Analysts: Azmin-Khalid squabble a red herring in ‘Allah’ disputeKUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — The ongoing fight between PKR’s Azmin Ali and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is merely to distract non-Muslims from the recent bibles seizure that has sparked furore against the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government’s handling of the controversy, analysts have suggested.
Political analysts also believe that Opposition Leader and PKR de facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had intervened in Azmin’s termination from the board of the Selangor State Economic Development (PKNS) to contain the rivalry between the party deputy president and the head of the Selangor government.
“It is possible that this issue is being used by PKR to distract PKR non-Muslim supporters from the Allah issue,” Professor Jayum Jawan from Universiti Putra Malaysia told The Malay Mail Online today.
“PKR Selangor and the PKR-led coalition is not making a firm stand on the issue of (the) Jais raid,” added the political analyst, referring to the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) confiscation of over 300 Malay and Iban-language bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) on January 2.
Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director of think tank Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI), said Anwar has to quickly resolve the conflict between Azmin and Khalid because prolonged strife in the PR lynchpin would not only harm the party, but also the pact as a whole.
“This is probably the most serious case of infighting within PKR since its formation,” he told The Malay Mail Online.
“It highlights the inability of the party leadership to close ranks to meet the growing threat from Umno and its proxies. It is a distraction to the party’s need to make hard decisions on the religious divisions engulfing the country,” added Lim.
Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia agreed with Jayum and said that PR leaders always put on “shows” for the public.
“The master ‘dalang’ (mastermind), DSAI, remains the one who decides the storyline,” Shamsul Amri told The Malay Mail Online, referring to Anwar.
The PR leadership and Selangor government have been criticised for their response to the bible seizures by Jais that were conducted under a 1988 state law — which bans non-Muslims from using the word for God “Allah”, among other Arabic words — that was passed by the then Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
In a commentary on news website The Nut Graph last Monday, Jacqueline Ann Surin pointed out that Khalid took six days to make an official statement on the Jais raid, which was the second time the Islamic authorities raided premises belonging to Christian organisations.
Jais had raided the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in 2011 over complaints that the evangelical church was proselytising to Muslims, which is illegal in the country.
“Sallehan, on behalf of the Selangor government, shied away from stating whether non-Muslims could use ‘Allah’ in Selangor,” Surin wrote, referring to Sallehan Mukhyi, who is the Selangor executive councillor for religious affairs.
“Neither did the Selangor government condemn Jais’s actions...the Selangor government has displayed a lacking in both clarity and courage,” she added.
She also noted that instead of supporting a proposal by three DAP Selangor assemblyman to amend the controversial 1988 enactment, Anwar had castigated the trio for being hasty.
At a news conference, Anwar also announced that Azmin was still a PKNS board member, despite the state-owned firm saying that a letter has been sent to the latter to inform him that the Selangor state executive council had decided on his removal last year.
Khalid said in response that he would “consider” reinstating Azmin’s position, but noted that an immediate restoration is prohibited by the PKNS Enactment.
Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, political scientist from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), said that the feud between Azmin and Khalid could worsen party infighting to the extent that Azmin’s supporters may want Khalid to step down as mentri besar.
“And the party election is around the corner as well,” he said, noting that the PKR contest is scheduled for April.
He added that the Azmin’s and Khalid’s rivalry has been going on for years. Khalid is in his second term as Selangor mentri besar after PR retained the country’s most developed state in Election 2013, since first winning it in the 2008 general election.
“Many will see as though it is done to slow down Azmin within the state,” said Sivamurugan.