In conservative Terengganu, PAS holds sway while Pakatan struggles to make inroads

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 08 May 2019

THROUGHOUT its first year in power in Terengganu, PAS' strategy has been to work with its new friend Umno while maintaining a relationship with Pakatan Harapan in Putrajaya.

The Islamist party wrested the state from Barisan Nasional, which had governed the state since 2004, in the 14th General Election (GE14). It won 22 out of the 32 state seats.

Pakatan, on the other hand, did not win any seats and even lost Bandar – a Chinese majority area in the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat won by PKR in GE13 – to PAS.

After he took his oath as Mentri Besar on May 10 last year, aerospace expert Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar vowed to take lessons from PAS’ last outing as state government in 1999, and not repeat its mistakes.

So far, the first-term Rhu Rendang assemblyman who is more fondly known as Dr Sam, has proved his mettle and is seen as an honourable and wise leader.

Under Ahmad Samsuri's leadership, PAS continued some ongoing initiatives including the construction of the RM248mil drawbridge linking Kuala Terengganu and Seberang Takir in Kuala Nerus on the other side of the Terengganu River.

It also did not shut down the sole cinema in Kuala Terengganu, allaying fears the city would end up like Kota Baru in Kelantan, which is also governed by PAS and is without a cinema.

Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar

At the same time, it made sure not to neglect non-Muslim minorities by appointing Dr GK Balachandran, a Hindu, as special officer to manage their affairs.

Over the past one year, PAS has managed to fulfill some of the 20 promises made in its GE14 manifesto, many of which were aimed at helping poorer families and those earning low wages.

They include 20-cubic metres of free water supply monthly for low-income households, exemption for those aged 16 to 40 from paying fees when applying for motorcycle licences, and tax exemptions.

Dr Nazli Aziz, deputy dean at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu’s school of social and economic development, said the state’s economic growth and PAS’ delivery of promises hinge on the oil royalties it receives, and both could be paralysed if these payments are stopped.

“PAS knows that besides keeping the trust of the Malay Muslim majority in Terengganu through its ties with Umno, it has to maintain amicable terms with Pakatan-led Putrajaya to ensure the state’s development is not neglected,” he said.

Ahmad Samsuri first approached the Federal Government as early as two months into his tenure to negotiate better terms for the state.

Putrajaya has shown its commitment to the economic development of the state.

A recent signal was the revival of the East Coast Rail Link project with six stations in Terengganu.

While Ahmad Samsuri has proven to be a good mediator between conservative Terengganu and fast-paced, urban Putrajaya, there were some measures under his leadership that alarmed the rest of Malaysia and fed the negative perception of life under PAS.

Among them was a list of guidelines on performances that prescribed gender separation, among others.

Two women were also sentenced to caning after pleading guilty to committing musahaqah (sexual relations between women) under Section 30 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment (Takzir) (Terengganu).

Nazli also said the PAS-Umno ties would hamper the chances of Pakatan winning votes in Terengganu, adding that many people in the state still view Pakatan as an urban-centric party that does not represent them.

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