAS information chief Datuk Mahfuz Omar said to date, there has not been any application for a motion against the president. But according to party sources, there are provisions for an emergency motion of that sort.

But even if Abdul Hadi is replaced, there still remains the fact that PAS’ conservatives still have a strong grip on the party. And it is these ideologues who will continue to push for hudud law and the establishment of an Islamic state.

The pursuit of these aims will continue to make it hard for PAS to work with its more secular allies in Pakatan and more importantly to convince non-Muslims to vote for it again. This is the element in PAS that is even trickier to solve than an errant president.

Replacing Abdul Hadi could help PAS restore trust among its allies. But reassessing its leadership doctrine could produce a line of leaders who could restore the public’s trust. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 17, 2014.