Amanah puts Ku Li in the spotlight


  • Letters
  • Saturday, 30 Jul 2011

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah set up a new NGO called Angkatan Amanah Merdeka last Friday and barely a week later, political circles were abuzz over talk that he was on course to be the next Opposition Leader.

THERE were ripples of excitement when news broke about Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah launching a new non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah) last week.

At 74, the Kelantan prince may be past his prime but he is still the one and only Tengku Razaleigh and people were curious about what he was up to.

However, the interest shown in the setting up of Amanah did not quite match the buzz in political circles that he was slated as the next Opposition Leader.

In other words, he would be taking over from Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Amanah would be his platform.

It did not make much sense actually because Tengku Razaleigh is not only an Umno member but he is still the MP and Umno division leader of Gua Musang.

To be the Opposition Leader, he would have to cross the floor and few see him doing so at this stage of his life.

As things turned out, it was pure speculation although as some cautioned, politics is full of strange bedfellows.

But Tengku Razaleigh, or Ku Li as he is known, has shared the same political bed as Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat in the past and it is unlikely that he would wish to repeat the experience.

Moreover, he cannot really stomach the politics of Nik Aziz nor does he think highly of Anwar and this is putting it mildly.

But he respects Lim Kit Siang and had sent the DAP leader a warm and comradely letter on the latter’s 70th birthday.

“I can see why people are talking about it. In the absence of Anwar, he could be the next best person to put together a workable opposition.

“He is a less known quantity among the younger generation but the older generation sees him as someone who could have been prime minister,” said publisher Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.

The fact that there has been so much speculation over the setting up of Amanah shows that people are always trying to read into Kuli’s actions, that after spending so many years on the fringe of Malaysian politics, he is still someone who some have not given up on.

Some see Amanah as Ku Li’s way of keeping his sights on the prime ministership, a post that has eluded him.

He had what it takes to be at the top but somehow he just could not make it up the final steps of the slippery ladder of power.

The Chinese would probably say he has weak feng shui while the Malays would call it takdir or fate. In hindsight, it all boiled down to the fact that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who beat him to the post, was a much more formidable rival.

Others think Amanah is a platform for him to stay relevant and push issues he believes in.

To hear Amanah committee member Wan Saiful Wan Jan put it, the group aims to be a different voice in the national discourse, something different from what a far-right group like Perkasa is about or the overly-religious voice emerging in some quarters.

It would be a voice that aims to bridge the widening ethnic and political divide while trying to revive the vision and values of founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Ku Li made an encompassing speech at the launch of Amanah. It was what some would call a state of mankind type of speech, except that in this instance it was about his concern and anxiety about the state of the nation.

“He is genuinely concerned about the divisive politics today. You have to remember that when he was at the top, Umno’s position was unassailable, the NEP was not questioned like now.

“Moreover, he came from a generation which had no problems with cross-cultural beliefs and lifestyles,” said Kadir.

Given the Malaysian appetite for conspiracy theories, speculation about where Ku Li will take Amanah is unlikely to go away.

But a great deal of the excitement over Amanah fizzled out when people saw the line-up of personalities. Apart from Kuli, the other most interesting figure was actually the British-educated Wan Saiful who is also the head of the IDEAS think-tank.

He describes himself as a libertarian, had been active in the Conservative Party and even ran for a local council post in the United Kingdom. He returned home in 2009.

The rest of the Amanah line-up are mostly politicians, some of whom date almost as far back as Ku Li while others have either been put to pasture or are seen as rather polarising figures.

The driving force of such organisations has to be young people, particularly the intelligentsia. But the line-up is hardly the sort that will inspire young people to come on board as part of the change that Ku Li dreams of.

Speculation about Ku Li’s ultimate intentions is unlikely to go away just yet because Pakatan Rakyat is desperately seeking a figure whom Malaysians across the ethnic and religious board can accept.

Anwar was that figure but the consensus on him is no longer unanimous because of his legal woes and the video scandal.

PAS’ Datuk Seri Hadi Awang and DAP’s Lim Guan Eng are willing and ready but do not have the cross-sectional appeal.

All this sort of puts Ku Li in a rather special place. In fact, individuals from Pakatan have been wooing him since the Sept 16 fiasco.

He is nobody’s fool. He knows they want him not only for what he can offer but also to use him to embarrass Umno.

Time is against him even if he may be young at heart and bursting with ideas. He is now just four years short of the age Dr Mahathir was when he retired as prime minister.

Even his famous “Palm Manor” home (the name was too posh for the local Malays who pronounced it Pak Man Nor) in Kota Baru looks rather derelict and is no longer the hive of activity it used to be.

But he should just enjoy the speculation for all it is worth.

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