PAS and Umno leaders may boast that political cooperation is good for the unity of umma but, on the ground in Terengganu, supporters of both parties still find it hard to overcome decades of enmity wrought by the politics of their leaders’ doing.
PAS and Umno’s historic rivalry has seeped into kampung life and local politics over the years since the Islamist party was expelled from Barisan Nasional in the late 1970s.
Grassroots supporters in Terengganu, which PAS recaptured from BN in the 14th general election last year, said they don’t feel any solidarity at all and admit it is hard to build ties with one another, despite the instructions of national leaders.
Ibrahim Ahmad, an Umno supporter from Kg Mak Kemas, Bukit Payong, said too many incidents in the past that created tension still remained, even after top Umno and PAS leaders sealed their pact for further electoral cooperation.
The 65-year-old said it is hard to trust PAS as the state government installed a new village management committee soon after GE14.
Then, in March this year, the village committee tried to sack the entire mosque committee at Masjid Kg Mak Kemas.
They even targeted the imam and bilal, Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim said this is because his kampung is an Umno stronghold. Kg Mak Kemas’s political affiliation makes it stand out like a sore thumb in the Marang parliamentary seat, which is held by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
The attempted coup against the mosque committee was prevented by its 200-strong congregation, who protested against the move.
All of this is nothing new, however, to Ibrahim’s village, which lies next to Kg Padang Pak Su Man, where the majority of residents are PAS supporters.
For years since the 1980s and a young Hadi’s infamous mandate, also known as “Amanat Hadi”, which called on all PAS members to oppose the Umno-led federal government, families and friends have been torn apart by politics.
The tension manifested in PAS members regarding their fellow Muslims from Umno as “kafir”, or infidels.
Separate mosques and surau were erected so that supporters of each party could perform prayers apart. People from the same village boycotted community functions if they were organised by the party they did not support.
For Ibrahim, the post-GE14 PAS state government’s attempt to replace his mosque’s committee is a reminder of yet another incident after the Islamist party won Terengganu in 1999.
He said PAS locked up a Kemas kindergarten in his kampung after the election until it completed all appointments to its state government. Hadi was Terengganu menteri besar then.
“That incident happened here, in my village, in Kg Mak Kemas. The children were forced to have lessons outdoors,” Ibrahim said.
PAS controlled Terengganu in the early 1960s and from 1999 to 2004, and now, since last year’s general election.
‘Unity of ummah is all hype’
Since GE14, PAS and Umno have agreed to cooperate politically and have given way to each other to contest or campaign for each other’s candidate in recent by-elections.
Umno’s leaders, too, have been open about the need to cooperate with PAS in efforts to recapture Putrajaya in the next elections.
Ibrahim doesn’t see how this will work on the ground in his village, when PAS supporters continue to snub Umno members.
In the PAS-controlled neighbouring village of Kg Padang Pak Su Man, the surau is just 100m from masjid Kg Mak Kemas, which staved off the attempt to eject its pro-Umno committee members earlier this year.
The PAS-controlled surau has been holding buka puasa events for the community this Ramadan, but didn’t invite people from Ibrahim’s village.
A PAS supporter from the surau said they did not extend invitations because it was only a small event.
“It’s not that we didn’t want to invite them, it was just a small do and we were worried that there wouldn’t be enough food,” Zukri Talib, 53, said.
On the attempt to replace the masjid Kg Mak Kemas committee members, Zukri confirmed that it was because they are Umno supporters.
This has made Masjid Kg Mak Kemas congregation member Abdul Ghani Awang question the unity that both PAS and Umno leaders boast about.
“PAS members have never set foot in our mosque but once they formed the state government, they want to meddle with us,” said the 72-year-old.
“Where is the unity of the ummah that has been hyped up?”
Far better than Umno supporters are former PAS members who quit the party to form the splinter, Amanah, now part of the Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition, said another PAS supporter, who only wanted to be known as Ayub.
He called PAS leaders’ directive to forge ties with Umno in line with the party’s new direction nothing but empty talk.
“For decades, we have been enemies and suddenly, we are asked to be best friends. We need time for ties to mend.
“Whereas we can accept Amanah members because they were previously our comrades. Like brothers, we are close in heart, even though we have different political positions now,” said Ayub.
All this is advantageous for PH, said state deputy chairman Azan Ismail.
He said the Umno-PAS collaboration is weakening both parties at the grassroots level.
“The distrust has existed between both parties for decades,” said Azan, who is also Terengganu PKR chairman.
“We believe there is a chance for PH to win in GE15.
“But for this to happen, PH parties Amanah and Bersatu must step up: Amanah must draw in more PAS members and Bersatu must target Umno members,” he said.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT