Rightly or wrongly, Wong’s article is seen as the opening salvo of the MCA post-election campaign to imprint in the Chinese psyche by the next general election, that the DAP and I in particular, have become apologists for PAS and an Islamic state.
Before I deal separately with the insidious insinuations and dishonest slant in Wong’s article, its motives, methodology and hidden agenda, let me first put the record straight on several points made in the article.
Writing about "the negative side" of DAP’s decision to continue
co-operation with PAS in the Barisan Alternative, Wong said:
"PAS leaders have not committed themselves to anything; all they have said, according to the DAP, is they are willing to have discussions with non-Muslims."
Wong is either ignorant or plain dishonest when he said that "So far, it is only the DAP leaders who are saying that the PAS leaders are prepared to be accommodative".
The following is an AFP report dated December 15, 1999 under the heading
"Malaysia's Islamic opposition pledges to respect non-Muslim rights"
Malaysia's Islamic opposition promised Wednesday to respect the rights of non-Muslims in a state it rules after a ‘friendly and fruitful’ meeting with its Chinese-dominated allied party.
"Terengganu chief minister Abdul Hadi Awang said he assured leaders from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) that a proposed religious-based tax would not be forced on non-Muslim businesses.
"He said he told the DAP delegation led by chairman Lim Kit Siang that the state government would hold dialogues to explain the controversial plan, which has met a storm of protest.
"Those who opposed the idea were influenced by the propaganda of the ruling National Front coalition, he charged.
"Abdul Hadi said the state government under the Parti Islam SeMalaysia has also decided to allow ethnic Chinese to rear and sell pigs.
"’We will respect the rights of non-Muslims,’ he told AFP by telephone from the state capital Kuala Terengganu. ‘But they must identify a suitable location (to rear pigs) in their applications.’"
Utusan Malaysia of 16th December 1999 under the heading "Bukan Islam
diberi pilihan kharaj atau cukai tanah" states:
"Oleh Marzita Abdullah
"KUALA TERENGGANU 15 Dis. - Kerajaan Pas Terengganu yang sebelum ini dikritik hebat oleh bukan Islam kerana mahu melaksanakan kharaj (cukai) ke atas mereka, hari ini memberi pilihan pula masyarakat itu sama ada mahu dikenakan cukai tersebut atau cukai tanah.
"Menteri Besar, Abdul Hadi Awang berkata, keputusan itu dibuat kerana undang-undang Islam tidak membenarkan dua jenis cukai dilaksanakan.
"Justeru katanya, terpulanglah kepada masyarakat bukan Islam di negeri ini sama ada mahu menerima kharaj atau meneruskan sistem lama yang diamalkan sebelum ini.
''’Terpulang kepada mereka sama ada mereka memilih kharaj atau cukai tanah kerana Islam tidak membenarkan dua cukai,’ katanya.
"Namun begitu katanya, kharaj tidak akan dilaksanakan secara automatik kerana ia masih di peringkat kajian menyeluruh yang menyentuh pelbagai aspek.
''’Ini termasuklah dari segi penerimaan rakyat terhadap sistem baru itu,’ katanya.
"Beliau juga menegaskan bahawa sebarang pelaksanaan dasar baru di negeri ini terutama membabitkan masyarakat bukan Islam akan dirunding terlebih dahulu dengan majlis barisan alternatif (BA) di peringkat pusat.
''’Ini memperlihatkan bahawa kerajaan Pas Terengganu akan terus mengadakan kerjasama dengan BA dan hubungan kami adalah baik tidak seperti yang digembar-gemburkan sebelum ini,’' katanya.
"Beliau berkata demikian kepada para pemberita selepas mengadakan pertemuan dengan barisan pemimpin tertinggi DAP yang diketuai oleh Pengerusinya, Lim Kit Siang di pejabatnya di sini hari ini.
"Abdul Hadi juga berkata, bagi merealisasikan ekonomi Islam di negeri ini pinjaman tanpa faedah kepada mereka yang memerlukan rumah turut diberi kepada seluruh rakyat termasuk bukan Islam.
