Amanah can affect political landscape, say analysts

By T.K. Letchumy Tamboo, Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR: Is Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, or Ku Li, as he is more popularly known, planning to replace PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim?

Will the newly-formed NGO Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah) be merely a voice within Umno or a separate entity critical of the current leadership?

These were among questions raised by political analysts, who noted with great interest the former Semangat 46 leader’s latest political gambit in forming the NGO.

Tengku Razaleigh has declared he would not rule out the possibility of Amanah becoming a political party.

The Malay Mail spoke to three political analysts on possible motivations and ramifications of the Gua Musang MP’s latest manoeuvre, which they believe could have far-reaching effects on the political landscape. Here are their thoughts:

● Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, University Utara Malaysia school of international studies dean: “Ku Li’s position is difficult as an Umno member whose views are not really mainstream. Many times he was vocal on issues such as having clean and fair elections, and freedom of speech, and he has even criticised Najib.

“Many within Umno do not like him to be vocal as he may be seen as a disgruntled leader who is against the party leadership. What Ku Li has done through Amanah is to build a platform for him to speak as he cannot go far within Umno with his sometimes controversial views.

“In terms of the country’s political landscape, Amanah can either make it better or worse. It could be better in
terms of democratisation as more people will get involved in Malaysian politics by bravely voicing their opinions on things that matter. But, it could take a turn for the worse by ruffling a few feathers in its wake as it may offend many quarters with its views, and things may even turn violent.

“I also don’t think he (Tengku Razaleigh) will be joining forces with Anwar as he has strong support in his constituency in Gua Musang. But then again, this is politics and we cannot predict things like these. It is also not possible for Pakatan Rakyat to have two prime minister candidates as I believe Anwar has been chosen by
the coalition as their possible candidate and they will stand by their decision.”

● Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Social Sciences Deputy Dean Prof Dr R. Siva Murugan: “By setting up Amanah, maybe Ku Li wants to be a voice within Umno. Amanah could be a platform that contributes to the betterment of the party. On the other hand, maybe he wants Amanah to go beyond Umno and be critical of Barisan National. However, Ku Li had clearly stated he intended Amanah to be an NGO rather than a political party.

“If Amanah is active and structured well, then they could play an important role in the country’s political landscape. If they move aggressively in the grassroot level, maybe they can even emerge as a watchdog to the government’s policies as most members are those who had a strong hold in politics, such as former MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and former MIC deputy president Datuk S. Subramaniam.

“For example, Amanah’s opinion the government should reform the electoral system and take in the views of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) first before calling for the 13th general election is a good start  However, if he decides to join Pakatan Rakyat, he will only do so if Anwar is not in the coalition. He seems to be a person who would like to replace Anwar, not someone who will work with Anwar, unless he decides so.

“PR would also not be ready to accept Ku Li if he wants to join the coalition as he will be seen as a threat to Anwar. Amanah has to be careful with its game for at least the next six months in anticipation of the general election. They should not be seen as siding any party. If they take up government issues, they would be accused of supporting the Opposition. If they take up opposition issues, they would be accused of supporting the government. They have to take the middle road.”

● Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Union president Azmi Sharom: “In any democratic country, the democratic space should be unlimited. Expressing views through Amanah is a good thing as I believe the wider the spectrum of views, the better it is.

“The Malaysian public have generally become braver in voicing views now as opposed to the past five years because of the natural growth of the society. People are fed-up with things like corruption and you can only push them so far until they react.

“Ku Li may join forces with Anwar. Anything is possible. However, Ku Li is very much an Umno person. Even when he established Semangat 46, it didn’t last very long. So, it is unlikely he will leave Umno unless he is 100 per cent required to do so. Even if he joins Pakatan Rakyat, being the political heavyweight that he is, he would want a big position in the coalition. Since he knows such positions have already been taken up, it is unlikely he will leave Umno.”