KOTA BARU • A war of words has erupted between two leaders of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in Kelantan with claims of corruption in timber contracts and the diversion of some funds, the Malaysian Insider reported yesterday.
Former high-flying PAS leader Datuk Husam Musa, who is now sidelined by the PAS conservative faction, has claimed in an open letter that a timber contract for a 4,500ha forest reserve had been awarded to one company, resulting in what he claimed to be corrupt practices.
He also claimed that an Islamic foundation in the state had diverted some funds away from its employees, the news site said yesterday.
A party veteran in Kelantan, Mr Abdul Mutalib Embong, replied that Mr Husam should have raised his objections when he was a state councillor in Kelantan, to which Mr Husam countered that he had done so but had received no response.
PAS has ruled Kelantan for the last 25 years since 1990.
The contentious issues have been brewing under the surface for some years, but came out into the open after the progressive leaders of the Islamic party broke away to form a new group, Parti Amanah Negara, after losing to the conservative faction in the PAS June elections.
Mr Husam, who is widely seen as part of the progressive faction, has chosen to remain in PAS but has been raising inconvenient questions openly about its affairs, dealing a blow to the Kelantan govern-ment's image as a financially weak administration but one that is clean and guided by Islam.
He is a PAS assemblyman in Kelantan and former protege of the late menteri besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
Mr Husam said he had sent several letters to the office of the current Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yaakob, but did not receive any reply until Mr Mutalib decided to answer him openly.
Mr Husam asked whether Mr Mutalib is aware of the "allegations of corruption at various levels" caused by the awarding of the huge timber contract, the Malaysian Insider report said.
"Does Wan Mutalib know how big was the forest reserve in Kelantan approved to be cleared?" Mr Husam asked, as quoted by the news site.
Mr Husam claimed that he had tried, when he was part of the Kelantan leadership under Datuk Nik Aziz, to stop the practice of awarding timber contracts on reserved forest lands that he claimed contributed to severe flooding in Kelantan last year.
The politician in August said the federal authorities had confiscated 1,000 tonnes of timber in the Kelantan forests, worth up to RM1 million (S$326,000), because they were illegally cut down.
The controversy is not going to end here, the Malaysian Insider said yesterday, as the Menteri Besar's office has responded to say that the state legislature will raise the matter at its next sitting that begins next week.