KOTA TINGGI - The deputy president of Malaysia's Islamic party has warned party chiefs against allying themselves with arch rivals Umno, saying he would "slap away" the hands that tried to do so.
The comment by Mr Mohamad Sabu yesterday came amid a bitter leadership tussle between his liberal-leaning group and conservatives led by president Abdul Hadi Awang.
Speaking at the opening of the annual meeting of the youth wing of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), Mr Mohamad also called on members not to form a new party, saying they should instead strengthen cooperation with the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance of opposition parties.
"Whatever differences we have, we are still within the same family," he told the 700 delegates in a hall in this southern Johor town.
"Umno is still our enemy. Do not offer any hands of friendship to them.
"We will slap away those hands that try to do so," he said, to loud shouts of support from the floor.
Reflecting tensions within the party, some 50 of the 700 delegates walked out just before Mr Mohamad made his speech.
The Malaysiakini online news website showed a picture of several delegates wearing black vests with the Malay words "We are with the president and the Syura Council" - the clerics' consultative council which is the top PAS policymaking body and which was attacked by the liberal faction for siding with party chief Hadi.
Datuk Seri Hadi said recently that he was willing to work with Umno to govern Selangor state, which is ruled by PR.