Think Centre made contact with the Youth Wing of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) last night in a landmark meeting and forged new friendships and bilateral ties. At the 30-minute private discussion at the Oxford Hotel, the Centre's President Sinapan Samydorai led his members in hosting the 10-man delegation from across the Causeway.
Deputy Chief of the PAS Youth Wing, Salahuddin Hj Ayub, opened the discussion by reiterating the need for more understanding and cooperation between the Singapore and Malaysian governments. He noted that UMNO government tended to pick on outstanding Singapore-Malaysia issues such as the water agreement, for its political mileage. The role of their government-controlled media was also lambasted for its inaccurate portrayals of PAS as an extremist political party. On the issue of water, he categorically stated that from an Islamic perspective, it is a humanitarian issue and hoped it is settled soon.
In reply, Samydorai said official government to government exchanges may not be focused as both elected governments could have vested interests in settling the outstanding bilateral issues. He urged more people to people exchanges, exemplified by this Think Centre-PAS dialogue, as the way to bridge the two nations with a commitment to multiculturalism. He welcomed PAS Youth to contribute Internet articles to Think Centre so that it could help educate Singaporeans about them and their visions.
When asked about our impression of PAS and our understanding of an Islamic state, Anbarasu Balrasan, Think Centre's Editor, replied that he was glad that this meeting helped dispel the negative impressions of PAS engendered by biased media reports on both sides of the Causeway. He regretted that ISA laws had been indiscriminately used in Malaysia and the worldwide demonisation of Islamic groups, most of which had no links to Al-Qaeda, following the 911 incident. He welcomed the creation of an Islamic state, if the people of Malaysia willed it, reiterating that the channels of communications between both countries remained open whilst law and order prevailed.
Raja Iskandar, Political Secretary of PAS Youth, explained that in Kelantan and Terengganu, there were different laws pertaining to Muslims and non-Muslims. It was untrue that religious freedoms and civil rights were curbed by harsh capital laws. For example, Kelantan accommodated many faiths practiced by non-Muslims and there was even an annual Buddhist ritual that never failed to draw devotees from all over the country.
When asked about PAS' party vision, Encik Raja outlined it as follows: commitment to constitutional democracy; continued practice of Islam through democratic principles; establishing a good, peaceful and tranquil society; creation of an Islamic state where non-Muslims would still be free to practice their faiths. PAS would remain committed to the Constitution and continue with current system of governance if it came into power. He invited Think Centre to visit Kelantan and Terengganu to gain first-hand insights at how well both states have been governed and the harmonious coexistence of the different races.
Encik Salahuddin shared with Think Centre that PAS Youth was finishing a Memorandum on the Islamic state that would outline the rights of women and non-Muslims in an Islamic state. This document would be circulated widely to clear misconceptions of the creation of an Islamic state and assure Malaysians of the good intentions of PAS. In conclusion, he thanked us for the discussion and extended an invitation to the Centre to visit Kelantan and Terengganu.
On behalf of the Centre, Samydorai acknowledged PAS Youth's offer and thanked them for taking time off from their one-day stopover to meet us. It was a fruitful and informative dialogue. Samydorai urged PAS Youth to maintain contact so that we could move on as one united people on both sides of the Causeway. Before departing, Encik Salahuddin presented PAS mementos to Samydorai sealed with a brotherly handshake while Think Centre members bade a fond farewell to PAS Youth leaders, a reflection of the new friendships forged and bilateral ties advanced between the two countries.