PAS on the path to power?

May 19, 2012 by Dr. Farish A. Noor

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Q. Finally, a realpolitik question: It is perhaps an open secret that over the past few decades the Malaysian government has signed many MOUs, contracts and treaties with foreign governments on matters related to economics, trade, joint-security and joint-military training exercises, arms deals, development projects, etc. Malaysia has had to widen its market options to secure investments from multiple sources, and this has also meant that we have developed a very open, and therefore exposed, economy. Many of these dealings (particularly in areas such as security, intelligence-gathering, joint-defence, etc.) have not been made public, understandably. How will a PAS/PR government deal with these agreements? Will you honour them? I am asking this only because during the election campaign of 2008 some opposition candidates had publicly questioned the wisdom of bilateral/multilateral economic deals Malaysia has made in the past. So would a PAS/PR government renege or re-negotiate certain agreements?

Dr. Dzul: ‘PAS’s stand is part of the Pakatan’s, and for that I refer you to the Buku Jingga manifesto that we have issued. PAS is concerned about creating enabling conditions for there to be economic changes. So our PR programme is made up of ten points that has been laid out in the document, and the ten points deal with how we intend to reform the state and our economy.

Now note that three of the ten points deal with structural-institutional reform: We address matters like the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, and what has to be done to reform these instruments to have a more open and functioning democracy. But let me stress here that we want to see positive reform of the institutions of the state: We need these institutions, but what we want is a better, more accountable police force (PDRM), Anti corruption agency (MACC), Human right commission (Suhakam), etc.

Note also that seven of our ten points deal with economic reform: That is because PAS wants to see an end to the economic crisis this country is in. Thus our approach is one of political-economy. (Prime Minister) Najib’s policies have led our economy to this state of fiscal deficit due to fund-priming and other practices that go back to the Mahathir era. Our economic model has been the same one, and it has led us to the present state of the weakened Malaysian economy. We do not propose to continue the same policies of the BN, or to do it better. Yes of course we want growth and development, but we first need to address the concerns of 60 per cent of the population that is living on less than three thousand RM a month. We cannot simply keep up this cycle of consumption that has led us to the middle-income trap where there is now the real fear that the next generation of Malaysians will not even be able to own homes, have healthcare or any form of social welfare protection.

Furthermore we must address the question of the talent or brain drain, whereby now in Malaysia 60 per cent of the workforce has only basic SPM (O level) education. Talk of Negara Kebajikan means having to create that social security network whereby we can address the concerns of those who are caught in the middle income trap and to stop the outflow of human capital from the country, but this cannot be based on rhetoric or historical-legal reductionism into historical nostalgia.

So of course we are pragmatic. Your question suggests the worry that if PAS/PR comes to power we will simply ban everything. Will PAS close the alcohol factories in Shah Alam for instance? Of course we will not. Because economic pragmatism has to guide the policies of the Pakatan Rakyat as a whole. Things like beer factories are not the priority- the priorities have to be socio-economic equality first, for all citizens. So again when it comes to economic reform, we need to think of the Malaysian public as a whole.

In answer to your question: no, we will not wantonly cancel or renege of the economic deals that have been made before us, because the deals with other nation-states have to be respected. But though there is continuity, there must also be equity and national economic rebuilding.




[1] The ‘Allah controversy’ refers to a controversy in Malaysia over whether Bumiputera Malaysians could use the word Allah to refer to God in their Bahasa Malaysia Bibles. PAS ultimately took the stand that it was permissible for non-Muslims to use the word Allah as well, as this has been the practices of many Coptic and Eastern Church Christians in countries like Egypt for centuries, The view was upheld by the spiritual leader of PAS Ustaz Nik Aziz Nik Mat and the PAS President, Ustaz Hadi Awang.