Pas sees Ku Li as replacement for Nik Aziz

By Zubaidah Abu Bakar – NST

TENGKU Razaleigh Hamzah has been for some time now been likened to an opposition in his own party for not toeing the line of the government and Umno on several issues, including the contentious one on oil royalties.

The Gua Musang member of parliament criticised the Umno leadership on party matters and has taken an opposing stand, including in cyberspace through his blog, razaleigh.com.

The oil royalties that the Pas-led Kelantan government is fighting for, the use of the word “Allah”, the status of the Perak menteri besar and lately, his criticism of the democratic system in the country being a sham are some of the sensitive subjects that could cause the Umno/Barisan Nasional votes if not cautiously managed.

Theories abound on why Tengku Razaleigh decided to join the opposition to compel Petronas to pay the five per cent oil royalties to the Kelantan government.

One is that of Pakatan Rakyat making the Kelantan prince their fall-back candidate for the post of prime minister should opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim end up in jail because of his sodomy charge.

Tengku Razaleigh is also seen by some Pas leaders as an acceptable candidate for the premiership should Pakatan Rakyat wrest control in the next general election.

To them, there is no one in the Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s stable to take over Anwar’s place as “prime minister-in-waiting”. Pas will also not want someone from DAP and vice versa. 

Another interesting argument among Kelantan Pas leaders is that Tengku Razaleigh would be the ideal compromise candidate to take over as Kelantan menteri besar from Datuk Seri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat. 

Tengku Razaleigh has blended well with Pas before, through the now-defunct Umno party he set up, Semangat 46. The alliance wrested control of Kelantan from BN in 1990. He dissolved the party in 1996 and returned to Umno. 

This one is, however, not a theory but a fact: there are Kelantanese who think Tengku Razaleigh sympathises with them, genuinely fighting for their right to the oil royalties because he, as a Kelantanese prince, cares for the rakyat. 

Will he jump ship then? There is no certainty he will not although it is clear that he is already at the tail end of his political career in Umno. 

He dreamed of becoming the Umno president and subsequently prime minister but the peak of the mountain he scaled was beyond reach until today. Who knows, his luck on the other side of the political divide could be better? But should this happen, there will a lot of damage to Umno over the oil royalties issue. 

An argument by the former Petronas chairman certainly carries some weight. If Umno does not tread cautiously on the issue, it will backfire. 

The Information, Communications and Culture Ministry had taken out full-page advertisements in Malay newspapers to rebut Tengku Razaleigh’s argument that Kelantan and other states are entitled to the five per cent oil royalties under the Petroleum Development Act 1974. 

The messages, however, may not reach the desired target because reading newspapers is not a priority in rural constituencies. Umno will have to go down to the ground more often to explain the oil royalties issue because it will be one of the main issues in the next general election.

Umno should also realise that winning arguments alone is not enough to secure votes. The people of Kelantan have to be convinced since it is they who will decide who, between Pas and Umno, should rule the state in two years’ time.

The Kelantan Umno’s 2B or Berkawan dan Berkhidmat (making friends and serving) approach adopted under the leadership of Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed should resolve some of the concerns over the compassionate fund that would soon be channelled to them. 

Going to court for settlement is the last thing Pas would do. The party needs to keep the issue alive and Umno will have to be on the offensive.