ALOR SETAR, Kedah - Malaysia's Islamist party leader Abdul Hadi Awang stayed away from the one issue that is on the minds of most delegates at a closely-watched annual party congress on Saturday (April 29), focusing instead on the familiar themes of social ills and corruption in his speech.
The three wings of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) have unanimously adopted resolutions in the past two days to ditch its political partnership with fellow opposition party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), in Selangor state.
Such a political divorce, if officially accepted by PAS, will split the Malay vote for the opposition in Selangor at the upcoming general election, and strengthen ruling party Umno.
But in his hour-long speech, Datuk Seri Hadi avoided the so-called tahaluf siyasi (political cooperation) issue with PKR. He stuck to familiar themes on the need to closely follow Islamic teachings to cure societal ills and corruption.
"Strengthen Islam in yourselves and save the country. But if you administer a country without an Islamic identity, the country won't be saved," he said in the speech which focused on Islamic rule.
The PAS annual congress in Kedah is attended by 1,200 delegates, all wearing turquiose Malay bajus.
Selangor Menteri Besar and PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali was noticeably absent from the meeting, although The Star newspaper reported that he was invited personally by PAS spiritual leader Hashim Jasin.
PKR sent Vice-President Shaharuddin Badaruddin as its representative to the PAS congress.
In his speech, Mr Hadi also spoke about a concept that he has been promoting in recent weeks - Budaya Politik Matang dan Sejahtera or the Culture of Mature and Prosperous Politics. He said politicians must move beyond attacking one another, which will result in hatred for their enemies.
"The decibel of electioneering among political parties in the country has made it a challenge for everyone, with the people seeing it as a fight for posts," he said.
PAS has abandoned its alliance with the other main opposition parties except PKR.
It is cosying up instead to its long-time nemesis, Umno, a tough sell to its 800,000 members as PAS leaders still attack the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak for its alleged mismanagement and corruption.
Party delegates at the main assembly are expected to keep pushing for PAS to sever ties with PKR.
The party's top decision-making body, the majlis syura (consultation council), which consists of its most senior clerics, is expected to make a decision in coming days on whether the PKR ties should be cut.
The five-day congress ends on Monday.