Well, well, well, what do we have here?
Pas is fielding a non-Muslim Indian Malaysian woman as a candidate for the Tiram state seat in Johor: 29-year-old law graduate Kumutha Rahman.
Okay, it might be a gimmick to attract non-Muslim votes. After all, even Hishamuddin “the keris man” Hussein has agreed to re-open the original Damansara Chinese school in Petaling Jaya, which was closed in 2001. Amazing what elections can do!
It remains to be seen if this Pas move is just tokenism or the start of a journey to reach out to “The Other”.
But all said and done, it is a breakthrough. This is exactly the sort of “out-of-the-box” thinking that we need to shape a new political landscape in our land, breaking down ethnic, religious and mental barriers.
Check out this NST report:
ELECTION 2008: Pas breaks own taboo to field first non-Muslim candidate
By : Syed Umar Ariff
JOHOR BARU, Thurs:
Kumutha Rahman looked nervous as pressmen, armed with notebooks and recorders, jostled through the crowd 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 their candidates at their headquarters in Batu Pahat.
KUMUTHA Rahman looked nervous as pressmen, armed with notebooks and recorders, jostled through the crowd 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 their candidates at their 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 entered into.
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 all the same.”
Making the announcement was Johor Pas commissioner Datuk Mahfodz Mohamed, returning to contest for the Bukit Serampang state seat, said the move signified Pas’ tolerance towards other races.
The move to field a non-Muslim candidate comes hot on the heels of another shock announcement reported in the AP agency yesterday but hardly given a mention anywhere else in the local press: the party has dropped from its electoral platform its pledge to create an Islamic state. Instead, its slogan will be “a nation of care and opportunity”.
“We offer equal justice to all, justice in economy opportunities and freedom of religion,” Abdul Hadi said. “We promise a government that is trustworthy, just and clean which will be able to give the people a better life.”
Can’t argue with that!
What is even more interesting to me is that Pas has borrowed a key idea from civil society groups. The party has unveiled a plan to use the country’s oil profits to pay for health care and retain oil subsidies.
Now, the health care financing bit comes straight out of the Coalition Against Health Care Privatisation’s People’s Proposal – and it is certainly do-able, instead of wasting our oil profits on mega projects that do not benefit the ordinary people. Think of how much our general hospitals could be improved if we used our oil profits to benefit the people. Why, our general hospitals could be on par with – or even better than – any private hospital in the land! At present, the government is spending only 2 per cent of GDP on public health care when it should be spending 5 per cent or more.
It’s about time political parties took this proposal seriously. Like you, I know of too many people who have suffered tremendously because of long waiting lists and a critical shortage of specialists and doctors in our general hospitals.
This is what the Coalition had proposed two years ago (bear in mind that Petronas’ profit is now two or three times higher than what it was in 2004):
“National Health Fund
We therefore propose a new funding formula to safeguard the health of all Malaysians. It could be called the National Health Fund, but it should not be financed from the pockets of individual Malaysians. There are plenty of viable and present alternatives. They include:
Amount per year
The Federal Budget
At present the Federal Govt is only spending 1.8 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised that developing countries should spend 5 per cent of their GDP on health. We propose that the Malaysian Government increases allocation to health to 3 per cent of GDP effective next year. GDP = RM530 billion ; so, 3 per cent = RM15.9 billion
Taxes on alcohol and cigarettes
These lead to ill-health and require funds to treat. So the entire collection of taxes on these two items should go to finance health care
Petronas made a profit of more than RM30 billion in 2004. We propose that RM5 billion of Petronas’ profits be ploughed into health to benefit the entire population.