THE first thing that struck the media people covering the launch of Parti Amanah Negara or Amanah was that the new kid on the block is not short of funds. It was a grand affair and the chatter in the media section was that Amanahâ€™s launch is being bankrolled by its big brother DAP although nobody was willing to confirm or deny it.
Amanah president Mohamad Sabu was on cloud nine because the massive convention centre hall in Shah Alam was packed to bursting and everyone had observed the orange dress code.
Mat Sabu, as he is better known by, â€œapologisedâ€ for the tight space during his speech but that was just his way of pointing to the turnout. Politics is a numbers game and he felt both relieved and assured as he gazed at the sea of orange.
Amanah leaders had wanted to use the Bersih 4 demonstration to show that they have Malay support but their plan was dashed by the overwhelming Chinese presence or what some now call the â€œChinese Bersihâ€.
The partyâ€™s launch yesterday helped to salve the wound. It was a largely modern and urban Malay crowd, the category who started gravitating towards PAS in the 1990s and who are now less than enchanÂted with the Islamist party.
They also seemed like the sort of Malays who could have easily fitted into PKR but who are probably uncomfortable with PKRâ€™s secular outlook. Hence, the perception that Amanahâ€™s support base will overlap with that of PKR especially along the west coast belt.
But these are still early days, everything is still pretty general at this stage and the Amanah leaders are still working on the fine print of what their party stands for. Their mission statement claims that their political leadership will be trustworthy, progressive, caring and grounded in Islamic beliefs.
Apart from the turnout, another impressive aspect is the ARiF unit, the counterpart to the PAS Unit Amal. The ARiF team leaders brought their experience from PAS and pulled off a good job in manaÂging traffic and people.
Amanah is still waiting for the greenlight from the Registrar of Societies (RoS). It has taken over a dormant party known as Workersâ€™ Party and it needs the RoS to approve the name change. The party aims to replace PAS in Pakatan Rakyat. The Amanah people are the type of Malays that the DAP leaders like â€“ they are not obsessed about religion and are willing to go along with what DAP wants.
The birth of yet another Malay-led political party shows that the Malays are not the homogenous entity that they have been made out to be. At one time, there was only Umno or PAS for them.
Now, the modern-thinking ones can opt for PKR, the Malay nationalists can choose Umno, the Islamist types can pick PAS and those who cannot fit into any of the above can settle for Amanah.
Mat Sabu beat around the bush when asked whether PAS would be part of the new Pakatan. There is no love lost between the two parties. For instance, Dr Hatta Ramli, the most reviled man in PAS got the loudest applause from the Amanah crowd when Mat Sabu introduced him as â€œTokoh Bai-ahâ€, a reference to PASâ€™ demand that Dr Hatta adhere to the baiâ€™ah or oath he took to divorce his wife if he left PAS.
The hot-headed Sepang MP Hanipa Maidin may be a zero in PAS but was greeted like a hero. Former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, whom PAS members ousted from his division, also received loud cheers.
Mat Sabu had joked that his enemy is not PAS but Umno and Barisan Nasional. However, it is likely that his partyâ€™s first act of war will be to ensure that PAS is not part of the new Pakatan.
Amanahâ€™s rallying colour is orange and its aim is to make orange the new green in the coalition. – The Star