As I said in my speech at the Gerak seminar on human rights at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on February 21, 1999 in the run-up to the formation of Barisan Alternative, which was attended by leaders of PAS and Muslim NGOs including PAS President Fadil Nor, the DAP had always been consistent in its stand on the Islamic State - that it is inappropriate and unsuitable for a plural society like Malaysia with a diversity of races, religions, cultures and languages.
In my speech I said:
“There is a view that it is ignorance or bias which is the cause for non-Muslims unable to accept the objective of an Islamic state. This is not the case and PAS leaders must understand the reasons for such views, among them, the inability of non-Muslims to exercise their full citizenship rights in an Islamic state, the place of women and hukum hudud.”On the proposal for an electoral alliance or opposition arrangement against the Barisan Nasional as the Barisan Alternative had not been formed yet, I said:
“We must respect each other’s political positions: PAS’ goal of an Islamic state and DAP’s stand that an Islamic state is unsuitable and inappropriate for multi-religious Malaysia.
“We can only begin to talk about an electoral arrangement and alliance involving both DAP and PAS if we agree as a starting basis that the battle for the next general election is not about an Islamic state, but how to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance."
The Barisan Alternative was subsequently formed on the clear understanding that while there was the fundamental disagreement on the issue of Islamic State among the component parties, the coming-together was on commonly-agreed principles based on the restoration of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance as clearly spelt out in the Barisan Alternative election manifesto “Towards A Just and Democratic Malaysia”.
The basic rationale and ground-rules for the formation of the Barisan Alternative have been altered however when PAS leaders reiterated publicly that the top priority of a PAS-led Federal Government will be to establish an Islamic State which runs counter to the Barisan Alternative Manifesto “Towards a Just and Democratic Malaysia” and the opposition of the other Barisan Alternative component parties to an Islamic State.
I am surprised at the reaction of some PAS leaders, including the Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, who expressed disappointment at the DAP’s opposition to the PAS’ Islamic State, when DAP leaders had made clear the DAP stand in private and public discussions with Nik Aziz and other PAS leaders.
In the 1999 general election, the DAP had difficulty in convincing the voters that a vote for the Barisan Alternative was not a vote for an Islamic State.
If it is not possible for all component parties to send out a clear collective message that a vote for the BA is not a vote for an Islamic State and it is going to be even more difficult in the next general election to convince the voters that a vote for the BA is not a vote for an Islamic State, then the Barisan Alternative format at present is no more tenable as capable of meeting the political challenges of the country at the moment.