DATUK Seri Hadi Awang has been at the centre of a raging storm.
But he was the picture of calm and composure when he stood up to speak on RUU355, the Private Member’s Bill that has had the nation divided the last two years.
Legally speaking, RUU355 has not gone very far since the day Hadi tried to table it in Parliament.
But politically speaking, the Marang MP and PAS president has made history because no other Private Member’s Bill has apparently ever come this far in the history of Parliament.
The fact that he was able to do so while taking centre stage on Thursday suggests that the romance between Umno and PAS is still on.
Some thought the courtship would be over after Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced last week that the Government would not take over RUU355, as the motion to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 is known.
But the House ploughed through all the government matters until 4.45am Thursday to clear the path for Hadi to table his baby and say his piece.
What he said was not new. The thing that had people sitting up and taking notice was the way the Umno backbenchers on the other side thumped their tables in agreement as Hadi spoke.
It was yet another reminder of how this issue has brought together two parties that were once at each other’s throats.
RUU355 is technically still at square one because the Speaker did not allow for a debate or a vote on the motion.
But what a show it has been for Hadi and Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, who seconded the Bill and used the occasion to ramble on for almost two hours.
The RUU355 issue will continue for a while more.
It is uncharted territory for lawmakers and it is anyone’s guess how it will end when Parliament reconvenes in July.
The whole affair has been what a political commentator described as a seminal moment in history.
The jury is still out on who are the winners and losers in this political drama.
Hadi failed to get RUU355 through but he has succeeded in demonstrating the power of the Islamic voice. He is certainly not a loser here.
He was front-page news in Utusan Malaysia which featured him with a crimson headline: Jangan Permainkan Islam (Don’t belittle Islam).
But Hadi may have to share the podium with Umno president Najib, who has turned the political dynamics to his advantage.
There have been some pretty astute acrobatics on Najib’s part. He needed PAS to be the spoiler in the Opposition coalition and for that to happen, he had to keep Hadi on board.
The relationship between PAS and the rest of the Opposition looks like it has completely broken down.
The non-Muslim political parties have claimed credit for their check-and-balance role.
They screamed, they opposed and spoke up, but the reality is that they are seriously outnumbered.
The thought running through the mind of a non-Malay MP as he watched Thursday’s proceedings was: We do not have the numbers to drown the Bill, we cannot control where it is going and we cannot speak up or else they will accuse us of being against Islam.
Islamic issues are not going to go away. Politics is a numbers game, the Muslims have the numbers and issues concerning their religion will continue to dominate national politics.
It is a wake-up call especially for Chinese parties whose influence will wane as their population dwindles.
Non-Muslim political parties, said the commentator, will have to do some hard thinking and ask themselves some tough questions.
How do they approach Islamic issues without being branded anti-Islam? How do they defend minority rights?
How do they cope with the Islamisation of society? How do they remain relevant in the face of the changing demographics?
“The non-Muslim political parties are at a crossroads. It is going to be a fight for political relevance,” said the commentator.
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