Socioeconomic concerns more important than appeal on “Allah” issue

By Emma Victoria

Though various parties have urged the state government to demand Putrajaya to drop the appeal against the court ruling on the use of the word “Allah”, it would have little impact on the support of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) in Sarawak.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs Senior Fellow Oh Ei Sun said it is unlikely that the GPS government will lose support or votes significantly due to the issue in the next state or general election.

“It will not affect the support for GPS in Sarawak, especially in the interior constituencies which form the majority of state assembly seats,” he said when contacted.

“This is because the main concerns for voters in these constituencies are socioeconomic ones, which GPS is obviously in a better position to provide or to offer,” he said.

Oh said in any case, GPS is in the same federal ruling coalition with a decidedly Islamist party PAS, and it doesn’t appear that many interior voters mind this.

“Even if there are urban voters who would question Putrajaya’s decision to appeal or GPS for not doing anything to stop it, they are mostly DAP supporters,” he said.

Meanwhile, the more well exposed Sarawakians in Peninsular Malaysia, who could be affected by such a decision (if Putrajaya wins the appeal) for not allowing Christians to use the word Allah – they might not even be able to return home to vote due to the pandemic.

He said Putrajaya was making the appeal as three Malay parties in the coalition had been calling for it. But, socioeconomic concerns trump everything else in those rural constituencies in Sarawak.

Last week, the Chief Minister’s Office had issued a statement to assure that Christians in Sarawak can continue to use the word “Allah” following calls from several parties and opposition leaders, urging GPS – as a kingmaker in putting the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government in Putrajaya to do more.

They wanted Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg to demand Putrajaya to drop the appeal against the court ruling in favour of allowing Sabah and Sarawak to use the word ‘Allah’ without any conditions.