Webinar on “Kelantan under PAS Administration”

In this webinar, Dr Azmil Tayeb delivered a talk on the state of Kelantan and its close relationship with Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS).


Friday, 16 September 2022 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute hosted Dr Azmil Tayeb in a webinar titled “Kelantan under PAS Administration”. Dr Azmil is Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences in Universiti Sains Malaysia and currently Visiting Research Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. He is the author of “Islamic Education in Indonesia and Malaysia: Shaping Minds, Saving Souls”.

Dr Azmil Tayeb with moderator Dr Francis Hutchinson. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Azmil began his presentation with an overview of the Kelantan state administration under PAS. Except for a short stint between 1977 to 1990, PAS has governed Kelantan even as Barisan Nasional (BN) was in power at the federal level from Malaysia’s independence till 2018. Dr Azmil argued that the PAS administration in Kelantan since 1990 could be divided into three time periods. The periods are from 1990 to 2018 when BN served as the federal government, the Pakatan Harapan administration from 2018 to 2020, and the present Perikatan administration since 2020 where PAS is a member of the ruling coalition.   (please explain these three periods and why they are important).

BN, as the federal government, sought to punish Kelantan as an opposition-held state through economic marginalisation. Between 1990 to 2018, the Barisan Nasional federal government attempted to marginalise PAS through a reduction in federal expenditure and allocation for the Kelantan state government. In addition, despite regulations which stipulate that state governments are entitled to a percentage of petroleum revenues which are extracted within their respective territories or territorial waters, the Kelantan state government was deprived of petroleum royalties.

Federal government agencies were established in Kelantan as institutions parallel to the state government, with federal expenditure allocated to the former. Since UMNO was also competing against PAS for the Kelantanese Malay votes, political animosity spilled over to religious beliefs and practices. UMNO and PAS members would pray at different mosques even within the same community or village.

Dr Azmil commented that relations between the federal government and Kelantan state government improved during Pakatan Harapan’s tenure (2018-2020). The federal government disbursed 400 million Ringgit of overdue royalty payments to Kelantan. Pakatan Harapan, in contrast to Barisan Nasional, channelled the funds directly to the PAS-administered state government.

Since the 2020 Sheraton Move, PAS is a coalition partner within the Perikatan/Barisan federal government and occupies several cabinet portfolios. PAS ministers are therefore able to channel developmental funds to Kelantan, with an increase in infrastructure expenditure. In addition, PAS has allied with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (and Gerakan) under the Perikatan Nasional coalition. Dr Azmil commented that despite recent investments in Kelantan, the state continues to face floods and inadequate clean water supply and jobs.

Dr Azmil explained that the Kelantan state administration is an extension of the PAS machinery, with municipal and district councils dominated by PAS members. In addition, given the importance of Islam in Kelantan, PAS has framed its competition against UMNO as politics of heaven and hell. PAS similarly conducts extensive outreach outside of Kelantan, which encourages outstation Kelantanese to return home to cast their votes. Dr Azmil concluded his presentation with a prediction that PAS would continue its present cooperation with Bersatu although seat negotiations between the two parties would likely be a challenge.

In the question-and-answer session, questions raised included the role and presence of recently established Malay-based parties in the state and the performance of the Kelantan state government in providing for material needs. Dr Azmil replied that the three Malay-based parties UMNO, PAS and Bersatu dominate almost all of the political scene in Kelantan. Despite numerous attempts to make an inroad, other parties (e.g. National Trust Party) struggle to create a noticeable presence in Kelantan. Dr Azmil also commented that the PAS administration has faced significant challenges in developing Kelantan economically and providing for decent infrastructure. This has created discontent among Kelantanese towards the PAS state administration. Nonetheless, due to the sizeable share of outstation Kelantanese who are attracted to the idea of “Islamic governance”, PAS continues to perform credibly in polls.  

The webinar attracted 49 participants. Dr Francis Hutchinson, Senior Fellow at the Malaysia Studies Programme, moderated the webinar.