I would describe the understanding reached in the dialogues and discussions between DAP leaders and the Terengganu Mentri Besar, Haji Hadi Ahmad Awang, Kelantan Mentri Besar, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz and the Senior PAS Exco leaders in both states as the second millennium milestone in Malaysian politics to break the shackles of the politics of the past to create a political paradigm shift where Malaysian politics will not be so dominated by race and religion but become issues-based as on questions of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
The first millennium milestone in Malaysian politics to break the shackles of the past was the coming-together of the four Opposition parties, DAP, PAS, KeADILan and PRM to form the Barisan Alternative on the common manifesto "Towards A Just Malaysia".
Unfortunately, the unprecedented opportunity to break the Barisan Nasional political hegemony and two-thirds parliamentary majority in the recent general election was lost because of the dirtiest general election in the nationís history.
In the campaign, Barisan Nasional launched a most dishonest, irresponsible and vicious campaign of falsehoods and fear, threatening the Malays that "DAP + PAS = Hancur Islam" while among the Chinese, frightening them that a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and Islamic state.
In Bukit Bendera, MCA/Gerakan campaign workers scared the Chinese voters with the falsehood that if I was elected as Member of Parliament, there would be no pork, no alcohol, no karaoke, no temples, pretty women cannot work and there would be the chopping of hands and feet.
The Malays did not fall prey to the Barisan Nasional campaign of falsehoods and fear and voted strongly for change, but the Chinese, although they also want reform, succumbed to the Barisan Nasional campaign and swung against the DAP and the Barisan Alternative.
As a result, the DAP became the biggest casualty in the Barisan Alternative, as we suffered a second consecutive election catastrophe after the 1995 general election.
This plunged the DAP into a financial precipice, and we now face the stark prospect of impending financial collapse.
But this is still not our primary concern - which is whether the political breakthrough achieved by the co-operation of the four Opposition parties in Barisan Agenda on the common manifesto "Towards A Just Malaysia" can hold together as the new basis of alternative politics to the Barisan Nasional juggernaut.
The new PAS Teregannu state government had the best start of any new government in the 42-year Malaysian history, with Hadiís bold and innovative measures in the first few days of his administration, as the abolition of the bridge toll, the abolition of assessment tax and quit rent for residential land, three-month maternity leave in the state civil service, the five-day week, interest-free loans for civil servants, his leadership by example in not staying in the Mentri Besarís official residence and not taking the housing allowance given to the Mentri Besar, the decision that he and all State Exco members would publicly declare their assets, and the establishment of the hisbah portfolio under the former Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas - which is equivalent to an ombudsman - to deal with public complaints over maladministration in the state government and wrongdoings.
There are things which the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the Federal Government can learn from the new PAS Terengganu State Government, as in requiring all Cabinet Ministers to publicly declare their assets and the establishment of a National Ombudsman or a Parliamentary Commissioner to receive and investigate public complaints about maladministration, abuses of power and other malpractices in the public service.
Unfortunately, the great start of the new PAS Terengganu state government, fully in line with the principles of justice, freedom and good governance which form the bedrock of the Barisan Alternative common manifesto "Towards A Just Malaysia" and which received the accolades of Malaysians not only in the state but throughout the country, regardless of race, religion and political beliefs, was completely overshadowed four days later.
For the past two weeks, when Malaysians talked about the Terengganu PAS state government, it was not about Hadiís leadership by example to provide clean, honest and just government, but the issue of kharaj, with the Barisan Nasional-controlled media stirring up fears that the new Terengganu PAS state government represents a new wave of infringement of the rights and sensitivities of the non-Muslim and non-Malay communities.
There is no doubt that if the advent of a new PAS government in Terengganu marks a new wave of infringement of the rights and sensitivities of the non-Muslim and non-Malay communities, it would be untenable for the DAP to continue to be associated with the Barisan Alternative.
This is why after the Nov. 29, 1999 general election, this is the most important issue to be resolved before there could be any serious talk about the future of the Barisan Alternative in the post-election scenario.