''’Ini membabitkan kerajaan negeri dan terpulang kepada masyarakat bukan Islam sama ada mahu pinjaman tanpa faedah tanpa mengambil keuntungan ataupun mereka memilih cara konvensional,’ katanya.
"Beliau juga menegaskan, kerajaan negeri tidak akan melaksanakan apa yang dirancang secara tergesa-gesa bagi menjamin keadilan berlaku terhadap seluruh rakyat tanpa mengira agama dan fahaman politik.
"Beliau menegaskan sebarang dasar yang akan dibuat oleh kerajaan negeri akan dipraktikkan melalui syura rakyat bukan sahaja melalui perbahasan Dewan Undang Negeri tetapi juga melalui dialog.
"Menurutnya, dialog itu akan diadakan dari semasa ke semasa khususnya kepada masyarakat bukan Islam mengenai perundangan Islam itu sendiri."
With such incontrovertible evidence, is Wong prepared to admit that he had violated one of the fundamental canons of journalism that "Opinions are free but facts are sacred" when he claimed that "So far, it is only the DAP leaders who are saying that the PAS leaders are prepared to be accommodative" and that ""PAS leaders have not committed themselves to anything; all they have said, according to the DAP, is they are willing to have discussions with non-Muslims."
But this is not the only occasion where Wong had been very stingy
with facts. For instance, he wrote:
"Neither should non-Muslims be relieved by his statement that non-Muslims would be appointed to various municipal and district councils.
"These are minor concessions by PAS to get the support of non-Muslims for a greater agenda of setting up an Islamic state, which the PAS leaders have openly stated."
I agree with Wong that Hadi’s assurances that Buddhists and Christians would be allowed to build their own places of worship is merely respecting what is already guaranteed in the Federal Constitution.
Wong however is not being honest when he suggested that Hadi’s assurances are immaterial and inconsequential, especially as the MCA and Gerakan had made the last general election the dirtiest in the nation’s history with their campaign of falsehoods and fear which misled, confused and scared the Chinese voters to reject the DAP on the ground that a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and that PAS poses the greatest threat to the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the Chinese.
In the Bukit Bendera constituency, the Chinese voters were told by the MCA and Gerakan that if I am elected, there would be no pork, no alcohol, no karaokes, no temples, no Chinese schools, beautiful women cannot find jobs and that there would be the chopping of hands and feet.
Surely, after the MCA campaign of falsehoods and scare, Hadi’s assurances that all the fears of the Chinese are baseless and that PAS state governments would respect the constitutional rights of the Chinese is important news and should be blazoned as front-page headline in the Star.
Did the Star give fair and adequate coverage to the assurances given by Hadi that kharaj would not be imposed on non-Muslims against their wishes? No, Star is not interested in publishing facts but only want to pursue the MCA agenda to fan fear among the Chinese, as carrying the report "Non-Muslim body objects to kharaj proposal" on 16th December 1999 and a Page 2 headline "Kharaj will scare investors" on December 18, 1999, ignoring the breakthrough agreement reached between DAP and PAS 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.
There is another reason why Wong is not being honest when he suggested that Hadi’s assurances that Buddhists and Christians would be allowed to build their own places of worship are immaterial and inconsequential when it was the previous Barisan Nasional Terengganu State Government (with MCA in the Exco) which had refused to grant approval to the Kuala Terengganu Buddhist Association, Kuala Terengganu Catholic Church and the Terengganu Prebysterian Church for renovation or new building/church.
PAS Terengganu state government’s commitment to uphold the Constitution on freedom of religion should receive appreciation when the previous Barisan Nasional Terengganu state government was not prepared to respect such a constitutional guarantee!
Is Wong right that Hadi had not done anything to deserve appreciation?
MCA should thank Hadi for lifting the ban on rearing and slaughter of pigs in Terengganu imposed with MCA’s full consent 10 years ago.
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. Can Wong enlighten the Chinese in Malaysia as to how MCA could agree to the UMNO proposal to ban the rearing and slaughter of pigs in Terengganu for ten years when one of the first acts of the PAS state government is to lift such a ban?
I will continue with part two of my series of rejoinder to Wong’s article tomorrow.