Samsuri a safe pair of hands but Hadi holds the reins

Kenneth Cheng Chee Kin

Could Ahmad Samuri Mokhtar be the new, moderate face of PAS? – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 10, 2023.

THE recently elected Kemaman MP, Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, who is the Terengganu menteri besar, has a appeal that even Pakatan Harapan supporters find hard to ignore. 

As a representative of the policy wing of PAS, he brings pragmatism and management skills, standing out in a party often criticised for its lack of depth in legislation and economic policies.

Dr Sam, as he is affectionally known, is seen as a reliable pair of hands to steer Terengganu. While not the most technically competent leader, he meets PAS standards and effectively fulfils his role.

It is easy to like his style when the other PAS voices in parliament clearly are not capable of speaking about anything beyond race and religion.

He may not be the most technically competent leader, but he is competent enough for PAS and more than equipped for the role of menteri besar.

Largely portrayed as a reliable MB, he enjoys a strong mandate which renders him indomitable in Terengganu where he has the political capital to remake the state to his own liking.

Yet he does not gloat about his strong political position but instead prefers to let his deeds speak for themselves.

Even in the rare event of a blunder, when he went on a holiday amid a flood crisis in his state, he was quick to own up to his mistake.

He leaves his political opponents with little to latch on to. His greatest asset is that he does not conduct himself and govern like a typical PAS politician.

Lim Kit Siang appears to have arrived at the same conclusions, challenging Hadi to step down to make way for Samsuri to mould PAS into a more moderate and open-minded party.

What Lim wishes for could come true as it appears Dr Sam is a highly popular man.

If Samsuri could replicate his performance in Terengganu when dealing with the ministers in parliament, the call for him to take a larger role in Perikatan Nasional could grow louder, to the extent that the coalition leaders would find it impossible to ignore.

Within PAS, Samsuri could replace Hadi as the president but before liberals start celebrating a more moderate PAS, proffering up Dr Sam as a prime ministerial candidate could be Hadi’s way of gaining entry into Putrajaya.

I first heard the name Dr Sam on a BFM podcast in which former UM professor Terrence Gomez discussed the 2018 general election fieldwork in Terengganu.

Gomez talked about winds of change sweeping through Terengganu due to frustration at the corruption of Barisan Nasion corruption and how PAS has quietly taken advantage of that by putting out technocrat candidates led by Dr Sam.

The strategy was largely successful. The state fell to PAS and Umno had never recovered from the beating.

The plan has the fingerprints of Hadi, who was the Terengganu MB from 1999 to 2004.

According to Gomez, letting Hadi have a second shot at the MB post in 2018 would have rendered PAS less electable because of how ineffective he had been.

To Hadi’s credit, he has correctly read the mood in Terengganu, where people were yearning for change but not comfortable with an administration that was similar to neighbouring Kelantan’s.

Instead, the Terengganu people could have wanted a safe pair of hands in the likes of Samsuri and his technocrat leaders 

In fact, it was in 2018 that Hadi decided to vacate his state seat Ru Rendang and the person who replaced him was none other than Samsuri, who was his political secretary from 2008 to 2018.

Samsuri has been a loyal servant to Hadi and PAS while remaining detached from the bigotry and exclusivism propounded by his former boss.

It is likely that it is Hadi’s plan to propel Samsuri into national politics to win Putrajaya, just like how the PAS president understood it was only possible to wrest Terengganu from BN if he stayed behind the curtains.

The need for a candidate with prime ministerial material is even more urgent for PAS in the face of a freefalling Bersatu, which is also facing a rudderless future as its president has made known a desire to retire.

This is why Dr Sam may be in parliament, but Hadi remains in charge. – December 10, 2023.

* Kenneth Cheng has always been interested in the interplay between human rights and government but more importantly he is a father of two cats, Tangyuan and Toufu. When he is not attending to his feline matters, he is most likely reading books about politics and human rights or playing video games. He is a firm believer in the dictum “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”.

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