S'WAK ELECTION Opposition rivals – DAP and PAS – are at loggerheads in Sarawak over the race and religion of a state chief minister.
Two days away from polling, in which PAS is hoping to win its first seat. The Islamist party is contesting 11 seats.
But PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's remarks in Kuching last night that non-Muslim bumiputera and Chinese can be leaders but both Sabah and Sarawak must be ruled by a Muslim bumiputera was greeted with disdain.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng described Hadi's remark as "harsh and extremist political rhetoric".
He said such statements clearly showed that Hadi is anti-non-Muslims.
Lim said the remark were “offensive" to non-Muslim bumiputera, who are the majority population in Sarawak.
"Why are the non-Muslim bumiputera disqualified for the highest office of chief minister of Sarawak merely because they are not Muslims?" he asked.
"Clearly non-Muslim bumiputeras have a more open heart and Malaysian spirit than Hadi when they can accept a Muslim bumiputera like Adenan Satem as their chief minister," Lim added.
Lim denied ever asking that the Sarawak chief minister be Chinese.
He is puzzled why Hadi is raising the racial bogey of a Chinese Sarawak chief minister to frighten voters.
"However, there is no reason why a bumiputera, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, cannot be a Sarawak chief minister," he said.
"DAP accepts the reality that the Malaysian prime minister must be Malay to reflect the fact that the majority of the population is Malay.
"Why not accept that a non-Muslim bumiputera can also be a chief minister of Sarawak, when they (non-Muslim bumiputera) form a majority of the population?"
Hadi also said “the Chinese, the Indians and other races are our leaders too, but they need to be led by a Muslim”.
Lim said this meant that even in Penang, where the majority of the population is non-Malay, the chief minister cannot be a non-Malay.
He said Hadi's remarks contradicted his previous position in the 2008 and 2013 general elections when he supported a Chinese as Penang chief minister.
During those polls, PAS was an ally of DAP under the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat. DAP has moved on to form an opposition pact – Pakatan Harapan – with PKR and Parti Amanah Negara, a splinter party of PAS.
DAP and PAS have parted ways due to the latter's insistence on implementing hudud in the country.
However, Lim attributed Hadi's change of heart to the latter's close association with PM Najib Abdul Razak.
"The racially divisive parties of BN have coloured Hadi’s thinking, until he thinks in terms of BN’s categorisation of racial and religious division instead of inter-racial and multi-religious harmony," Lim said.
"Despite such extremist and anti-non-Muslim sentiments, PAS still seeks to get non-Muslim or non-Malay votes," he added.
"It is unlikely PAS will ever succeed when voters identify that a vote for PAS under Hadi is no different from a vote for Umno under Najib.”