Ripples across Kelantan


Angry words, slashed tyres and a death threat – these are some of the things that have resulted from the bitter rivalry between PAS and Amanah in Kelantan.

Joceline Tan, The Star

THERE was something vaguely unfamiliar about the Sultan of Kelantan when he arrived for his official birthday ceremony.

Initially, some of the state government leaders waiting in line to greet him thought it was because the normally clean-shaven Sultan Muhammad V was now sporting a neatly-groomed goatee.

It was only later that they realised that the 46-year-old sovereign had lost some weight and that had given his face a more angular and chiselled look. In fact, he looked quite handsome in his traditional sky-blue ceremonial robes.

Malaysia’s youngest Sultan has had a wonderful working relationship with the PAS government from the day he ascended to the throne. He knew that PAS was here to stay in Kelantan, the people had voted for the party since 1990 and, as the sovereign, he has to respect what the people wanted.

Moreover, the PAS government had been his Rock of Gibraltar, so to speak, during the Palace crisis five years ago.

Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob has enjoyed the Sultan’s confidence from the time that he was the deputy to Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

On the Sultan’s recent birthday, he conferred a Datukship of the first class on Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah who is seen as the likely successor to Ahmad.

It was a significant indication of how the Sultan viewed the mutual support between the Palace and the PAS regime now and in the foreseeable future.

PAS’ warm ties with the Palace has contributed to the stability of the state government and also in the way Kelantanese view the party.

But are things about to get more complicated for PAS with Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) in the fray?

The splinter party has declared war on PAS in Kelantan and a recent survey by the Ilham think-tank claimed that about 50% of PAS members in the state are leaning towards Amanah.

A few days ago, Amanah president Mohamed Sabu arrived in Kota Baru where he had breakfast at a warung before doing a walkabout in the busy market place.

That evening he told a ceramah in Pasir Mas that Amanah is ready to govern Kelantan.

“I am not dreaming, we will see a rise in support,” he said.

The two parties have been on the warpath. Not a day passes without the popular Malay daily Sinar Harian reporting on some accusation or insult from one side against the other.

In journalism, there is a term called “dry day” when you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for stories and suffice to say, there has not been a dry day for political reporters the last few years.

PAS has labelled Amanah the kuda DAP (DAP lackey). In retaliation, Amanah has accused PAS of being the tongkat or walking aid of Umno.

Both sides claim to be the one that truly represents the aspirations of Nik Aziz.

Amanah has claimed that it wants to save the legacy of Nik Aziz, the implication being that the late politician, unlike Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, had brought about a more inclusive PAS.

The rebuttal from the PAS side is that Amanah leaders are distorting the legacy of Nik Aziz who was 100% supportive of implementing hudud.

Shortly after Amanah’s formation, its Kelantan chairman Datuk Wan Rahim Wan Abdullah had declared that Amanah wants to see PAS remain in power in the state. He said his party would not contest against PAS in Kelantan. Many are puzzled why his party leaders are now singing a different tune.

A party insider said that Wan Rahim’s sweet words in the earlier stage were meant as an “invitation” to PAS leaders “to negotiate”.

It was a strategy to get PAS to the negotiating table – Amanah is willing to stay out of Kelantan if PAS is willing to give way to Amanah in states like Selangor and Johor.

But, said a PAS official, PAS is not interested in “negotiating with traitors”.

The fact that Amanah is now DAP’s staunchest ally does not help either because many PAS members have come to dislike DAP more than they dislike Umno.

Some have resorted to calling the splinter party “anjing DAP” (DAP dog) and “parasites”.

The sense of betrayal is so raw and personal that some have taken matters into their own hands.

The reaction to the so-called traitors have been so fierce in parts of Kelantan that Kuala Krai MP Dr Hatta Ramli who crossed over from PAS to Amanah has not dared to visit his constituency since quitting PAS.

Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub’s SUV tyre was slashed although he attributed it to the “work of kids”.

Datuk Husam Musa, the PAS assemblyman from Kelantan who, of late, seems closer to Amanah than PAS, has been severely slammed in the Internet. His wife reportedly received an SMS death threat.

Husam has become some sort of gunting dalam lipatan (scissors in the folds or enemy from within). During the recent Kelantan assembly sitting, he stood up to expose financial mismanagement in the PAS government. His PAS colleagues said he did an even better job than the Umno opposition bench.

His colleagues were also unhappy when Husam tried to interrupt the Mentri Besar’s winding-up speech.

But they were even more unhappy when Husam claimed at a ceramah that Hadi had invited PKR’s Azmin Ali to join PAS so that they could form a “unity government” with Umno in Selangor.

It was quite typical of the outlandish stuff that one gets at political ceramah but PAS was not taking this one lying down. Hadi’s political secretary Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar immediately shot it down as fitnah or slander.

Husam was once seen as the brightest star in Kelantan and recently his good friend from PKR Saifuddin Nasution claimed that Husam would have been the deputy prime minister if Pakatan Rakyat had won in the general election.

But Husam could not even be appointed to the Kelantan executive council because the Palace has issues with him.

It has not been a good year for him. He was ousted in the PAS election in June. He was also out of action for several months after coming down with Bell’s Palsy which affects the facial muscles.

The Mentri Besar was concerned and tried to visit him but Husam’s ties with his party were so strained by then that he said he did not want visitors.

Amanah is still eager to recruit Husam who enjoys a good reputation outside of PAS but he has been his usual eccentric and enigmatic self.

“It is sad this has happened. They used to be our friends and they have contributed to the party. Now they attack our party, accuse us of many things. They said PAS has changed but they are the ones who have changed because we are an Islamist party, we have always believed in implementing hudud,” said Mohd Amar.

PAS leaders are sceptical about Amanah’s claim of having support from 50% of PAS members.

If Amanah really had that kind of support, their ceramah would be drawing better crowds and Bersih 4 would not have become a “Chinese Bersih”.

Moreover, Amanah is one of those top-heavy parties and does not have many credible people at the division level in Kelantan. There were complaints that one of the division leaders was once arrested for Syiah activities which is an absolute no-no for the Sunni Muslims in Malaysia.

However, Amanah can be the spoiler in marginal seats and cause seats to fall to Umno.

Almost every political party is having some sort of internal strife or power struggle. It is as though there is some crazy cosmic force going around, causing havoc. Or is it because there are too many crazy people in politics?

According to Mohd Amar, the fallout between PAS and Amanah is equivalent to the talak tiga, a final dissolution of a marriage in Islam.

“We have reached a point of no return,” he said.

There has been so much bad blood between them in so short a time.

The clash between the two parties is just starting, and it will get worse before it can get better.