KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — While Pakatan Harapan’s central leadership remains embroiled in a squabble over official posts, its Kelantan counterpart is quietly finalising an action plan to win the traditional PAS stronghold in the next general election.
The “Kelantan Pakatan Harapan presidential council” had its first official meeting last Thursday, where five delegates each from Amanah, PKR, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) attended and agreed on a working framework heading into the 14th national polls.
Past attempts to formalise the coalition’s state leadership were unsuccessful as PKR still had a working relationship with PAS. This changed, however, when PAS officially cut ties with PKR during its annual muktamar.
“It was difficult before this, but now since PKR has instructed all of its representatives in Kelantan to resign from their positions in the state’s local councils, things are much more fluid, straightforward, we can move on,” Kelantan Amanah chairman Datuk Wan Rahim Wan Abdullah told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
The Husam factor
One of the decisions made at the meeting last week was for former PAS vice-president and Salor assemblyman Datuk Husam Musa to be made Kelantan Pakatan Harapan’s adviser and de facto leader for the GE14 campaign in the state.
“Husam was chosen because of his experience in managing the state administration, as well as his popularity as a progressive leader. He is the adviser but he will also be leading Pakatan Harapan’s campaign in Kelantan,” Wan Rahim explained.
Husam was sacked by PAS last year and subsequently joined Amanah. To many in Amanah, Husam’s entry into the two-year-old Opposition party gave 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 Universiti Malaya, a former lawmaker for the Kubang Kerian parliamentary seat as well as the Kijang state seat.
But Husam’s biggest selling point is his close ties with former PAS spiritual adviser and Kelantan MB, the late Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, a link that the party plans on using.
“None of the current PAS leaders in the state government, from Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Yaakob to the state executive councillors has what it takes to address the bread-and-butter issues of the people.
“They are just carrying on Tok Guru Nik Aziz’s legacy and policies without bringing anything new to the table,” Wan Rahim said.
PAS will lose to Umno
The message Kelantan Pakatan Harapan wants to impress up voters is clear: Umno will win the state in GE14 if the party goes against PAS in a one-on-one fight.
“In 2013, PAS’s popular vote was just 52 per cent, and in some constituencies PAS won by just a few hundred votes.
“At that time, PAS was with Pakatan Rakyat, and even with the support of the late Nik Aziz the party’s win was a fragile one,” Wan Rahim said.
He claimed that Umno will take over Kelantan if Pakatan Harapan does not step in.
But does this mean that Pakatan Harapan plans on contesting all seats in Kelantan?
“In general, the consensus is to put candidates in all seats, but there may be some unique circumstances where in some seats we may support the PAS candidate on a personal level, if he or she is able to work with us or agrees to our approach,” the former Kota Baru MP explained.
PAS currently has 31 state assemblymen, Umno has 12 while Pakatan Harapan (Amanah and PKR) has two.
‘Mini manifesto’ for the Kelantan people
Pakatan Harapan will also kickstart an aggressive campaign after Hari Raya, in which its leaders will engage with voters in dialogue sessions where they will have a chance to showcase the policies and approach they plan to offer Kelantan which is different from PAS.
Wan Rahim said the “mini manifesto” will focus on issues relating to access to clean water in the state, cost of living and land issues.
He also said that coalition will focus on addressing the plight of the Orang Asli in the state, something that he believed has been ignored by the current Kelantan government under Ahmad Yaakob’s leadership.
“Not one exco in PAS managed to address the number one issue in the state affecting the Orang Asli and the issue of logging and encroachment of their native lands.
“We will come with a solution amicable to all parties,” Wan Rahim said.
The Kelantan government has come under fire for its purported refusal to rein in illegal logging in the state, which the Orang Asli said was damaging their land and livelihoods.
Earlier this year, the PAS government courted controversy with its strong enforcement against Orang Asli activists in Gua Musang, arresting them and tearing down blockades that were erected to keep loggers out of a forest reserve.
Pakatan’s Kelantan MB?
Another issue Kelantan Pakatan Harapan hopes to address is the issue of leadership in the state should they win it in the next general election.
While many expect Husam to be the obvious choice for MB, Wan Rahim said there are other capable leaders as well.
“We are eyeing Husam to win the Salor state seat and Kota Baru parliamentary seat, with the plan of him having a post on the federal level,” he said, adding that an unlikely candidate the coalition can agree on is Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz, the younger son of the late PAS Spiritual Adviser.
“Ustaz Nik Omar is still a PAS member, but if PAS does not contest him in the next election, Amanah will offer him a seat candidacy and if he wins, we will push for him to become the next Kelantan MB,” he said.
“Nik Omar is someone who can carry on the legacy of his late father, and has many admirable qualities,” Wan Rahim said.
Nik Omar courted controversy last year when it was rumoured that he had quit PAS to join Amanah. He has since denied this.