PAS has to show proof that it did not bribe voters in the last elections.
After waiting for decades, Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS – Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) managed to return to the federal government in March 2020, despite through the backdoor. It joined the Muhyiddin-led Perikatan Nasional regime after the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan government collapsed due to Muhyiddin’s betrayal in a scheme known as the “Sheraton Move”.
The hastily glued Malay-centric backdoor government, comprising UMNO, PAS and Bersatu, would survive only 17 months under Muhyiddin Yassin, who didn’t expect himself to be toppled by UMNO. For the sake of power, however, all of them agreed to continue sticking together and nominated a clueless and incompetent UMNO vice president as the new Prime Minister – Ismail Sabri.
Turtle egg Sabri only survived for 14 months before he was forced to dissolve the Parliament in November 2022, paving the way for the 15th General Election. During Muhyiddin and Sabri’s 33-month un-elected backdoor governments, the PAS religious extremist leaders had basically done nothing to push for RUU-355, let alone to boost the country’s economy.
Coming from the horse’s mouth, deputy president of PAS – Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man – finally admitted on July 2020 that the Islamist party only fought tooth and nail for the changes to Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355) – popularly known as the RUU355 – when the party was in the opposition. The controversial RUU355 was also known as the ancient Hudud Law.
Tuan Ibrahim had no choice but to answer the tough question at the Temerloh PAS annual general meeting as the party was facing motions and pressures to make the RUU355 a reality after his party became part of the government. Why did PAS scream, whine and bitch till foaming at the mouth for the hudud when they were in the opposition, but dragged its feet from March 2020 to November 2022?
The PAS deputy president offered his jaw-dropping answer – “We used to be fiery (“berapi-api”). Of course, we were fiery because we were in the opposition. But if as the government we remain fiery, who are we being fiery against? The opposition does not need to think about the methods, systems, rules. That was not our job. That was the government’s job.”
After sleeping on the job for 33 months, PAS now said – after reverting to the Opposition once again – it is ready to support the Anwar-led Unity Government in pushing for the RUU355. While it might appear that the party was trying to score some cheap brownie points on the issue due to the upcoming six state elections, there’s another more compelling reason.
Perikatan Nasional is in self-destruction as more corrupt Bersatu leaders are being charged for corruption, not to mention internal rebellion within PAS. Nik Abduh, the son of former PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz, is pressuring party president Hadi Awang to abandon Bersatu in favour of UMNO because his strategic errors caused the loss of 15th General Election.
Last month, none of PAS leaders attended Bersatu’s annual general meeting – suggesting that the Islamist party was preparing to pull out of the alliance. It wasn’t a coincidence the absence of PAS top leaders came after Bersatu chief Muhyiddin was slapped with charges of abuse of power and money laundering. Worse, Bersatu accounts have been frozen.
It’s not rocket science that religious extremist Hadi has begun distancing from racist bigot Muhyiddin. Bersatu (Malaysian United Indigenous Party) is a sinking ship without a captain. In fact, Captain Mahiaddin (Muhyiddin) has surrendered his ship to his “Chief Mate” Hamzah Zainuddin, the party secretary general, to do as he likes by appointing him as the Opposition Leader.
Yes, neither Muhyiddin nor Hadi was interested in the future of Perikatan Nasional when they happily passed the baton to Hamzah. But now, hilariously, even Hamzah isn’t interested to turn around the ship after his son, Muhammad Faisal Hamzah, has been charged for cheating and stealing by producing fake invoices on the sale of subsidised cooking oil.
Muhyiddin, Hadi and Hamzah – mocked as the “Three Stooges” – have since been absent from Parliament and did not bother to ask any questions, especially when PM Anwar Ibrahim is there. Either the three opposition lawmakers are too afraid of the new prime minister, or they do not know how to play the role of an opposition after having tasted power for 33 months.
The biggest headache – Hadi may lose his Marang parliamentary seat after the coming Hari Raya festival. In January, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) has filed several election petitions contesting the results in a number of seats won by Perikatan Nasional over vote-buying. In February, Hadi’s attempt to object the petition was dismissed by the Terengganu Election Court.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has launched an investigation after the emergence of viral video clips of a man distributing cash to some voters who had to swear in the name of God that they would vote for PAS. The authority has identified about 90 individuals who received cash in Terengganu to vote for the Islamist party in the last 15th General Election.
Abdul Hadi Awang has actually admitted that his party did give cash to voters during the national polls. However, the despicable man twisted the vote-buying as merely “charity or donation”. Heck, he has even argued that although the laws stated only candidates and their representatives could not give cash handouts, it was acceptable if others gave them.
But MACC Chief Commissioner Azam Baki disagreed – “It does not matter if they use terms like ‘sedekah (charity)’. It is still corruption as defined under Section 10 of the Election Offences Act 1954.” The Act says bribery is deemed to have occurred when candidates or any individuals buy votes, either directly or indirectly, by giving or offering money, gifts, jobs or loans during or after the election.
Candidates (in this case PAS president Hadi Awang) can also be disqualified as elected representatives and also lose the right to contest in an election for five years if they are found guilty of committing the offence. To make matters worse, anyone found guilty can be jailed for a maximum of two years, fined between RM1,000 and RM5,000, and jailed up to a year.
At best, Hadi may lose not only his Marang seat, but also can be disqualified in the next 16th General Election. At worst, he might be sent to prison for “indirectly” bribing voters with cash to vote for PAS. The best part was gullible young Malay voters who had been promised RM350 to vote for the party was instead paid only RM100. Some who failed to claim even the RM100 cash had created chaos.
Videos of people waiting in front of a building to collect payments from PAS for voting the party have also gone viral. Crucially, the graft buster had seized documents containing particulars of cash recipients, who had to sign when they wanted to collect the money, on top of having to take an oath. That was how the anti-corruption agency managed to track down the recipients.
Last month (March), the anti-graft agency said it has sufficient evidence to start prosecuting members of the Islamist party, beginning with the man seen in the video offering the bribes. The MACC revealed it will propose to the Attorney General’s Chambers to charge the PAS representative once the court application to get voter registration documents from the Election Commission is done.
Interesting things could happen during the vote-buying trial in court. Dozens of witnesses – mostly young voters aged between 18 and 21 – are expected to testify against the man entrusted by PAS to distribute cash, who in turn might throw Hadi Awang under the bus. With overwhelming evidence and witnesses stacked against PAS, Hadi’s “donation” excuse is laughable.
The Islamist party has to show proof that it did not bribe voters in the last elections. Exactly how snake oil salesman Hadi plans to do that after publicly acknowledging cash money has been given to voters is beyond comprehension. If the court accepts his twisted argument that the bribery was charity, the MACC and Judicial might as well close shop. – Finance Twitter