'Fruity' twist to PAS fight with breakaway faction

Rivals use fruit analogies to show which side they are on as barbs fly between them

Are you a mango, watermelon or coconut? The fight between Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), Malaysia's biggest Islamic party, and its breakaway Parti Amanah Negara has taken on a "fruity" flavour as their leaders, once close friends, go head-to- head.

To peel away confusion, supporters are now referring to their leaders as "fruits" to distinguish where they stand on issues.

The bitter fight has sprouted ugly accusations and counter-accusations between PAS and a group of about two dozen former leaders who formed Amanah in September.

An example of the bad blood can be seen in the tyre-slashing of the car of Amanah deputy-president Salahuddin Ayub, who was formerly a PAS vice-president.

Though Mr Salahuddin has said the slashing was done by "mischievous boys", others writing in pro-Amanah blogs were not as sure. This is because several PAS leaders had, in the past, had their tyres slashed when they deviated from backing the party's stand on issues.

MOVING IN A NEW DIRECTION

PAS will never join Barisan... But we will still work with them in tackling national and development issues.

DATUK SERI ABDUL HADI AWANG (above), PAS president

"Amid the current tensions now (between PAS and Amanah) I cannot make any statements," Mr Salahuddin told reporters recently, when queried about the slashing.

Amanah's president is former PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu. The orange-flagged party is part of a new opposition alliance called Pakatan Harapan (Hope Alliance) with the Chinese-led Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

Confusingly for some PAS members, the Islamic party is not part of this opposition alliance. In fact, it is seen to be growing towards another direction. PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang has said that it is willing to work with long-time arch-enemy Umno, to together pick low-hanging fruit in government policy. Umno, which uses the red-and- white flag of Malay nationalism, is the linchpin of the 13-party Barisan Nasional alliance.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi said last Sunday: "PAS will never join Barisan... But we will still work with them in tackling national and development issues."

In the ensuing PAS-Amanah battle, PAS has two major thorns in its side. Its former vice-presidents, Datuk Husam Musa and Datuk Mahfuz Omar, remain with the party while clearly showing open sympathies with the struggles of Amanah.

Mr Husam's wife has received a death threat on her mobile phone, after he repeatedly accused the PAS government in Kelantan of financial misdeeds. He had claimed the Kelantan government had abused its award of a timber concession worth millions of dollars, and has failed to pay retirement funds to the workers of an Islamic foundation to the tune of RM14 million (S$4.6 million).

He has also accused his president, Mr Abdul Hadi, of trying to form a so-called unity government with Umno. Mr Abdul Hadi has denied this.

And this is where the fruit analogies come in handy to reflect their stances. Mr Mahfuz, the PAS leader who sympathises with Amanah, was recently asked where he stood.

He answered: "I am a harumanis", referring to Malaysia's most popular mango from Perlis, which is green on the outside like the PAS flag, but with orange (Amanah) flesh inside.

As for Mr Abdul Hadi, to his critics the PAS chief is a buah tembikai, or watermelon - green on the outside but red (Umno) on the inside.

Others such as MP Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, a son of the late PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat, do not want to be associated with either fruit. They have insisted that they are young coconuts: green on the outside, white on the inside. Just like the PAS flag.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline ''Fruity' twist to PAS fight with breakaway faction'. Print Edition | Subscribe