This is the reason why the DAP Central Executive Committee decided at its meeting on Dec. 12, 1999 to send a delegation to Terengganu and Kelantan to meet the Mentris Besar and the PAS leaders in the two states to exchange views on their plans and proposals.
The DAP delegation comprised:
In our dialogues with Hadi, Nik Aziz and the PAS leaders of Terengganu and Kelantan, (as well as with PAS leaders from other parts of Malaysia, as I was invited to address all the newly-elected 27 MPs and 98 State Assemblymen of PAS in their first post-election conference in Kota Bharu yesterday), DAP and PAS have reached a breakthrough with a meeting of minds on the issues which we discussed.
Kharaj tax and respect for the rights of non-Muslims
Hadi agreed that the kharaj tax would not be imposed on non-Muslims against their wishes. The proposed kharaj tax is still at the proposal stage under the responsibility of Harun Taib, the State Education, Dakwah and Syariah Implementation Committee. In the state government study, there would be the fullest consultation with the non-Muslim communities as well as with the Barisan Alternative Leaders' Consultative Council.
Hadi gave the assurance that the Terengganu PAS state government would fully respect the rights and sensitivities of non-Muslims and that the same principle of having the fullest public consultation and not imposing against the wishes of non-Muslims would apply not only to kharaj but to all other proposals which could be perceived as affecting the rights and sensitivities of other races and religions.
In keeping with this new state government commitment to respect freedom of religion, Hadi said he would positively consider the applications by the Kuala Terengganu Buddhist Association, Kuala Terengganu Catholic Church and the
Terengganu Prebysterian Church for renovation or new building/church although these applications had been submitted to the previous UMNO state government but no approval had been given.
I would suggest that the three religious organisations should immediately pursue the matter with the new PAS state government and the DAP is prepared to help if they should face any difficulties.
In our dialogue with the Kelantan state government yesterday, Nik Aziz said the Kelantan State Government will wait for the outcome of the Terengganu state government's study on the kharaj issue.
Constitution amendment for nominated Assemblymen for minorities
DAP welcomes the open-minded attitude of both Hadi and Nik Aziz on the proposal for the amendment to the respective State Constitutions for nominated Assemblymen for minorities.
The Terengganu state government also assured that it would appoint Chinese in the Municipal and District Councillors, with two seats reserved for Chinese in the Kuala Terengganu Municipal Council when it is reconstituted shortly.
Lift of ban on rearing and slaughter of pigs
DAP welcomes the decision of the Terengganu state government decision to lift the ban on rearing and slaughter of pigs imposed by the previous Barisan Nasional state government for the past ten years. I just cannot understand how MCA could agree to the ban on the rearing and slaughter of pigs in the Terengganu state when it had a State Exco member. As the MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik was also the MCA leader for the whole period of the ban, he should publicly apologise on behalf of the MCA for agreeing to the ban on the rearing and slaughter of pigs in Terengganu for the past ten years and he should thank Hadi and PAS for lifting this ban!
State Government allocation for Chinese and Tamil primary schools Both Hadi and Nik Aziz agreed to give serious consideration to the DAP proposal that the state governments of Terengganu and Kelantan give a fixed and regular allocation to Chinese and Tamil primary schools as recognition and appreciation of their contribution to national development, as the Federal government had not been fair in allocation of funds to these schools.
Fair allocation of development projects, low-cost housing, hawker
DAP leaders raised this issue, and Hadi gave an assurance that the PAS state government would observe the principle of justice and would be fair in the allocation of development projects, low-cost housing and hawker license/stalls, based on need and that there would be no discrimination whether because of race or cronyism as practised by the previous UMNO state government.
DAP leaders find the dialogues with Hadi, Nik Aziz and other PAS leaders very satisfactory and productive, demonstrating that the guiding principles of the Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance can be sustained as the basis for the continued co-operation and political mobilization of the Barisan Alternative.