AFTER years of being forced to choose between PAS and Umno, the people of Kelantan have a third – and some say better – choice in Pakatan Harapan.
The voters who heard the opposition pact at a rally last night said the leaders offered better policies to address rising living costs which the people of Kelantan believed were the result of the Barisan Nasional federal government.
PH also had better ideas to boost the local economy and create jobs, said the people who have lived under PAS rule for 28 years.
“We hope PH can take over both the state and the country so that the governments are streamlined,” said retired religious teacher Hasanah Ibrahim.
The 68 year-old was among the 3,000 people who showed up for the ceramah in the Bachok district that capped off the coalition’s roadshow in Kelantan.
“I have confidence in their policies and their manifesto. I like their plan to abolish the GST (goods and services tax) and to provide free university education,” said Hasanah, who had travelled from Kota Baru to listen to what the PH top leaders had to say.
PH recently launched its manifesto which, among others, promised to zero-rate the GST, on which many Malaysians blame the higher prices of goods and services, provide free tertiary education, bring back targeted fuel subsidies, increase the minimum wage, and introduce aan Employees Provident Fund (EPF) scheme for housewives.
PH’s proposal to exempt those earning below RM4,000 a month from paying back their National Higher Education Fund loans appealed to businessman Ahmad Salman Shamsuddin.
“Most Malays I know earn below RM4,000 when they graduate from university, so it will help them when they are starting out,” said the 37-year-old Bachok resident
He said he believed in Kelantan PH leader Husam Musa, who is tipped to play a leading role in a government established by the coalition in the northeastern state.
Husam, who is Amanah vice-president, was a senior senior exco in the Kelantan government at the turn of the millennium.
PH hopes to wrest Kelantan from PAS, the Islamist party that is synonymous with the state after two long periods of rule– the first lasting 18 years from 1959 to 1977. It returned to power in 1990 and is still in power, 28 years later.
A straw poll held by The Malaysian Insight’s found there was rising anger at the state government for its poor service delivery and its inability to boost the local economy and create jobs.
As PAS lost ground, its old nemesis Umno had sought to gain a foothold in the impoverished state.
Surveys held by think tanks found that BN was likely to capture Kelantan due to the coalition’s deeper connection with the predominantly Malay-Muslim population via Umno, and its large election machinery.
Hasanah said there did not seem to be much difference between PAS and Umno these days.
“PAS looks to be friendlier to Umno. When they campaign now, they both attack PH instead of each other. PAS says it is opposed to Umno but it looks similar to Umno these days.”
In their speeches, PH leaders Mohamad Sabu and Dr Mahathir Mohamad took pains to drive home the message that the coalition would be better at governing the country than PAS and BN.
PAS, a former alliy of PH parties PKR and DAP, was criticised for its tolerance of Umno policies.
Religious teacher Muhammad Hussin, of Pasir Puteh said, as a former PAS supporter, he found the alternative of PH appealing.
“The size of the crowd here is surprising. PAS has never been able to form a coalition like PH and neither could BN,” said the 66-year-old.
“Tonight, we can see people are aware that there is a clear alternative. And Kelantan is ready for change.”