Tengku Razaleigh & Friends


The launch of Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah) last Friday by Tengku Razaleigh was not well reported by the mainstream media. That’s not at all surprising, but it’s still regrettable. Any movement—political or otherwise—that seeks to promote unity in the country deserves support from all quarters. We are a divided country; that is obvious for anyone to see. To know that some of our erstwhile leaders (mainly from BN) are getting together to declare “enough is enough” and target the present malaise gives hope to many Malaysians.

I was not invited to the launch but imposed myself by calling the organisers and asking if I could attend. Fortunately, they were gracious about it and I was there together with some 200 others being fêted with speeches about how rotten things have become and what needs to be done. I was seated next to Nurul Izzah Anwar and that was special too. I have always liked her very much and being able to have a friendly chat with her about politics after many months was memorable.

There was a lot of speculation about Tengku Razaleigh’s game plan or motive behind launching Amanah. Some say it’s his way of keeping his hope of becoming the next PM alive. Others are less kind, and say he is clutching at straws to keep himself relevant at a time when his influence within UMNO is fast receding.

I am inclined to see the action of Amanah’s promoters as noble and sincere. They want to remind people that we must not abandon the principles upon which this nation was founded. They seem to be saying that we must not try to reengineer or remodel this country on new imperatives, forgetting along the way all that has kept this nation together for so long. The call is for a more decent and trustworthy Government — who can dispute the relevance of that?

I would prefer Tengku Razaleigh to be more explicit and direct about his plans. In this country there is no middle path that one can take and still hope to make an electoral impact, which is necessary especially if one is looking at effecting a political transformation. One is either with BN or with Pakatan Rakyat.

Kita is a new political party that is willing to take a different and more risky route, but our “business model” is different. We focus on issues that have divided us like the NEP, religious freedom, the secular state, democracy, etc, and other similarly sensitive issues because we feel that addressing and understanding them are key to our future stability. Our manifesto touches on all these issues that BN and Pakatan shy away from. But these issues do not win elections in the short term. I do not believe Tengku Razaleigh and his friends are going to articulate them and be ideological in the way that we are.

Amanah, I am sure, will be pragmatic in their approach and this is why I was somewhat surprised that its promoters did not endorse the Pakatan Rakyat platform, at least on substantive issues. This will give them the momentum and the enthusiastic crowds on their nationwide tour. Otherwise, who will listen to them but a handful of smart urbanites, who are probably already converted to their line of thinking? Supporting Pakatan does not mean we subscribe to all of their policies or approve of all their leaders. But making Pakatan stronger will transform the political dynamic, which hopefully will bring some positive changes.