Siti Mariah MahmudKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — DAP, PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) have brushed off statements by Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) leaders supporting the ban on a beer festival, insisting their partner was not like PAS.  

Pakatan Harapan (PH) chief secretary Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said from his experience in PH, Amanah on the whole was “quite progressive”.

“I would not use one or two issues to label Amanah as conservative,” Saifuddin told Malay Mail Online.

“I believe PH should strive to promote a real multiracial and moderate political thought. In this context, Amanah is not conservative.”

Amanah was established in 2015 by former leaders of the so-called progressive faction of Islamist party PAS. However, the two-year-old party that also champions Islam has not firmly distinguished itself from PAS that frequently protests against concerts and wants to enforce hudud law, an ideological stance that had caused the breakup of the previous federal Opposition pact, Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Amanah tried to table in Parliament its own Shariah Bill instead of outrightly rejecting PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 that sought to drastically expand the Shariah courts’ sentencing powers.

The PH party did not expressly support making unilateral child conversions to Islam illegal either.

It had also called for a ban on the Spanish-language song Despacito, after which the government promptly ordered state broadcaster RTM to cease playing the hit single.

The local authority’s cancellation of the Better Beer Festival 2017, a craft beer event originally scheduled next month at Publika, a hip shopping centre in an upper-middle class neighbourhood here, saw Amanah leaders sharing the same views as PAS that welcomed the ban. Five ethnic Chinese Federal Territories MPs from DAP and PKR had opposed the ban.

“Based on several premises like being ‘haram’ (prohibited) according to Islam, sensitive from the social perspective, harmful from the health perspective, and also not being in line with the position of Islam as the religion of the federation, all parties welcome and support that decision,” Amanah shariah affairs director Zolkharnain Abidin said in a statement on September 19.

Wanita Amanah leader Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud said she opposed the Better Beer Festival because she did not want to encourage alcohol consumption, while Amanah vice president Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa also focused on the dangers of alcoholism, even as he acknowledged non-Muslims had the right to drink.

Amanah communications director Khalid Samad said on a media outfit’s YouTube channel that although he was not in support of beer festivals, “Islam forbids us from blocking the rights of non-Muslims”.

Seputeh MP Teresa Kok from DAP said having differences on beer festivals would not destroy PH.

“We can only say we agree to disagree,” she told Malay Mail Online.

“What destroyed Pakatan Rakyat is the betrayal of PAS leaders on agreement made in PR, especially on hudud law,” the DAP vice chairman added.

PPBM strategist Rais Hussin said differences of opinion must be celebrated, especially in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.

“To me, Amanah is a more progressive centrist political party than a conservative, confused, narrow religious party like PAS,” he told Malay Mail Online. “We must keep our focus on bigger and greater issues rather than letting smaller issues to cloud it.”

Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, an analyst at public policy consulting firm BowerGroupAsia, said Amanah leaders supporting the ban on the beer festival showed that what differentiated the party and PAS was only in colour and name.

“The only difference is that Amanah is willing to play second fiddle,” Asrul told Malay Mail Online.

“However, if Amanah is able to win a significant number of parliamentary seats post-GE14, then we can probably expect the same dynamics within the Opposition which eventually led to the demise of Pakatan Rakyat.”

Oh Ei Sun, adjunct senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Amanah must be clear if it wanted to replicate PAS’ traditional conservative stance of protesting against such festivals.

“In which case, it would hardly distinguish itself from PAS. Or would Amanah boldly strike out its own more moderate and thus more mainstream-appealing path?’ he said.