On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Gesture that has spiced up Sanggang

The Opposition has demanded  that Adnan be reprimanded and  give an immediate and unconditional

Adnan's reply that he was merely reacting to the “abuses and extreme
harassment by aggressive  PAS
supporters'' was unacceptable, they argued.

They pointed out that Adnan, as  Mentri
Besar, should behave in a  more dignified

It won't be easy for Barisan to  defend
Adnan simply because  there is a
rudimentary notion of  what is wrong and
right, what is  standard and acceptable

Some people feel that Adnan  should
express remorse. Perhaps,  then, his
display of unhappiness  can be deemed a human

By coming clean, the heat on  Barisan
will dissipate. By being  defensive,
Adnan is not going to  help the voters
forget the action.

However, the blame should not  fall
solely on Adnan. The rowdy  and abusive
behaviour of many  PAS supporters,
despite their moral high ground, should not be ignored in this

None of the many opposition  leaders
present saw it fit to restrain their supporters from verbally abusing the Prime
Minister  and others.

The controversy has added some  spice to
the campaign but the  15,276 voters
should not lose sight  of the larger
issues at stake when  they cast their
votes on April 1.

Although a victory for Barisan  or PAS
would not make any difference to the political equation in the  state, the decision of the voters  would have an impact on the directions of
both parties.

With its victories in Kelantan  and
Terengganu, PAS is determined to continue pushing the  Green Tide in another east coast  state.

A win for PAS will be a boost to  the
Islamist party which has  pledged to set
up an Islamic state.  That is what the
MCA has never  failed to emphasise to the
34% Chinese voters in their campaign.

Concerned with feedback that  Chinese
voters see the by-election  as a Malay
political fight, Barisan  has urged the
community to come  out in full force on
polling day.

The MCA has painstakingly explained to its listeners that they  have a choice of “a moderate Malay and an
extremist Malay.''

In an attempt to project a more  secular
and accommodating image  to non-Muslims,
PAS has fielded  Datuk Hishamuddin Yahya,
a British-trained lawyer and businessman.

Umno has placed its bets on religious scholar Redzwan Harun,  which PAS campaigners have tried  to discredit.

Allies of PAS, the DAP and Parti  Keadilan
Nasional, seem to think  that the Chinese
have adopted a  more conciliatory tone to
PAS following the general election.

They say the PAS-led governments of Kelantan and Terengganu  have been fair and liberal to minorities. Of
course, no mention is  made about the
kharaj tax on non Muslims.

If Adnan's hand gesture is a talking point, the MCA has highlighted  to the community certain PAS banners with the
words Tolak Secularisme (Reject Secularism) on nomination day.

MCA campaigners believe they  can deliver
the Chinese votes. Adnan has also announced development allocations of
RM500,000  each to all new villages in
Pahang,  a move which will go down well  with Chinese voters.

But the support of the Chinese  alone
isn't enough because the Malays make up 59.1% of the electorate.

Barisan hopes that its method of  meeting
small groups of voters in  their homes
will be more effective  than hodling
ceramahs. Last week,  Datuk Seri Abdullah
Ahmad  Badawi turned up at the homes
of   villagers to listen to their
problems and views.

If the PAS brand of politics and 
religion is an issue among the 
Chines community, it has not escaped the Malay audience either.

The Deputy Prime Minister's  message to
Malay voters is that  PAS is not Islam
and that the argument that one party was Islamic  and the other apostate was not logical when
both parties practised  Islam.

Pak Lah has repeatedly told his 
listeners in Sanggang that he too 
would like to go to heaven, and that 
by supporting Umno it doesn't 
mean he would go to hell, as some 
PAS leaders preach.

The Islamic Studies graduate  from
Universiti Malaya, comes  from a family
of Islamic scholars.  Pak Lah's late
grandfather was a  prominent and
respected religious  scholar who remained
faithful to  Umno throughout his

His supporters have never failed  to
impress upon others that despite  his
Islamic credentials, he has never claimed to be an Islamic scholar. Neither
does he need to sport a  goatee or wear a
jubah to display  his religious
commitment, preferring moderation and a low-key approach.

Pak Lah's presence in Sanggang  has
helped allay fears among some  Chinese
that Umno will try to  counter PAS'
fundamentalism by  becoming more Islamic
to gain  back lost ground.

With just a week to go before  polling
day, both Barisan and PAS  will be
channelling their efforts on  the 1,500
new voters and those who  need more