SEVERAL Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leaders are to face the party disciplinary board for disparaging remarks about the party and other Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders. But why is the criticising of leaders by some PKR Members of Parliament (MPs) handled with more urgency than actions that contradict party policy and undermine public interest?
For instance, it has taken PKR more than a year to act against Kulim-Bandar Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin, who stormed a Bar Council forum. Even then, the party is only taking action because Zulkifli lodged a police report against a PAS MP.
Meanwhile, for criticising PKR’s inaction, political bureau member Datuk Zaid Ibrahim will face the disciplinary board.
In part two of an exclusive interview with The Nut Graph, newly appointed PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail talks about how the party views these “offences”. He reiterates that commitment to the PR is paramount.
TNG: What do you think of Zaid Ibrahim‘s advice to suspend Zulkifli pending a disciplinary inquiry?
Saifuddin Nasution: Zaid is an asset to the party. He captures support for the party from liberal, middle-class Malay [Malaysians] and non-Malay [Malaysians]. I value Zaid for that, and that’s why he has a role in the party presidential council and the political bureau.
But in this case, Zaid blogged about the matter. He raised [the suspension] in the meeting, but he also wrote in his blog, criticising the decision and the party, and this was reported by other media.
So it’s as if Zaid undermined the party?
ZaidHe said Keadilan is like another Umno. It’s fine for him to propose in our meeting that action be taken against Zul. But then he wrote in his blog criticising the party’s decision. To be fair, he did not issue any press statement. Nor did he repeat his views or make further statements to the press. So the gravity of the offence is not as serious as others who keep on attacking the party openly using the media.
Which is a more severe offence: criticising the party’s leaders or leaders of fellow Pakatan component parties, or making statements that are ideologically different from the party line?
The party constitution defines in broad terms the actions that constitute a breach of discipline. These include [breaches against] loving the party, following its constitution, abiding by party decisions, following party policies, protecting the party’s secrets, upholding the good name of the party, and displaying civil behaviour. These have very broad interpretations. That’s why disciplinary offences are a matter for discussion.
But some things are fundamental. If you challenge the policy of the Pakatan Rakyat or question the existence of the DAP as a PR member, that is touching on policy. If you just criticise the style of leadership, that’s less serious.
What about earlier things Zulkifli has done, like storming the Bar Council forum?
What triggered the move to refer Zul to the disciplinary committee is his police report [against PAS MP Khalid Samad]. Once the presidential council refers him to the disciplinary committee, it is up to the committee to come up with a charge sheet. That, we have no control over.
They might only refer to the police report or they might also charge him based on other things, like his question and answer in the New Straits Times, for example. They could go as far back as the (2008) Bar Council forum. Whatever the committee thinks fit to bring against him.
Are his previous attempts to amend the constitution so that the country is an Islamic country a problem for PKR?
Obviously, because this is a matter of policy. As an MP of a party, you also have to be in line with party policy. And the party’s policy on this matter is very clear as stated in PKR’s constitution.
Zulkifli We go for the substance rather than the form. We don’t talk about an Islamic or secular state, but we elaborate on what sort of elements we want in this country. The freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, distributive justice, the independence of institutions.
So if Zul wants to push his own private members’ bill on things that contradict the party policy, then he has to make a decision. We can’t amend the party constitution just to fulfill one [person]‘s wish.
Is PKR willing to lose him?
The party’s policies and struggles are for a bigger agenda. If in fighting for this, we lose certain individuals, we are prepared. I wish we didn’t have to face this problem, but if it happened, I would choose to carry on with the party, even if I lose friends. This is my position.
Now that Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim has quit PKR, what are the chances of more MPs quitting after him?
I don’t want to speculate on that.
Are you in touch with those speculated to be quitting?
Yes, I am. We talk about common party interests, the party’s future, the next Parliament sitting, and (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim)’s trial.
Anwar has apologised for fielding poorly chosen candidates in the 2008 general election. What can you do, as party secretary-general, to ensure a better selection process?
We will have to be more stringent in selecting candidates in the future. We will develop better criteria with regards to their involvement and participation in the party. They must have a good network [and] vast experience; they must follow the party’s principles and policies; and they must strengthen the Pakatan Rakyat. They must be loyal to Pakatan and not just PKR.
See also part one: Drawing the line in PKR
Read previous Realpolitiker interviews