Sunday, 12 July 2009

Hardline stances soften


NST 2009/07/12

CALLING Umno anti-Islam or infidels used to work to a tee. Over the years, however, the demonising of Umno, even in rural Kelantan, has proven counter-productive for Pas.

In the past, constituencies where there was bitter Umno-Pas rivalry, supporters of both parties would stay away from each other.

No way would they attend weddings or funerals of rival members or their kin. That would have been akin to a crime. Villages with two penghulu and two imam were common.

Today, the situation has improved. People are braver. Perhaps, education has enhanced awareness,

No longer do thoughts of being in the presence of Umno leaders cause Pas supporters in the villages, to quiver.

Perhaps that was why leaders like Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat are spicing their ceramah with stories of Chin Peng, Ayah Pin and the Abuya of Al-Arqam.

At a ceramah in Chuchuh Puteri on Tuesday night, the Pas spiritual leader likened Umno to communist terrorists and religious deviants.

A fortnight ago at a ceramah in Kampung Laloh, Nik Aziz had in his company DAP vice-chairman Tan Seng Giaw.

A growing legion of young voters may not be as easily swayed.

A Kampung Pahi resident, who works at the South Kelantan Development Board, said things had changed over the years.

"Previously, no one in my village would dare to attend even a small coffeeshop gathering with Umno or BN supporters, what more members and leaders.

"We would be severely chastised by our imam at the mosque. Our family will be made to look like outcasts among the congregation and in the village, but now things have changed."

He said people simply wanted a better future for their children.

Nordin Abdul Rahman, a 42-year-old family man who has lived in Manik Urai all his life, expressed hope that fellow villagers would re-assess their political allegiances and choose a reliable candidate as assemblyman.

But time seems to be standing still in Kampung Temalir where people claim that the imam is discriminating and intimidating villagers who are sympathetic to Umno.

"He is a relatively young guy, maybe in his late 30s, and is more a Pas politician than an imam. He doesn't even go for funerals if the deceased is branded as 'Umno' or 'BN'.

"But an increasing number of villagers are actually keeping away from him now. He cannot try to fool us, more so the youngsters who are more aware of the situation," said Alizuan Ibrahim, 49, of Temalir Bestari.

Alizuan is an Umno branch head, who had in the past been chased away by pro-Pas villagers and had been the target of scorn and ridicule for his politics.

"The womenfolk in the village also appear to be breaking away from Pas' mental shackles. We are more concerned about the future, especially that of our children.

"Islam is our guiding light but I have doubts if Pas' brand of Islam could guide us towards a better life. There seems to be more hatred than love in Pas, and we Malays are beginning to realise the situation," says Zabidah Zakaria, 44, also from Temalir. The housewife believes there is renewed confidence in the Umno leadership.

Security guard Pok Leman feels Datuk Seri Najib Razak "will be a good prime minister like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed".

"We have Tok Pa (Datuk Mustapa Mohamed) here. I won't be surprised if the people of Manik Urai give their support to Umno this time around. The political situation is definitely changing," said the 63-year-old.

It will be a straight fight in Tuesday's by-election between BN candidate Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, 39, and Pas candidate Mohd Fauzi Abdullah, 50.

Name-calling and demonising aside, will voters want change and throw their support behind Umno or remain faithful to Pas?

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