Malaysia's Islamist party PAS issues gag order as embarrassing 'bribery' scandal hits home

How Parti Islam SeMalaysia deals with political corruption in its ranks is closely watched, at a time when its rapport with Umno is being questioned by some members, as the party claims to represent Islamic values that shun corruption.
How Parti Islam SeMalaysia deals with political corruption in its ranks is closely watched, at a time when its rapport with Umno is being questioned by some members, as the party claims to represent Islamic values that shun corruption.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

KUALA LUMPUR - The son-in-law of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang claimed that five party leaders had received "bribes" and other financial benefits, including an Audi vehicle, from former rival Umno in the past.

Instead of pats on the back for bringing the issue to light, Mr Zaharudin Muhammad will have to face a disciplinary committee set up by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

Embarrassed by the revelation, PAS on Tuesday (May 14) issued a gag order banning members from discussing the issue publicly.

Since raising the matter last week, Mr Zaharudin, 43, has been attacked in hundreds of comments on his Facebook account for embarrassing the party. Some asked him to leave the Islamist party.

PAS has for years denied receiving cash or other benefits from Umno, including claims in past years that it received RM90 million (S$29.5 million) from Umno when the two parties were publicly bitter political enemies.

Mr Zaharudin, who was formerly a member of PAS' influential Syura Council of senior clerics, claimed that the five leaders were members of the "dedak (bribery) cartel". He gave initials that could be used to identify them.

Mr Zaharudin said he is coming forward, as he does not want the Islamist party to be dragged into the mud with corruption-tainted Umno.

 
 
 

And he said he wanted to clear the name of his father-in-law, Datuk Seri Hadi, who had been accused of receiving money from Umno.

Mr Zaharudin said the bribes received were different from the RM90 million claims.

"The cases here were in a scale that did not break the law, but were wrong in terms of morals, religion, and party integrity," Mr Zaharudin wrote.

The claims are taken seriously, as Mr Zaharudin is Mr Hadi's son-in-law and is himself a respected cleric in PAS.

How PAS deals with political corruption in its ranks is being closely watched, at a time when its rapport with Umno is being questioned by some members, as the party claims to represent Islamic values that shun corruption.

Several former top Umno leaders, including former premier Najib Razak and former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi are facing a slew of corruption and money laundering charges in court. But PAS leaders have generally set aside the concern of working with tainted leaders, saying Malay-Muslim unity is key as it tries to weaken the ruling Pakatan Harapan government.

PAS president Mr Hadi, when asked if he gave blessings for his son-in-law to expose the matter, said: "No, it is not true at all. None whatsoever."

Mr Hadi said the issue is already considered resolved, and that there is no need to raise it again.

But the hot political potato won't go away so fast.

So PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan on Tuesday issued a gag order on the issue.

"PAS forbids discussions and debates in print and electronic media, as well as on social media and all forms of external broadcast that are not through the party channel," Datuk Takiyuddin said.

"Those who defy the order will be facing the disciplinary committee," he said.