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Did UMNO use its welfare department to convert naive desperate folks into party members?

Now, Najib wants a share in PAS's welfare state concept

KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 10: Following the PAS leadership's announcement to concentrate on the Qur'anic call for a 'benevolent state', or welfare state as outlined by Tuan Guru Abdul Hadi Awang in his presidential address at the party Muktamar last week, the Islamic state had come under attack from right wing group Perkasa mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia.

While the thrust of the attack has been over PAS's abandoning of the 'Islamic state' concept, the UMNO president appeared to have backtracked in ridiculing the 'welfare state' by claiming that his government had already applied it.

“The government has always struggled towards achieving a welfare state. Therefore I find it strange and peculiar that they want to establish a welfare state.

"What they claim as new, we have had for a long time. There is no need for them to take the model of the current government,” Najib Razak (right) was quoted as saying.

The latest claim of 'welfare state' however comes at a time when the government finds itself under fire over a spate of price hikes, as well as its controversial funding of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) while denying subsidies for household users.

Najib said Felda, Felcra, Bank Islam and Bank Rakyat were proofs of the BN's government emphasis on welfare.

Earlier, PAS Murshidul Am Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat brushed aside UMNO's criticisms of its welfare state pledge, saying it had been long implemented in Kelantan through its elimination of vices  since 1990.

Nik Aziz thus gave another side of the 'welfare state' concept which had been hitherto thought by critics to have been only interested in the economic sphere.

“Kelantan bans gambling with a view to guard the welfare of the people. Those who gamble are only working towards the destruction of their family.

"One can say that Kelantan is the only country in this region which bans gambling,” he stressed.

Nik Aziz also echoed the PAS president by saying that the ingredients of a state based on Islam were all found in a welfare state.

'PAS caused disunity'

Meanwhile, Najib continued to deflect UMNO and its various offshoots' right wing agenda, saying that it was PAS which caused disunity among Malaysians.

“Malaysians are no longer united due to certain parties that want to politicise religion for their own interest.

"In a multi-racial country, religious debate must be managed with prudence and care because this type of discussion can lead to hatred among all communities,” he said, in what is seen as turning the table on growing public disenchantment with UMNO-owned Utusan Malaysia, which in recent times focused on so-called "anti-Malay" agenda in its front pages.

In its latest attack, it accused the DAP-led Penang state government of interfering in mosque affairs over a decision to have mosque committees to be democratically elected as is practised in other states. Several Muslim leaders from Pakatan Rakyat have lauded  the move.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim warned UMNO's religious "zealots" against threatening religious harmony.

“There are some UMNO leaders and media owned by threatening religious harmony in the Malaysia with their narrow racial rhetoric which is shallow and not based on justice as demanded by Islam.

"They are just trying to create fear among Muslims and plant doubts in us,” said Anwar.

Pahang PAS state commissioner Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man meanwhile said the move to democratise mosque administration only worked against UMNO as it had always wanted to abuse mosques through appointment of party chieftains, some of whom he said never attended congregationary prayers at mosques.

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