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I was not surprised to read that Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat elected to sequester his PAS state assemblymen at the party headquarters immediately following Sunday's recounting of votes.

Those of us with a long memory span would remember Sabah's day of shame (March 17, 1994) when Kadazan Huguan Siou (paramount leader) Joseph Pairin Kitingan was forced to resign as chief minister, ending nine years of opposition rule in Sabah.

In February that year, his PBS party had secured a razor-thin majority of 25 seats in the 48-seat state legislative assembly. This victory was attained despite Pairin's call from as early as 1991 for the Election Commission to clean the state's electoral roll of phantom voters.

If the opposition is to be believed, phantoms have invariably exhibited a tendency to trace a ghostly 'X' against the dacing on the ballot.

In any event, Pairin's government soon collapsed after assemblymen from the PBS, including his younger brother Jeffrey Kitingan, switched camp en masse to the BN. The people of Sabah who had backed the opposition ticket were thus 'robbed' of the government they had given their mandate to because their trust was grievously betrayed by that excretory bunch of defectors.

Interestingly, some three months later in June, prosecutors dropped all corruption charges against Jeffrey, former director of the Sabah Foundation.

If anything, here is another lesson for all of us in that the character of the candidate counts as much as the party he represents. Men who do not possess any skeletons in their closets will be better able to keep faith with the party under whose banner they contest, and with its supporters.

Today, the PAS majority somewhat parallels the PBS's in 1994. The Islamic party holds 24 out of the 45 seats in the Kelantan state assembly. A slim margin indeed in the world of Cronesian politics.

That Nik Aziz has managed to swear in his state government, given our political climate, is shining a testament to the integrity of the PAS representatives.

Some cynical critics may scoff at Nik Aziz for invoking heaven and hell in his election campaign. But when private conscience fails, as seen in the public scandals, the pious - both leaders and their followers - turn to a belief in reward and punishment in the hereafter. They are perhaps hoping for the justice and fairplay that they cannot not see in our BN-ruled temporal realm.

So why denigrate Nik Aziz for calling upon the wrath of God when it is we who should be taking a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror? Without the mediation of religion, have we - as a society - shown ourselves to be exemplary in terms of personal ethics?

And the most important question of all, is it altogether only men of principle that we have had throwing their hat into the political ring?