Now in power, analysts say time is running out for Amanah to step out from under PAS

Yiswaree Palansamy
Analysts say that time is running out for Amanah to find its true calling, particularly with the PAS-Umno partnership called Muafakat Nasional cornering the market for Malay-Muslim support. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — In 2015, the so-called “progressive” faction of PAS left the party after it was wiped out in its polls.

The defeated leaders and their supporters left to form Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) and were expected to trigger an exodus from the Islamist party that did not ultimately materialise.

Despite this, it is now superficially more successful than PAS, courtesy of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) unexpected general election victory last year.

Heading into its first convention since then, however, the question of what Amanah represents in relation to PAS still remains.

Analysts also said that time was running out for Amanah to find its true calling, particularly with the PAS-Umno partnership called Muafakat Nasional cornering the market for Malay-Muslim support.

“Amanah is in a very precarious position now since the party failed miserably to replace PAS politically. Yes with Muafakat (Nasional), it seemed that not only PAS grassroots are staying put with their party, but to make things worse, is that PAS sympathisers have no second doubt in supporting PAS.

“And those who are not in favor of supporting Umno, pre-Muafakat Nasional era, seem to be with Umno, post-Muafakat Nasional,” Prof Azmi Hassan told Malay Mail.

Azmi said that while PPBM also has not become the Umno rival it was expected to be, it was at least attractive enough to cause the Malay nationalist party’s members to defect.

He said this left Amanah “vulnerable” to a reality it must confront at its convention.

“They should realise by now, that they are with the government basically out of the courtesy of DAP and PKR,” he added.

Universiti Sains Malaysia's (USM) Prof P. Sivamurugan said Amanah still has not found its unique proposition to Malaysia.

“PAS as a mainstream party has always been successful in recruiting-members because of its political ideology.

“Amanah needs a political ideology that can convince others to join and till today, it is still seen at the early stage although as a ruling party, that should give them an edge to become more popular and acceptable by others,” he told Malay Mail.

Senior fellow of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun said Amanah has already given up in trying to outdo PAS.

He said the progressive faction’s departure from PAS meant Amanah did not have anyone they could still appeal to in the Islamist party.

“The remaining hardline PAS leadership and membership have since found widespread resonance among conservative Malays, who make up a significant portion of Malay voters,” he noted.

Angkatan Wanita Amanah Negara (AWAN) Nasional's deputy chief (1), Anfaal Saari, acknowledged her party still has plenty of work to do.

She rejected the idea that PAS’s influence still loomed over her party.

Anfaal said the Amanah convention starting today was an important platform to strengthen the party by picking capable leaders.

“Amanah's soft approach is also far different than PAS's mannerisms which are seen to be harsh.

“I am sure the people can already see Amanah and its leaders, who have their own personalities, what more with some Amanah ministers and deputy ministers who go on air via television and radio, giving Amanah a chance to showcase our image, and display our differences from PAS,” she told Malay Mail.

Anfaal said Amanah remained relevant as a component in PH due to its track record in defending B40 and M40 income earners as well as marginalised communities.

“What differentiates Amanah and others, is that the Islamic principles we hold as the party's constitution, is not only focused on one race and religion, but it also takes into account the importance of all races, so we can live in harmony.

“Amanah will continue to promote fiqh taayush (co-existence) in the spirit of spreading blessings for all. This idea must be translated into various forms, until the Malay-Muslims in Malaysia can accept the different races and religion as a blessing and not a threat to the concept of a single race supremacy,” she added.

Asked if the inability of influential leaders to be elected to party positions meant the grassroots were unhappy, she said this was simply a process that must be respected.

She also said it should be viewed as party members wanting what was best for Amanah.

On October 20, Malaysiakini reported that Awan chief Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud did not receive any position in the Puchong Amanah branch as she was not chosen to contest.

Dr Siti Mariah is an influential figure since her days in PAS. She was Kota Raja MP for two terms and is currently the assemblyman for Seri Serdang.

Amanah Youth deputy chief Muhammad Faiz Fadzil, the son of the late PAS president  Datuk Fadzil Noor, also failed to get a place in the top 15.

An Amanah member who served as Dr Siti Mariah's aide, Mohd Arif Juhani, echoed Anfaal's sentiments.

Mohd Arif said Amanah’s difficulties stemmed from its origins as the splinter of an Opposition party, whereas PKR and PPBM were established by former Umno leaders who left while the Malay nationalist party was still in power.

“Therefore, Amanah needs a bigger strategic plan to remain relevant in Malaysian politics,” he said.

He added that Amanah was blessed to have a chief minister in Melaka and hoped that the state can be used to showcase Amanah's politics and governance based on progressive Islam.

Like Anfaal, he felt Amanah was moving out from under PAS’s shadow.

“The first test which we need to face after the Convention, is to become a challenger to the Opposition who are more active in attacking the government,” he added.

The Amanah national convention is taking place at IDCC Shah Alam from today until Sunday.

It is one of three political conventions taking place this week. The others are the PKR National Congress in Melaka and the Umno General Assembly here.

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