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New opposition chief to ban gambling in Malaysian state

Date: 02 Dec 1999
Time: 19:20:23


New opposition chief to ban gambling in Malaysian state

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 (AFP) - The new opposition leader in Malaysia's oil-rich northeastern state of Terengganu vowed Wednesday to implement strict Islamic laws -- banning gambling and curbing alcohol sales.

"We will bring changes in accordance with Islamic values," chief minister Abdul Hadi Awang told AFP by telephone from the state capital Kuala Terengganu.

"We will shut down all places of vice and immoral activities. This includes lottery outlets and restricting the sale of alcohol."

In reaction to the announcement Malaysian share prices ended 0.2 percent lower Wednesday due to a selldown on gaming stocks, dealers said.

The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange composite index finished at 732.87 points, down 1.79 points from Tuesday's close.

Dealers said casino operator Genting Bhd. and its subsidiary Resorts World Bhd. owned by Chinese tycoon Lim Goh Tong fell prey to unwarranted selling on news PAS will ban lottery outlets in Terengganu.

Genting fell 0.40 ringgit to 12.80 (3.37 dollars) while Resorts fell 0.75 ringgit to 9.45. Another gaming stock, Berjaya Sports Toto fell 0.20 ringgit to 7.65 ringgit. Only Berjaya Sports Toto has outlets in the state.

The Islamic principles to be implemented in Terengganu would be similar to those in neighbouring Kelantan which has been ruled by PAS since 1990, the new chief minister added.

Abdul Hadi, 52, was appointed chief minister after his Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) wrested the state for the first time from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's National Front in Monday's polls.

PAS shot to prominence in Monday's general election when it more than tripled its parliamentary seats from eight to 27. It also kept control of Kelantan state assembly and captured Terengganu.

PAS declared Tuesday a public holiday for Terengganu to mark its victory.

It won 28 out of 32 seats in Terengganu's assembly and all eight parliamentary seats in the state.

Abdul Hadi has pledged to fulfill PAS' campaign promises, including abolishing bridge tolls, two-day weekly rest for government servants and scrapping assessment rates for residential units.

"It will be implemented after discussions with officials in the state executive council -- within a short period of time," he said.

Abdul Hadi attributed PAS' triumph in Terengganu to "help" from God and hard-working party members.

The injustices against jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim and the abuses of state-owned mass media also led to a backlash against the National Front, he said.

PAS was seen as the main beneficiary from a split among Malay voters over the treatment of Anwar, sacked last year and jailed for six years in April for abusing his official powers. He is now on trial for sodomy.

PAS has joined the Alternative Front alliance along with the National Justice Party headed by Anwar's wife, the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party and the Malaysian People's Party.

The alliance's common manifesto makes no mention of PAS's declared goal of introducing hudud (Islamic) laws but the ruling party had depicted PAS as an extremist party wanting to establish an Islamic state in its election campaign.

Abdul Hadi said the government became "a victim of its own lies," and that issues of corruption, cronyism and nepotism had also influenced voters to opt for PAS.

He vowed to foster cordial ties with the federal government.

"We will maintain good relations. We are a family but with different political idealogy," he added, urging federal authorities to cooperate with the state.

Revenue from the state's oil and gas resources could be used to assist neighbouring Kelantan which is one of the poorer state, he added.

PAS stands to receive 500 million ringgit (132 million dollars) a year in royalty payments from oil and gas production in Terengganu, which accounts for some 60 percent of Malaysia's total crude output.

Last changed: December 02, 1999