Thursday 11 August 2011

Phantom voters, Christian bogey a 'flashback' to Sabah

If the Sabah PBS government's experience is anything to go by, the timing of the church raid in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, may not be entirely coincidental, veteran Sabah politicians say.

yong teck lee sabah sapp party pc 230409 02According to SAPP president Yong Teck Lee, the "Christianisation bogey" is an old tactic that shows "parallels between Selangor today and PBS-era Sabah".

According to Yong - who with former PKR vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan had in the 1980s unearthed 33,000 alleged cases of 'phantom voters' - "Christianisation" on PBS' watch was used as a form of distraction.

"The Christianisation bogey was used... to drive Muslims to Umno, (while) the abuse of phantom voters, using foreigners, was done covertly," the former Sabah chief minister told Malaysiakini in a text message.

Jeffrey, who was part of the PBS government in 1994, agreed that the incidents in Selangor today were "an exact rerun" of what had happened in Sabah.

Who gains from proselytisation issue?

Jeffrey, who led the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the 1980s, together with Yong found incidents of duplication, and triplication of identity cards on the electoral roll, and this was met by the BN side with allegations of bigotry.

kitingan project ic 250107 jeffery kitingan"Islamic NGOs linked to (then Berjaya-chief) Harris Salleh turned the issue around to make it racial and religious, saying that we were only focusing on the growth of the Malay-Muslim population," he said.

However, both the Sabah strongmen believe that such old tactics are unlikely to gain much traction today as the electorate is more sophisticated and can see that the Christianisation bogey is "merely political".

Nevertheless, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad is a bit more wary, saying that the timing of the church raid - when Pakatan was bringing up alleged cases of permanent residents found to be voters in Selangor - has managed to throw the opposition back on the defensive in the lead-up to the general election.

The Selangor PAS deputy commissioner added that subsequent attacks by BN on the Islamic party raises suspicions of the raid being engineered for "political mileage".

"How can such a raid happen without the knowledge of the Selangor exco member on Islamic affairs and the Jais director, who were only informed after the incident? It implies the possibility of outside interference," he said.

Can PAS maintain a united front?

Attacks from the BN, however, did not only drive a wedge between PAS and its Pakatan Rakyat partners, but also sowed rifts within the Islamic party.

Youth chief Nasruddin Hassan, for example, said that he supported the church raid, despite the leadership reserving judgment until they have spoken to the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) and the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC).

"The youth wing wants to show that they are taking the issue seriously, but the party wants to be fair on this.

NONE"Our stand has always been the rejection of proselytising of Muslims, as stated in the federal constitution, and anyone who is guilty of doing so should be dealt with accordingly," Khalid said.

However, the allegation of proselytising must be backed up with evidence.

The effective and convincing delivery of this united stand, said political scientist Wong Chin Huat, could determine whether BN could regain ground lost after the July 9 rally, particularly among Malay voters.

"If PAS is divided on this, then it can partially undo the headway it gained post-Bersih 2.0, although I doubt this will happen in Kelantan and Terengganu.

"Some effect is, however, expected among Malay voters on the west coast, including Kedah, who have shown a greater tendency to feel under siege when it comes to issues of religion," he said.

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