Clare Opens Hadi S Pandora S Box But Will It Matter To Malay Voters Who Have Long Been Immune To Corruption

Various parties have commented on the out-of-court settlement between PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown. We can expect more lively and loaded commentaries in the days ahead
Rewcastle-Brown has since said she stands her ground. She explained that the article would remain online without any alteration
Amanah leaders who were former leaders of PAS came out with guns blazing against Hadi and company. Mohamad Sabu issued an open invitation to unhappy PAS members to join Amanah. Khalid Samad said the settlement by Hadi was an open admission by PAS of Rewcastle-Brown’s allegations
Hanipa Maidin questioned Hadi as to why he initiated the case in the first place. Raja Kamarul Bahrin said PAS supporters were the main losers for being duped into donating about RM3 million to defray legal costs

Raja Bahrin also noted that there were now rumblings of discontent among PAS members in Terengganu over the volte-face by Hadi. Husam Musa and Mahfuz Omar, meanwhile, expressed regret that a party which had been built on the platform of Islamic ideals was now under severe disrepute
In the meantime, a purported extract of the settlement, naming a number of PAS bigwigs as leading very luxurious lifestyles from ill-gotten proceeds, has gone viral on the internet over the last few days
The New Straits Times reported that one of the leaders, a PAS ulama, had admitted that a Porsche car was indeed registered in his name but he claimed that it was not his
A lawyer friend commented that it reminded him of the case of a lawyer who was the subject of a royal commission of inquiry. When showed a video of him making some incriminating statements, he nonchalantly replied, “It looks like me, sounds like me…”A video clip of former PAS Youth chief Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Aziz purportedly making incriminating confessions has also resurfaced. In the said video, Nik Abduh purportedly admits that PAS had been receiving financial assistance, and proudly claimed that PAS was clever and Umno was stupid in this matter
Hadi’s video at a dialogue session apparently held in Kuala Terengganu early this year also went viral lately. In the video, Hadi purportedly said that if PAS were to withdraw the suit against Rewcastle-Brown, it would mean what she said was true
Then there is also the bank-in-slip of RM1 million purportedly being remitted to Terengganu PAS officials and another RM1.5 million to the party’s state election committee in Terengganu to help in its general election campaign
A Kadir Jasin, media adviser to the prime minister, said it was imperative that the authorities investigate the matter and bring it to a quick closure
A few reports were also lodged with the police, and the MACC subsequently announced it was investigating the matter
The niggling issuesIf Hadi and company were expecting that the settlement would help bring about a quick and happy closure to the matter, they were very wrong about it. As wrong and unwise as they were when they initiated the libel suit in the first place
Now instead of a quick closure to the case, the settlement has opened up Pandora’s box, with old and new evidence being uploaded at a fast and furious pace on to social media with much detriment to PAS
Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that the said settlement has opened up a can of worms for public viewing
The flip-flop stand taken by PAS throughout the saga has only worsened the situation. The public has been reminded that when Rewcastle-Brown broke the story about the RM90 million enticement money, PAS came out with strong denials and threatened to sue the accusers
PAS had also dismissed the video of Nik Abduh as fake. But as time went by and as more and more evidence surfaced to corroborate the story, PAS began to shift its ground and appear more defensive
What a pity, with the settlement now in place, the public has been denied the chance and opportunity to scrutinise the evidence at an open court trial
The rough road ahead for PAS1. Offences under AMLA and Election ActHadi and the implicated PAS leaders know best whether they should be really worried about the ongoing MACC investigations into the matter
For now, they have not responded openly to the various parties who have condemned or made scathing remarks against them for Hadi’s volte-face in the libel suit
But a few other leaders continue to show their defiance in their stand on the matter
Tuan Ibrahim, the deputy president is on record as saying PAS is unfazed by the fact that Sarawak Report still continues to carry the offending article
Other PAS leaders emphasised the fact that it would take a big heart to forgive the enemies
Terengganu PAS even mentioned that they will be open 25 hours a day to help facilitate the MACC with the investigations. It is a brave stance indeed
What choice does PAS have anyway
We still remember that PAS was likewise very confident when they initiated the libel suit against Rewcastle-Brown. PAS was as confident when they issued the threat to sue Husam, Rafizi (Ramli) and Mahfuz for their purported slander. But nothing came out of it
Now, we also know what happened to the said suit. They were also cocksure about the Nik Abduh video and insisted that they had received no such monies from Umno
These are all men of religion who recite Quranic verses and hadiths all the time
PAS and its leaders are now being investigated under the AMLA. Assuming the documentary evidence is placed on the bank deposits and remittances from questionable sources, the burden to prove that the monies are from legitimate sources will be on the accused
The burden of proof is not on the prosecution, as is generally the case for other offences. All said, it is easier for the prosecution to secure a conviction under the AMLA
Also, the circumstances of the case may also amount to offences under the Election Act
2. Hadi and PAS’s credibilityHadi and PAS leaders are taking a severe beating from the episode. From the feedback and comments by the man on the street and those on social media, we can discern negative perceptions towards them
Political commentators are also having a field day denigrating PAS and its leaders. The PAS and Umno bandwagons could be in for a rougher and bumpier ride ahead as new developments or new stories unfold
3. Semenyih by-electionIt will be interesting to see how all these will impact the minds of the Malay voters including PAS and Umno supporters in the upcoming Semenyih by-election
It is inconceivable to think that they would remain oblivious or indifferent to the latest turn of events
After all, in Semenyih, we are dealing with Malays who are generally more critical in their attitudes than the Malays of the east coast. So we can expect a different kind of scenario from Cameron Highlands
Semenyih is different from Cameron Highlands in many ways. Unlike Camerons, Semenyih was won by PH in the May elections
The combined votes won by Umno and PAS in Semenyih at the said general election was still about 2,000 short of the votes obtained by PH
Semenyih is in the state of Selangor where PH controls the state government. And the level of education, state of economy and political awareness are higher than in Cameron Highlands
Umno and PAS will find the going tougher here. Now with the fiasco of the defamation suit blown out in the open, they will face a more onerous challenge to wrest the seat from PH
Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior lawyer.– FMT

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