The three wings of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) yesterday threw their support behind president Abdul Hadi Awang, defending him against attacks by partners in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance of opposition parties.
The ulama (clerics) wing said at its annual congress that it is also willing to review the party's political cooperation with PR as it is faced with "slander every day" from its political partners.
The moves at the annual meetings of the PAS ulama, youth and women's wings are a clear indication of the deeply troubled ties between the Islamic party and its two secular allies, risking a break-up of the six-year-old alliance.
They also put the three wings on a collision course with liberal-leaning members of PAS, including deputy president Mohamad Sabu and vice-president Husam Musa, who want the Islamic party to remain with PR.
The ulama wing met at a golf resort near Senai airport, the women at a hotel in Johor Baru and the youth wing at a town hall in Kota Tinggi.
Reflecting the tension between PAS conservatives led by the clerics and its liberal faction during the youth debate yesterday, many of the 700 delegates thumped tables when support for the ulama faction was mentioned. Delegates who showed support for the pro-PR faction were heckled.
PR brings together Malaysia's biggest opposition parties, PAS, the multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party. The alliance made big gains in the last two general elections against the governing Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, winning 52 per cent of the vote last year compared to BN's 47 per cent.
But tensions surfaced in recent weeks when PAS clerics led by Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi disagreed with the plan by PKR to replace PR-ruled Selangor state's chief minister with Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the PKR president who is the wife of opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.
"On this issue, the PAS ulama wing praises and stands solidly behind Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi for his principled stand despite pressure from PR and from several PAS leaders," said Datuk Ahmad Yakob, deputy chief of the ulama wing.
Also speaking at the ulama meeting, deputy spiritual leader Haron Din warned members of the presence of "hypocrites" within the party who do not follow the leadership of the clerics.
This was an indirect slap at the liberal faction that had questioned Mr Hadi's decision to support the Selangor chief minister.
Touching on PAS' political cooperation with PR, Datuk Haron said it might be time to review this as the party has come under attack by its allies.
"If the conditions of the cooperation are breached and the principles broken, it is fair for the ulama to rethink if this can be continued," he said.
While the three wings have made clear their support for Mr Hadi, it will be up to the party chiefs to decide on this at the main muktamar (congress) of the one-million-strong party when it starts today. Mr Hadi will deliver a policy speech at the three-day meeting in the northern Johor town of Batu Pahat.
This article was first published on September 18, 2014.
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