What Husam’s leadership means for Kelantan politics and Amanah

Husam Musa

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, Malay Mail Online

Former PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa’s decision to join Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) last month was greeted with exuberance and hype, to the point of speculation that he would replace Mohamad Sabu as president.

To many in Kelantan, the Salor assemblyman’s entry into the year-old opposition party gives it the credibility needed to pose an actual challenge to the ruling Kelantan PAS government, and to current Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob.

On paper, the 56-year old politician boasts credentials that would qualify him to lead the move to replace the current PAS state administration; he is an economics graduate from the University of Malaysia, a former lawmaker for the Kubang Kerian parliamentary seat as well as the Kijang state seat.

But perhaps Husam’s biggest selling point is his close ties with former PAS spiritual advisor and Kelantan MB, the late Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

Husam had been touted as Nik Aziz’s protégé and was reputedly in line to be a future Kelantan mentri besar, a post Nik Aziz had held for 23 years until he resigned in May 2013 due to his deteriorating health.

Husam was sacked from PAS earlier this year, but it took him some months before deciding to join Amanah, which is currently led by many of his former Erdogan (progressive) colleagues from his old party.

Amanah’s presence in the Kelantan state assembly

Husam’s entry into Amanah means the party finally has a sole representative in the Kelantan state legislative assembly, along with 31 PAS state assemblymen, 12 from Umno and one from PKR.

“Before this we only had state assemblymen in Pahang, Johor, Selangor and Perak. But now, with Husam in Amanah, he will be able to present the party’s ideas and policies and use this platform to highlight the problems in the current PAS administration,” Kelantan Amanah chairman Datuk Wan Rahim Wan Abdullah told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

Wan Rahim said that Husam is now “more or less” the Amanah’s de facto leader in Kelantan, and will be the one to decide on the its future decisions, strategies and cooperation with other parties.

“Even though I am the Amanah chairman here, Husam is the defacto leader here. As an old hand, I see that Husam has the potential to lead the state, we now have a viable choice for MB.

“For two terms under Tok Guru Nik Aziz, as an executive councillor Husam was put in charge of the state’s finance portfolio, a position usually handled by the MB,” Wan Rahim added.

Shoring up support ahead of GE14

Husam has also kept himself busy. Earlier this month the Salor representative began the offensive against PAS by publicly accusing the Kelantan government of illegal logging activities in reserved forest land.

Just last week, Amanah organised a dinner event in Kota Baru to publicise Husam’s entry into the party and invited guests such as former Kota Baru MP Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to speak in support of a new state government to replace PAS.

Zaid spoke highly of Husam during the event, reportedly telling attendees that Kelantan needed a “new leader” who would live up to the late Nik Aziz’s legacy, and that Husam is the right person for the job.

“What Husam is doing right now is speaking to all the associations, NGOs in Kelantan, asking permission from the people of Kelantan for Amanah to replace as the new state government.

“We are talking about the next general election, Husam will start the fight for Kelantan by offering its people a better deal than PAS gave them after Tok Guru Nik Aziz’s passing,” Wan Rahim explained.

“We’re not going to disturb the current PAS government, we are talking about the future of Kelantan,” he said, adding that over 1,500 people registered as Amanah members after the dinner event last week.

Husam, the next Amanah president?

But the question now is what role will Husam play in Amanah on a national level. Speculation is rife that he will replace Mohamad, better known as Mat Sabu, in the role, as the latter’s presidency so far been marked by defeats in two by-elections and the Sarawak state election.

A party insider told Malay Mail Online that Husam’s involvement in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Citizen’s Declaration” and good ties with the former prime minister gave support to calls for him to play a more crucial role nationally.

“He is a shrewd strategist, tactician… he is well-positioned to play a role in the opposition’s grand coalition,” the source said.

Party leaders have declined comment on Husam’s future as Amanah president, although Mohamad has was prepared to step aside for a more qualified leader.

“I have no problem giving up my position to anyone who chosen in the party’s full assembly,” Mohamad reportedly told Astro Awani earlier this month.

Amanah communications director Khalid Samad believes the issue of the presidency is a matter that will only be decided when the party holds its next election.

“That will probably be in 2018, so we leave the issue of who becomes president to when the time comes.

“But Husam has a role to play on the federal and national level, he is the chairman for ‘Amanah’s roadmap to Putrajaya’ committee, and we do want him told a very senior role,” Khalid told Malay Mail Online, referring to the party’s strategic team for GE14.