On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Political ideals face ballot box test

PAS, he believed, would accept  the practical side of modern life  once they form the next government.

On a trip to the east coast recently to promote mak yong and  wayang kulit, he faced the harsh  realities.

PAS supporters roughed him out,  telling
him that these cultural  practices were

He is said to have had second  thoughts
about PAS since then, although he still believes that reforms are

Like some English-educated  middle-class
voters who have never established any contacts with  PAS, he was attracted to the calls  for justice and human rights by  PAS.

PAS, convinced that it will form  the
next federal government with  the backing
of Parti Keadilan Nasional, DAP and PRM, has now  openly talked about its plans to  govern the country.

In its attempts to set up an Islamic state, PAS leaders are talking about
banning the sale of liqour  and gaming

On Wednesday, PAS deputy  president Abdul
Hadi Awang went  a step further  he said the Kuala  Lumpur Stock Exchange would be  banned.

Before this, PAS spiritual adviser and Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Nik
Aziz Nik Mat proposed that women should not work.

He also justified the party's  stand to
bar women from contesting in elections, saying it was to  protect and uphold their dignity.

Party president Datuk Fadzil  Noor also
ruffled feathers with his  remarks
linking pigs with the family name of Datuk Abdullah Ahmad  Badawi.

It is normal for politicians to  claim
they have been misquoted by  the press.
This was what Fadzil did  about his

But even before that,  the party  had already shown how insensitive  it could be.

In a recent edition of Harakah, a  PAS
youth leader criticised Umno  for making
too many compromises  with other Barisan
Nasional component parties over the viral encephalitis issue.

In the April 1 issue of Detik,  which
carries the tagline Suara  Reformasi
Rakyat, the magazine  published a full
page write-up under the heading Mahathir Pelindung Cina, questioning the
ethnic  loyalty of Prime Minister Datuk  Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The newly launched magazine is  run by
writers who are known to  be openly
supportive of PAS in  their

While what they write may not 
necessarily reflect the party's official line, it provides an insight
into  the difficulties for parties
like  DAP and Keadilan to work with  PAS.

PAS leaders seem to have persistently ignored the realities and  complexities of multi-racial and  multi-religious Malaysia, preferring to make
judgments from their  narrow political interpretations.

Ideological differences would be  the
biggest obstacle to an opposition coalition and, even if such a  front is formed, it will be PAS that  will call the shots.

At this point, the opposition parties have announced that PAS will  contest in predominantly Malay  areas, the DAP in non-Malay areas  and Keadilan in mixed constituencies.

There are only so many mixed  areas to go
in the 192 seats in the  Dewan

If the opposition challenge to the 
Barisan Nasional is of any consequence, it will be Keadilan, DAP  and PRM that will deliver the votes  to PAS to form the federal government.

If former Parti Melayu Semangat 46 president Tengku Razaleigh  Hamzah had problems grappling  with PAS, it is doubtful whether  Keadilan president Datin Seri Dr  Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and her  deputy Dr Chandra Muzaffar are  capable of reaching an understanding with its

It will be even more difficult for  DAP
secretary-general Lim Kit  Siang to do
so, considering the  emerging unhappiness
among his  members over the party's
unofficial ties with PAS.

Surely, the DAP is aware of the 
sentiments of moderate Malaysians over some of the unorthodox  pronouncements of PAS.

Perhaps for this reason, DAP  deputy
secretary-general Chong  Eng decided to
put on record the  party's unhappiness
over Fadzil's  remark.

In a nutshell, PAS wants to set up  an
Islamic state, Keadilan wants  Anwar
installed as prime minister,  the DAP
wants to win non-Malay  seats and the PRM
hopes to make  its debut in

Keadilan has, without spelling  out the
details, told its non-Muslim  listeners
that it wants a fairer distribution of wealth among Malaysians.

But it still wants the New Economic Policy and the special privileges of Malays
to remain as it realises the importance of securing  Malay votes.

That is the bottom line of the entire affair. 
Any political party, including the communist party will  tell its people that it is fighting for  justice.

We should not be so naive as to  draw a
distinction between the  good and bad
guys in Malaysian  politics.

PAS politicians, with their dressing, may look pious but at the end  of the day, they are still politicians.

We must admit that there are  flaws in
our system but it is a  workable system.
Call it reform,  renewal and change,
whatever, but  we all understand that we
must  take bold steps to improve

The world is opening up and so  must we.
A whole new generation  has grown up
demanding changes  and we must be
sensitive to its  calls to stay relevant
in the next  millenium.

Status quo is not a dirty word.  Neither
is reform. But we must  never dismantle a
parliamentary  system that has worked

We can have a European-styled 
proportional voting system or the 
British-inherited “first past the 
post'' voting system but the ballot 
box remains the answer to political 

Those who advocate political  change must
ask whether they  want to instal a PAS
government  which has no blueprint of
what the  party wants to do to administer
a  modern and complex Malaysia.

Wine, working mothers, gaming  and beauty
contests may seem superficial and trivial when compared to more lofty ideals
like human rights and justice but they 
are, nevertheless, issues close to 
the people's hearts.

After all, the daily cultural practices of Malaysians are more relevant at the
end of the day.

Anwar has yet to join PAS or  Keadilan
until now, setting off  speculation that
he, perhaps, still  harbours hopes of
rejoining Umno;  a party that will make a