The tabling of the controversial hudud Bill in the Kelantan legislative assembly has been momentous for PAS but a dilemma for its political partners.
ONE could have heard a pin drop when Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob finally stood up to table the hudud Bill at the state assembly.
It was a moment that many PAS leaders had been waiting for. The Kelantan government’s quest to implement hudud has also become a personal mission for the mentri besar who had publicly vowed to quit if he failed to do it. For Ahmad, who is cut from the ulama cloth, it was not just about introducing another legislation, it was also about performing his obligation as a Muslim.
It was a momentous point in Ahmad’s career but, surprisingly, it was Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad, the Umno assemblyman for Kok Lanas who seemed more overwhelmed by it all.
Alwi, who is a dazzling orator, was the first from the opposition bench to speak. But barely minutes into his debate, as he was quoting verses from the Quran about the duties of a government, his emotions welled over, his voice choked up and tears filled his eyes. Jaws dropped because Alwi is known for his wit and ability to make people laugh till their sides ache.
The Umno opposition assemblymen have committed to support the Bill, but Alwi also wanted to send a message to the PAS government that the implementation of “Allah’s law” must be properly done and not treated as a political tool.
“I told them Allah can give us power and also take away power just like that. Allah can make us great, Allah can also turn us to nothing. I wanted to remind them that if they don’t do what is blessed, they won’t be up there for long,” he said.
He later told reporters that his emotions overflowed because he was speaking from the heart and because “I fear God”.
All eyes have been on Kelantan’s bid to make history.
The Bill to amend the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 will go through today with the support of two parties who have traditionally been rivals for the Malay hearts and minds. They are rivals in politics but brothers in Islam.
Several notable names were missing from the House during the tabling of the Bill. They were Umno state opposition chief Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, PKR’s Guchil assemblyman Roslan Puteh, PAS’ one-time rising star Datuk Husam Musa and Umno’s Gual Ipoh assemblyman Bakri Mustapha.
Islamic law is still a novelty for the non-Muslims and the nitty-gritty of the controversial law will probably be a talking point for the next few weeks.
Umno’s unanimous support for the Kelantan move should not be equated to blind support. During the debate, Alwi had questioned the motive of PAS in pushing for a law that may fail to get the nod in Parliament.
During the debate, he asked PAS whether they had considered the fact that the private members’ Bills will fail even if all the 20 MPs from PAS and 87 from Umno gave their backing. Their combined support would not be sufficient for a simple majority vote of 112. PAS would still need Muslim MPs from PKR to come along to get a simple majority.
The thing people have to understand about PAS is that its leaders assume that all Muslim MPs will support hudud. As far as they are concerned, those who do not support will answer to their maker in the afterlife and lose the Malay vote in their current life.
The prospect of hudud has caused hardly a ripple among ordinary folk in Kelantan. It is no longer a political issue for them and besides, they had supported PAS all these years because of the promise of an Islamic state.
The repercussions is greatest among those outside of Kelantan. The average non-Muslim fears that hudud will eventually be exported to other states. Although they are exempted, they feel it will affect them indirectly in the way they live and do business.
Politically speaking the ones most affected are PAS’ partners in Pakatan Rakyat.
Up to a few months ago, DAP and PKR politicians were still telling the media that PAS would not proceed with it. But it has finally sunk in and DAP, in particular, is under pressure to explain. Their Chinese supporters want answers because DAP leaders had gone round the country during the general election assuring voters that hudud would never happen in multi-religious Malaysia.
It has been very embarrassing for the party. DAP leaders used to taunt MCA and Gerakan as “eunuchs” who could not control Umno from waving the keris. But what goes around comes around and it is clear DAP has been unable to exert any influence over PAS let alone control it.
In fact, DAP was in the dark about the hudud move until the media blew it open last year. The other irony is that yesterday was DAP’s 49th anniversary.
DAP central committee members Liew Chin Tong wrote an eloquent piece in a pro-Pakatan news portal lamenting how PAS had betrayed its partners. Liew used to wax lyrical about how open and inclusive PAS was but his rose-tinted lenses has finally come off.
PAS leaders in Kelantan are walking on cloud nine but its partners have been left high and dry.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.