Former PAS dep president Mat Sabu outlines new breakaway party's philosophy

Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, says the priority is to register GHB as a political party.
Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, says the priority is to register GHB as a political party.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) elections in June saw the shocking exit of the Islamist party's progressive leaders.

It also gave birth to a splinter group comprising the ousted progressive faction, who are calling the new movement "Gerakan Harapan Baru (GHB)".

The movement, in all sense of its name, offers new hope to the "Group of 18" from PAS - the 18 leaders who lost in the polls. They now have a blank canvas to chart a new direction for themselves in politics.

However, a lot has yet to be determined, says former PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu who is leading the pack in GHB. These include issues such as what GHB's main objective will be and whether, like PAS, it should push for hudud.

Mohamad, 61, insists that GHB leaders are still PAS members and they will leave it up to the PAS leadership, helmed by the ulama faction, to decide their fate in the party.

For now, Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, says the priority is to register GHB as a political party.

"We have a committee working on the registration of GHB with the RoS (Registrar of Societies)

"We want to be registered as soon as possible," he says, adding that one of the leaders in the committee is former PAS central executive committee member Mohd Anuar Mohd Tahir.

It was clear in the party polls in June that PAS members wanted the ulamas to lead the party when the conservative faction made a clean sweep of all five top posts - president, deputy president and three vice-president seats.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang defended his presidency successfully, the first time the party's number one post was challenged.

Mohamad, known as the leader of the progressive professional group, lost the battle for the deputy presidency to Pahang PAS commissioner Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, a former vice-president linked to the ulama faction. Mohamad garnered 279 votes to Tuan Ibrahim's 881.

GHB is expected to hold road shows to promote the new movement across the country from the end of the month.

Mohamad says the question of whether GHB will field candidates in the next general election has not been discussed. However, one matter they should settle quickly is whether they will advocate the implementation of hudud.

Hudud was the crux of the break up of Pakatan Rakyat, between PAS and the non-Muslim dominated DAP.

At the press conference to introduce GHB, Mohamad said that while the new party would welcome non-Muslims, it would be a Muslim-based party.

"Non-Muslims can join as members but the extent of their participation is something that we will have to discuss.

"We are seeking opinions from non-governmental organisations and the final decision will be made soon," he says.

Mohamad, who contested but lost the Pendang parliamentary seat in the 13th general election, says GHB hopes to work with Opposition parties DAP and PKR but it must be successfully registered first.

Breaking away from the conservative PAS ulama leadership is no walk in the park, of course.

The new movement has already drawn flak from PAS leaders.

The party's information chief Nasruddin Hassan reportedly said PAS will take disciplinary action against Mohamad and the others for breaching party rules in forming the movement.

PAS ulama wing information chief Datuk Dr Khairuddin Aman Razali also reportedly warned party members against accepting the "satanic" invitations from GHB.

Mohamad says any action against him and GHB members was up to the PAS leadership: "The party has its constitution and regulations. It is up to them to uphold and follow it."

"I do not want to react. I only want to work and explain to the people about the GHB with our roadshow.

"I will not respond to comments made by PAS leaders," says Mohamad, who was Kuala Kedah MP between 1999 and 2004.

He does not want to respond to certain statements by PAS leaders, saying he just wants to move forward.