(Penang, Friday): Gerakan Secretary-General Chia Kwang Chye should learn from the lesson of the gangsterish UMNO Youth demonstration outside the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall to be rational and responsible in pursuing political differences and not to resort to unprincipled and irresponsible tactics.
It is most shocking that in his interview with Kwang Wah Yit Poh on Wednesday, Chia had resorted to half-truths and downright lies.
Chia is of course entitled to his view that the Barisan Alternative is "condemned to failure right from the beginning" but he has no right to tell lies to support his arguments.
For instance, Chia alleged that the kharaj tax imposed by the PAS Terengganu state government was a revival of a form of tax imposed on non-Muslims after "the Islamic holy war" designed to "legalise Muslim supremacy over other religions and discrimination against other religions" and divide Malaysians between "the conqueror and conquered".
These are very serious allegations, that PAS discriminates against other religions, wants to transform the present division of Malaysians from "bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras" to "conqueror and conquered" and most insidious of all, that Islam is a "religion of the sword" in his reference to the "Islamic holy war", seeking to reinforce the sublimal message that PAS is an extremist, intolerant and obscurantist Islamic party which will propagate Islam by any violent means.
Barisan Nasional leaders had been attacking PAS leaders as "mad mullahs" who are extremist, fanatical and prone to violence, but in the past week, it was not the PAS leaders but UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders who were talking about "bloodshed" and threatening to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall!
Chiaís insinuation that Islam as practised by PAS is a religion of the sword by his subtle reference to the Islamic holy war must be addressed as it will be very pertinent in colouring non-Muslim perception of PAS.
Islam suffers from the stereotype image as a religion of intolerance, fanaticism and violence, "teaching that if someone will not willingly convert that they must eventually be eliminated" when even a cursory study of Islam is enough to show that such views of the faith is far removed from the truth.
However it is best left to PAS and Muslim leaders in the country to answer the question as to whether Islam is a religion of tolerance or hatred and whether it is a religion of peace or of the sword?
What I am presently concerned is the half-truths and lies being spread, blatantly or subtly, as part of the Gerakan and Barisan Nasional campaign to demonise PAS and discredit the DAP for co-operating with PAS in the Barisan Alternative, as alleging the implementation of the kharaj tax in Terengganu and treating the non-Malays and non-Muslims in the state as "conquered subjects"..
When Chia said that the Terengganu PAS state government had introduced and implemented the kharaj, he was telling an outright lie for the simple reason that the kharaj tax had not been implemented in Terengganu.
If Chia is a political leader of decency and honesty, he should publicly apologise for this baseless allegation.
When the PAS Terengganu State Government announced after the general election that it was considering the kharaj tax proposal, DAP objected on the ground that it raised many questions and had great implications, such as questions of Muslim supremacy and ownership over land, as well as infringement or disrespect of the rights and sensitivities of the different races, religions and political parties in the Barisan Alternative.
At a meeting between DAP leaders and the Terengganu Mentri Besar, Haji Hadi Awang and senior state exco members in Kuala Terengganu on December 15, 1999, Hadi agreed that the kharaj tax, which was still at the proposal stage, would not be imposed on non-Muslims against their wishes and that there would be the fullest consultation with the non-Muslim communities as well as with the Barisan Alternative Leaders' Consultative Council on the issue.
Chia should have praised Hadi and the Terengganu PAS State Government for such open-minded and enlightened attitude on the kharaj tax proposal instead of spreading the untruth that kharaj has already been introduced and implemented in Terengganu.
Gerakan and Barisan Nasional leaders should not criticise for the sake of criticism but must be prepared to praise PAS state governments for the good things that they have done.
For instance, they should be prepared to commend the Terengganu State
Government for measures such 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; the Mentri Besarís leadership by example in not staying
in the Mentri Besarís official
residence and not taking the housing allowance given to the Mentri Besar; the establishment of the hisbah portfolio under the former Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas to deal with public complaints over maladministration in the state government and wrongdoings; greater commitment to the principles of accountability, transparency and the consultative process than the Barisan Nasional; the state governmentís commitment to give annual allocation to Chinese primary schools and most recently, the pioneering decision to adopt the Integrity Pact of Transparency International to reduce corruption in public procurement.
Only this week, DAP and PAS have been able to make further progress to address political differences and PAS leaders will be adopting a more open and consultative process to address the unhappiness of non-Muslim communities which had surfaced in the past eight months as a result of policies and measures in the PAS state governments of Terengganu and Kelantan - issues including karoakes, snooker centres, unisex saloons and the issue of liquor licences for non-Muslims.
Contrary to the propaganda of lies and falsehoods of Chia and the Gerakan, DAP is co-operating with PAS in BA not to help it establish an Islamic State but to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance - and PAS is fully aware of the DAPís stand that Malaysia shall forever remain a democratic secular state.
The odds stacked against the Barisan Alternative and PAS especially in the Barisan Nasional mainstream mass media are most unfair and even insuperable, where ten good things done by the PAS Terengganu State Government can be overshadowed and wiped out by one proposal not yet certain whether it would be implemented or not.
It would be most unfortunate if the great historic opportunity created by the Barisan Alternative to break the political hegemony of Barisan Nasional to restore justice and democracy in Malaysia is lost because of the success of the propaganda of lies and falsehoods of Chia and the Gerakan.