NST: Pas' non-Muslim surprise
Pas' non-Muslim surprise
By : Syed Umar Ariff
JOHOR BARU: Kumutha Raman looked nervous as pressmen, armed with
notebooks and recorders, jostled for an interview with her.
The 29-year-old law graduate, who had just been named as the first
non-Muslim candidate to be fielded by Pas, listened attentively to the
questions hurled at her, when Johor Pas announced its candidates at
the headquarters in Batu Pahat.
She is contesting the Tiram state seat. But knowing the realities,
perhaps Pas is fielding her under the Parti Keadilan Rakyat symbol,
based on the electoral pact the two parties have made.
Still, is she in for a culture shock? Will she be able to speak the
language of Pas where Arabic phrases and Quranic verses matter most?
Will she have to physically cover herself more than ever?
"I know I won't feel alienated because I believe voters nowadays are
open-minded," she said.
"I also know that Muslims and non-Muslims will be able to accept me."
A member of the one-month old Unity Bureau under the Johor non-Muslim
Pas Supporters Club, Kumutha may be oblivious to the fact that she had
broken the conservative Islamic party's 61-year-old tradition of only
fielding Muslims as candidates.
"I joined the club because I see that Pas is not bent on racialism. To
me all races, be they Malays, Chinese or Indians, are the same."
Making the announcement about Kumutha was Johor Pas commissioner Datuk
Mahfodz Mohamed, who said the move signified Pas' tolerance towards
Pas will be contesting in 34 state seats and nine parliamentary seats.
The party lost all the 37 state seats and 11 parliamentary
constituencies it contested in the last general election.
This time around, fresh faces made-up one-third of the candidates and
none of them were Pas Women's Wing leaders.
Ostensibly, the Johor Baru lass's candidacy is to woo support for the
Islamist party from non-Muslim voters in Tiram, especially the Indian
vote which comprises 14.39 per cent of that area's voters.
However, even during the announcement, there were murmurs of
uncertainty amidst the applause following Kumutha's nomination.
"She is new, too new. And this is quite a task for her.
"The party leadership may want to introduce someone fresh to the
party, but the members fear that too much hope is being placed on her.
"She may not be able to do it," a party member said.
Tebrau MIC division chief M. Soorianarayanan, whose division is in
Tiram, was even more caustic.
"What is Pas doing? They are going to humiliate the girl and destroy
her future in politics. The Indian community is going to hate her for
aligning with the opposition," Soorianarayanan said.
The Tiram constituency is a Barisan Nasional stronghold.
In the 2004 election, BN's Maulizan Bujang beat Pas' Roslani Sharif,
by a margin of 15,595 votes and the coalition is expected to repeat
Perhaps Kumutha's candidancy is to serve a greater goal in Pas'
strategy to make it more relevant to Malaysians.