PETALING JAYA: PPBM’s new strategist, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, has accused PAS of deviating from its purpose of promoting good and preventing evil.
Speaking to FMT, he said PAS’ softening of its opposition to Umno was one indication that it was no longer imbued with the Islamic spirit of “enjoining the good and forbidding iniquity”.
“I think PAS has forgotten the essence of ‘amr bi al-ma’ruf wa-nahy an al-munkar’ and I hope it will find it back,” he said.
Wan Saiful was, until recently, a life member of the Islamist party. He is now PPBM’s deputy chairman for strategy and policy.
He once openly criticised PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang for his alleged failure to ensure that the party remains strong in Malaysian politics. But he told FMT that was not the reason he left PAS. Instead, he said, he began feeling he no longer belonged in the party when he noticed that “progressives” were losing their space in it.
At the 2015 PAS muktamar, progressive leaders in PAS were all but wiped out in party elections and subsequently left the party to form Amanah.
Wan Saiful, who previously headed the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, a liberal think tank, said some people were still having trouble coping with his decision last month to join the Malay-based PPBM.
“We need to have a healthy discussion on discarding race-based parties,” he said. “This is not yet the right time because the moment we talk about ethnicity and religion, Umno leaders will immediately say we are trying to remove special privileges.”
The immediate priority, he said, was to get Malaysia back on track.
“Getting the country back on the right track is why I decided to become politically active again. I chose PPBM because it’s the perfect platform from which I can reach the Malays.”
He said the Malays needed to be convinced that institutional reform would be good for them, as would improvements in education, healthcare and governance.
“The Malays are conditioned to believe that any change is detrimental to them,” he said. “The narrative from Umno is that the Malays will go astray without Umno. The Malays should be more confident than that. They existed before Umno. Umno is a vehicle and even without Umno we can progress.”
Wan Saiful also spoke on the goods and services tax (GST), which Pakatan Harapan (PH) plans to abolish if it wins GE14, saying he hadn’t changed his mind about its desirability.
“I have always been consistent on the GST. I really love it as it forces the government to be more accountable. For once, citizens are demanding accountability.”
He said the introduction of a consumption tax like GST should be made in parallel with a reduction in personal and corporate tax and with the idea of making the government more efficient.
However, he added, the government was still losing money.
“We have come to this situation because of the Umno-led administration’s failure to manage the introduction of GST properly.
“The time has come to think of abolishing it. The promise made by PH comes after listening to the people speak of their needs. The priority is to help the people.
“So whatever my ideals are, I have to recognise the fact that people are suffering. I cannot be selfish and think only of what I want when millions want something else.”
Wan Saiful once said the government should not allow former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s political interference to get in its way of administering the country.
So how does he feel about being a member of Mahathir’s party?
“It is sad when someone who is supposed to enjoy retirement is forced to come out of retirement to save the country,” he said.
“Why is he coming back to take the brickbats? He doesn’t have to. With someone like Mahathir coming out of retirement to do the things he’s doing, it’s embarrassing for people like me not to step up and follow in his steps.”
He said he wouldn’t want to fall into Umno’s trap of focusing on Mahathir’s past to the point of forgetting about the serious problems the country was facing. These problems, he added, were so great that a retired statesman had to come back to solve them.
“We should focus on solving today’s problems and preparing the country for the future,” he said. “Many are fixated on Mahathir’s record. I think I will let them continue doing that while I am more keen to focus on what will happen in the future.”