The head of Malaysia’s hardline Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has been fighting for the introduction of strict Islamic criminal law that includes amputation and stoning to death as punishments in the multi-racial country, sat down for an interview with BenarNews this week.
The 70-year-old Abdul Hadi Awang, who has led the party for the last 16 years, answered a range of questions – from his party’s push for a strict Islamic penal code to the “kingmaker” role it is expected to play in upcoming elections.
Excerpts of the interview with Abdul Hadi:
BenarNews: What are the key elements of the PAS election campaign?
Abdul Hadi Awang: PAS will use Islam as the platform in its campaign for the upcoming GE14, where our fight is to show that all administrative matters have to be based on religion. Development too will have to be based on Islamic principles.
We are strict on this and the Islamic principles cannot be bulldozed … We respect the ideologies of other parties but when it comes to Islam, we cannot tolerate that and everyone has to respect this basic principl.
This has been PAS’s platform since the beginning, and this will be the thrust of our struggle.
BN: How do you see support for PAS in the 14th general election?
AHA: There is an increase in support for the party. That is why … BN has redrawn the electoral map.
If we look closely in Terengganu, the areas … controlled by PAS have nearly 100,000 voters, while the areas controlled by BN have about 40,000 voters.
This shows PAS continues to gain support, and this frightens the present BN government.
BN: Do you see others supporting PAS? Why would ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indians vote for PAS?
AHA: When we won Kelantan and Terengganu, others – the non-Muslim communities like the Chinese and Indians – witnessed our style of administration where no one was denied their rights, even though they were not Muslims.
This has given them the confidence to support PAS like in the previous election, and the party is confident they will continue to support PAS based on the fairness that we showed during our administration .
BN: Will the adoption of Islamic criminal law be a key component of the PAS campaign in the elections? If so, how would PAS achieve this?
AHA: Championing Islam is our responsibility as Muslims. We will be the kingmaker.
… The BN [Barisan Nasional] and PH [Pakatan Harapan] will not able to get the majority to form a government. PAS would make the difference.
In order for them to form a government, they have to rope in PAS and we have one condition if that happens – that would be for Islam to be made the foundation of any government administration.
If they refuse to accept our condition, we are fine being the opposition but the question here is how can they form a government without [a] majority? Because of this, PAS is confident that they will finally accept our condition.
BN: Will PAS work together with Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan in the coming election?
AHA: We are not going to be [cooperating] with BN and PH.
We have Gagasan Sejahtera, a coalition of four parties – namely PAS, the Love Malaysia Party [PCM], Parti Next Gen and the Malaysia National Alliance Party [Ikatan] that will contest under the PAS logo, where we will contest for 160 seats and maybe more.
All will be revealed on April 19 [when PAS would reveal its slate of candidates for the elections]. So in this coming election, we can see three main logos and those will be BN, the People’s Justice Party [PKR] and PAS.
BN: Can PAS retain its seats in parliament and the state assemblies as well as retain control of Kelantan state?
AHA: PAS is confident about winning 40 parliamentary seats, and will retain Kelantan state and recapture Terengganu.
PAS also predicts it will win key seats in Kedah, Perak, Pahang and Selangor, where the state governments cannot be formed without the support from PAS. PAS is also expected to win state seats in Sabah, Negri Sembilan, Johor, Malacca and Penang.
BN: Will this year’s election be a fair one?
AHA: [T]here has never been a fair election because BN, the ruling coalition, has always made changes …
It does not matter because PAS will contest [the election], and it does not matter how they make it unfair [for us] ... We had made big gains and suffered big losses previously but we never boycotted an election, even when we only won one seat.
We will accept the challenge and will face it with courage.
BN: A former PAS leader has alleged that the ruling UMNO party paid 90 million ringgit (U.S. $23.1 million) to PAS to help your party. How do you respond to this allegation?
AHA: [I]t’s a lie. How can BN donate 90 million ringgit to PAS, a party that would never be with them in the coming election?
We do not see this as a main issue because [the party’s] grassroots are aware that PAS is not a weak party that has to accept a donation from BN …
Former PAS leaders can continue to spread the false allegation but the grassroots and the supporters will not accept it because the evidence shows that PAS never received it.
BN: Is PAS fully geared for this election?
AHA: Of course we are. We have our members and supporters at the grassroots who are ready to fight.
They are in all electoral areas, including the voting centers. These are the people who will always fight and support PAS because they are very loyal.