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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Key issues in Kuala Terengganu by-election

Voters in this northeastern city, the capital of Terengganu state, are voting today in a by-election with national implications. Here are some of the main issues:

TEST OF THE POLITICAL MOOD

The by-election is widely viewed as a referendum on the coalition government's performance and popularity since March 2008 general elections that saw it suffer its worst results in half a century.

The Barisan Nasional coalition is hoping to show it has regained support with promises of reform and leadership changes after losing five states and a third of parliamentary seats in the national polls.

The Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance, which made a failed bid to unseat the coalition late last year, wants to show it has retained support and that it is working effectively despite claims the partnership is cracking up.

RELIGION

The opposition is fielding a candidate from the conservative Islamic party PAS, setting up a clash with the candidate from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) which heads the Barisan Nasional coalition.

Both parties represent the interests of Muslim Malays who dominate the population of multicultural Malaysia, and the vote will also be seen as a test of which party can claim dominance in the Malay heartland.

A poll of Kuala Terengganu voters by the Merdeka Centre research firm found that for Malays the top issue was "strengthening the position of Islam".

It said that Muslims in the state want to see their government give more funding for maintaining mosques, providing services for religious pilgrimages and supporting Muslim charities.

ISLAMIC LAW

A PAS call to reintroduce "hudud" Islamic law, including the amputation of hands for thieves, created controversy during the campaign and was highlighted by the government as it campaigned for support from ethnic Chinese voters.

A top figure in the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP), a member of the opposition alliance, warned the issue could scuttle the partnership.

However, the Merdeka Centre polls found that just 18 percent of Chinese voters in the electorate saw the issue as "very important".

LOCAL ISSUES

While political leaders and the media discuss national issues, on the streets of Kuala Terengganu the talk is mostly about local affairs.

There are allegations that the state government, run by the Barisan Nasional, has misspent money on expensive projects including a lavish riverside "Crystal Mosque" and the international Monsoon Cup yacht race.

The opposition said the money would be better spent on relieving poverty and improving infrastructure in Terengganu, which is rich in oil but remains one of the poorest of Malaysia's states.

"We don't want a Monsoon Cup, we want a monsoon drain," said one political pamphlet.

"DIRTY TRICKS" ALLEGATIONS

The opposition has accused the government of vote-buying and coercion, allegations it denies and says the opposition is merely making excuses for an impending defeat.

The top election official in the state quit on Thursday following claims that he told civil servants to vote for the coalition or face the sack.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accused the government of buying votes for 300-400 ringgit (85-110 dollars) from Muslim Malays, whose support it can no longer take for granted after the shock general election results.

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Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 120

"Bukan orang Yahudi, ataupun Nasrani yang akan menerimamu, melainkan jika kamu mengikut agama mereka. Katakan,"Hanya petunjuk Allah sahaja yang benar" Jika kamu menyetujui kehendak mereka, setelah kamu menerima ilmu pengetahuan, kamu akan dapati tidak ada satu perjanjian ataupun penyokong dapat menolongmu dari Allah."

Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 216

"Kamu diwajibkan berperang (untuk menentang pencerobohan) sedang peperangan itu ialah perkara yang kamu benci; dan boleh jadi kamu benci kepada sesuatu padahal ia baik bagi kamu, dan boleh jadi kamu suka kepada sesuatu padahal ia buruk bagi kamu. Dan (ingatlah), Allah jualah Yang mengetahui (semuanya itu), sedang kamu tidak mengetahuinya."

Surah Al-Imran, Ayat 28

"Janganlah orang-orang yang beriman mengambil orang- orang kafir menjadi teman rapat dengan meninggalkan orang-orang yang beriman. Dan sesiapa yang melakukan (larangan) yang demikian maka tiadalah ia (mendapat perlindungan) dari Allah dalam sesuatu apapun, kecuali kamu hendak menjaga diri daripada sesuatu bahaya yang ditakuti dari pihak mereka (yang kafir itu). Dan Allah perintahkan supaya kamu beringat-ingat terhadap kekuasaan diriNya (menyeksa kamu). Dan kepada Allah jualah tempat kembali."

Surah Al-An'aam, Ayat 67

"Tiap-tiap khabar berita mempunyai masa yang menentukannya (yang membuktikan benarnya atau dustanya); dan kamu akan mengetahuinya."

Surah Ar-Ra'd, Ayat 11

"Bagi tiap-tiap seorang ada malaikat penjaganya silih berganti dari hadapannya dan dari belakangnya, yang mengawas dan menjaganya (dari sesuatu bahaya) dengan perintah Allah. Sesungguhnya Allah tidak mengubah apa yang ada pada sesuatu kaum sehingga mereka mengubah apa yang ada pada diri mereka sendiri. Dan apabila Allah menghendaki untuk menimpakan kepada sesuatu kaum bala bencana (disebabkan kesalahan mereka sendiri), maka tiada sesiapapun yang dapat menolak atau menahan apa yang ditetapkanNya itu, dan tidak ada sesiapapun yang dapat menolong dan melindungi mereka selain daripadaNya."

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