On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A choice that will leave lasting impact

The tourists' offence: eating when Muslims were
performing their prayers.

The customers scurried off, leaving their half-eaten food, and the terrified
hawkers hid behind their stalls.

That was the first impression, and probably a lasting one, for Salim, a
seasoned journalist.

Since PAS took over Kelantan and Terengganu, it has banned unisex hair salons,
segregated men and women at supermarket checkout counters and even banned women
from performing in cultural performances for non-Muslims.

But PAS is not bothered with what Muslims in Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Johor
think about them.

Two weeks ago, PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat objected to Parti
Rakyat Malaysia president Dr Syed Husin Ali contesting a seat in Kota

The reason was simply because Dr Syed Husin was not Muslim enough. He said PAS
could not accept the former Universiti Malaya lecturer because of his socialist

Socialism, the Kelantan Mentri Besar argued, was related to communism.

In Nik Aziz's own words: "Adik kepada komunis".

Predictably, Dr Syed Husin said he was shocked and hurt by Nik Aziz's remarks
but he did not want to clash with Nik Aziz.

Dr Syed Husin, who has never backed out of a fight with the Government, decided
to pull out of the race altogether, which could have possibly been his last
general election.

He has fought in four elections and never won any. In the 1999 elections, he
lost to Barisan Nasional's Datuk Donald Lim in Petaling Jaya Selatan, who won
with a 3,912-vote majority.

Next came the stunner from PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang who vowed
that should PAS come to power, it would amend the Federal Constitution to allow
only a Muslim to become the prime minister.

It is an accepted convention among all the races in Malaysia that only a Malay
would become the prime minister. That is the political reality as Malays make
up the majority ethnic group.

The suggestion by PAS, aimed at whipping up religious sentiment, is dangerous
and would have far reaching consequences in our multi-religious, multi-ethnic and
multi-cultural society.

If only a non-Muslim can become prime minister, then it would not be possible
for Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon or Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan to become chief
minister of their state. It would only be reserved for PAS' mullahs.

But no one can fault PAS for being inconsistent – it has said it over and over
again that it wants to set up a theocratic country. Only Muslims would have a
role in governing the kind of Islamic country envisaged by the likes of Hadi
and Nik Aziz. Non-Muslims would be appointed to minor positions but would have
no executive role in policy making.

Seduced by the possibility of forming the federal government, the DAP readily
embraced PAS in 1990 and paid dearly for the relationship.

Power sharing has been the hallmark of the Barisan Nasional since the days of
the Alliance under the leadership of Tunku Abdul Rahman and, now, the Barisan
Nasional under Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Even a minor party like People's Progressive Party gets its share of the leadership
although the dominant parties like Umno, MCA and MIC could have total control.
Despite the creation of 26 new parliamentary seats, Umno asked for only 10
seats with the rest distributed among its partners.

PAS has promised that under its rule, all Malaysians would be treated equally
and there would no racial discrimination.

It may sound pleasant to many non-bumiputras except that non-Muslims would be
treated under different laws.

In fact, PAS has made it clear that affirmative action, race and religious
classification would remain. Syariah would be the supreme law of the land,
replacing the Federal Constitution.

But equally disturbing is the failure of Parti Keadilan Nasional and Parti
Rakyat Malaysia leaders to respond to Hadi's stand. The leaders of Keadilan
extol the virtues of openness but have kept their silence on these issues. The
party offers no principled position.

In 1999, a large segment of Malaysians supported the opposition because they
were fed up with the opportunistic policies of the government but now, the
opposition leaders are displaying the same opportunistic policies for political

Despite their talk of social justice, Keadilan candidates like Tian Chua and
R.Sivarasaare too timid to criticise PAS because of realpolitik. They are more
concerned with securing votes from PAS supporters than principles.

Nik Aziz's talk of promising a passage to heaven for voting PAS can hardly
inspire confidence among non-Muslims.

It is fine for opposition candidates to talk about wanting to "make noise" in
Parliament but until now neither Keadilan nor PRM have come out with a clear
public position on numerous issues.

In a plural society, it is a tough act trying to hold the nation together. Very
few nations have the kind of track record Barisan has.

When Malaysians go to the polls on Sunday, it is not just a question whether
they want a politician who can make noise in Parliament or one who can bring
development to them.

It goes beyond. In their hands is the future of Malaysia – a progressive and
modern Malaysia or a theocratic government that runs contrary to beliefs and