KUALA LUMPUR • Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man has taken a harder line from that of his party chief, as the Islamic party mulls over working with long-time enemy Umno.
While president Abdul Hadi Awang has welcomed Umno's wooing of PAS and soft-pedalled Prime Minister Najib Razak's troubles with debt-heavy state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), Datuk Tuan Ibrahim was more direct in listing his demands of what Umno should first do.
He said if Umno was serious about working together, Datuk Seri Najib should step aside to allow an unhindered probe into 1MDB and the government should drop the 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) that he said burdens the poor. He also asked for concrete steps to ameliorate cost of living issues.
He added that the federal government should also immediately give oil and gas royalty to Kelantan state, which is controlled by PAS.
The Malaysian government lands petroleum deposits off Kelantan waters in southern Thailand, PAS politicians have said, thus bypassing the need to compensate the east coast state with a share of the revenue.
The strong statement by Mr Tuan Ibrahim, seen in the Islamic party as an ultra-conservative, could pour cold water on the flowering of ties between PAS and the United Malays National Organisation (Umno).
Largely abandoned by Chinese voters in the last two general elections, and weakened both internally and externally by financial scandals involving 1MDB and a "political donation" of US$680 million (S$955 million), Mr Najib has increasingly been wooing PAS.
On the other hand, PAS is also weaker after breaking away from the opposition alliance and by the defection of seven of its 21 MPs, who formed a new party called Parti Amanah Negara. PAS now has 14 seats in Parliament to Umno's 88.
As part of the baby steps to rapprochement, Mr Najib and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi last week shared the same stage at a conference on Malay Muslim unity and even wore similar pink coloured shirts, a week after the Premier offered an olive branch to PAS. Leaders of both parties have been making cooing sounds in support of working together.
Mr Tuan Ibrahim reminded his party that, while he could support the idea of working together to "improve the image of Islam", Umno must immediately carry out several things first.
The first step, said the 62-year-old politician on his Facebook post on Monday, is that Mr Najib should "go on leave until (Parliament's) Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor-General complete their investigations and reports on 1MDB".
Mr Najib's critics, including deputy Umno president Muhyiddin Yassin, have alleged that the probe will not be seen as independent as long as the Premier controls the levers of power.
Compare this to Mr Abdul Hadi's comments on the 1MDB case and Mr Najib when asked in July, about the only time the Islamic leader has spoken on the matter, when he said any allegation against Mr Najib must have a basis and need witnesses.
Mr Tuan Ibrahim said that resolving 1MDB and the other issues he raised could be done by Umno first "as a step to show to the people, especially the Muslims, its seriousness in raising the status of Islam".