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Tough questions for Pakatan Rakyat

Image of PAS, PKR and DAP logos with question marks surrounding them

CALLOUS as it sounds, Teoh Beng Hock‘s death is just what Pakatan Rakyat (PR) needs at the moment to re-galvanise public support at a time when the alliance has been experiencing interparty fighting.

Teoh’s death at the Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters on 16 July 2009, after being interrogated in investigations of PR assemblypersons, should be mourned. And critical questions must be asked of the MACC.

Indeed, there may even be truth that his death is the consequence of selective investigation and harassment of the PR through the use of Barisan Nasional (BN) state institutions. Be that as it may, however, the incident should not overshadow the tough questions PR must ask itself 16 months after its victory at the 2008 polls.

Viable, really? 

Can the PR really be a viable coalition? What caused the near collapse of the Kedah PR after the DAP threatened a pull-out there? Why does Penang seem a perpetual hotbed of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) discontent against the DAP-led state government?

What about criminal allegations involving a PR Selangor executive councillor (exco), brought by a fellow PR elected representative? Why is PR washing its own dirty linen in public and giving ammunition to the BN? Don’t they realise that a disunited PR could make an undemocratic BN look good?

Prior to this, it seemed easier to say that if anything were to break up the PKR-PAS-DAP alliance, it would be their opposite ideologies of Islamic state and secularism. But after 16 months as the government in Kedah, Penang and Selangor, the indications are that ideology alone isn’t causing the cracks. Rather, the three parties are now grappling with the realities of human nature: rivalry, politicking, and personal gain.

Take the PAS-Umno unity talks proposal. What may have started off on an ideological platform — to advance Islam — can be arguably described as a quest for personal power, given the insistence of PAS’s top two leaders in pushing the idea despite protests from party members and coalition partners.

Aminah Abdullah
In Penang, Penanti by-election independent candidate Aminah Abdullah gave an insight to the problems of inaction and abuse in her former party, PKR. As a pioneer, she had also lamented about PKR’s problems, which she claimed the leadership did little about. The events that led to the by-election are also informative of political tensions in the state between the DAP and PKR.

Walking the talk

DAP central executive committee member Liew Chin Tong observes that the PR as a whole is coming to terms with walking the talk on the new politics of equality. Having sold the idea to the public, the PR now has to translate it into its internal operations and relationships.

“Do we want to reaffirm our faith in new politics? Or embrace the old way of Umno politics of asking for rewards because we think it’s our due after contributing to the party?” the Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament tells The Nut Graph in an interview.

It would be disheartening for the public if the PR, tasting ruling power for the first time in some states, were to behave no differently than BN parties in jostling for position and perceived dues.

Indeed, it was only a matter of time before one party’s dominance within the PR-led states began to have an impact on other coalition partners. This was perhaps most noticeable in Kedah, where the PAS state government caused grief with its 50% housing quota for bumiputera. The sole DAP representative‘s long-standing unhappiness culminated with the demolition of a pig abattoir,  which led to the near-collapse of the state’s political alliance when he threatened to leave the PR.

Khoo Kay Peng
“The PR’s focus for the general election was short-term — to beat the BN. But for the long term, they haven’t figured out how to govern. It seems as if it hasn’t sunk in that they are now a governing regime in some states, and should start acting like one,” independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng tells The Nut Graph.

Mechanism for grouses

Few of PR’s problems are ideology-based, suggests Khoo. If different ideologies were really a barrier, the three parties would have never come together.

“The three leaders — (the DAP’s Lim) Kit Siang, (PAS’s Datuk Seri Abdul) Hadi (Awang), and (PKR’s Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim) — are all realists. At the national level, Pakatan is solid because they have a common enemy in the BN,” he says.

But such solidarity doesn’t seem to extend further down the ranks. What the PR needs, says Khoo, is a mechanism to resolve internal differences at all levels.

“The PR has the presidential council as a mechanism at the top level and its state meetings, but the effects don’t seem to be felt among exco members and in the state legislative assemblies of PR states. It’s not to say that problems should be swept under the carpet, but public spats must stop so that the PR can focus on governing,” adds Khoo.

In Selangor, which appears to be one PR state that is governing reasonably well, according to a recent Merdeka Center for Opinion Research poll, allegations of impropriety and criminal links have surfaced.

PKR’s Wangsa Maju Member of Parliament Wee Choo Keong recently triggered an outburst from DAP exco members Ronnie Liu and Teresa Kok with his revelation of a Selangor exco member with links to underworld figures. Wee has only revealed the identity of the exco concerned to the police, who are investigating his claims.

In an interview with The Nut Graph, Wee says he did raise the matter within the PR through casual conversation, and went public with it because he felt it had to be addressed urgently.

Wee Choo Keong
“Are you saying that if I know of a problem, I should just hide it so that Pakatan looks good? Are we only going to address this problem just before the next general election? You think Barisan doesn’t know and is not going to bring up this problem in the elections? Wouldn’t it be better for us to solve it now?” Wee argues.

PKR’s Seri Setia assemblyperson Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad tells The Nut Graph that Wee’s exposé was “a little inappropriate”, but agrees that there is need for a better internal mechanism to keep PR reps in check.

Buck up, clean up

There is a larger context, however, based on speculation about internal dissatisfaction and rivalry within Selangor PKR. Fingers were pointed at Azmin Ali, a PKR vice-president, after he suggested in the state assembly that the exco line-up be reshuffled. It is said that Azmin has ambitions to replace Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as menteri besar. Azmin, of course, denies any such ambitions.

However, Nik Nazmi, an aide to Khalid, defends Azmin’s call for an exco reshuffle. “As leader of the PR backbenchers, he’s entitled to say that. The dewan is the place to discuss state affairs and was the right place for him to say it. We don’t want a rubber stamp legislative assembly. And the MB has been open about the criticism.”

The problem for the PR is that all these issues, including the MACC’s investigation of Selangor PR assemblypersons, are happening at a time when Najib’s popularity is on the uptrend.

Having repeatedly said that open dissent is healthy and is what makes the PR different from the BN, is the PR now in a mess of its own doing by not strengthening its internal mechanisms? Has it failed to weed out the less-than-clean among them, and succumbed to the temptations that come with power? Or is the BN really engineering the whole thing through its use of the MACC?

Teoh’s death has now cast a sinister shadow over the whole situation. And it would be a pity if what it takes is a death to jolt both sides of the political divide: the PR, to stop deflecting and to buck up, and the BN, to reform and clean up.

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8 Responses to “Tough questions for Pakatan Rakyat”

  1. Pratamad says:

    “weed out the less-than-clean among them” – What do you propose that PR should do practically? Take Zulkifli Noordin as an example. Sack him from the party? Always bear in mind the very key fact: Some of the PR MPs are ‘accidental’ MPs from 2008.

    Sack them as you may, and before long you will hand over the two-third majority back to BN for them to further rape our constitution!

    We can only hope that the candidates and MPs from GE13 are of high quality and show the true strength of PR.

  2. kwchap says:

    1) The problems in PR were in fact made big by BN-controlled media. Do you really believe that no such problems occurred in BN?

    2) This is true politics. Dissatisfaction among PR partners are bound to happen. Even Umno or MCA or MIC there is in-fighting la …

    3) The many by-elections (due to PR reps resigning) are actually good for the country (minus the high expenses) as PR really walk the talk … If you do not perform, you go, you will be replaced … I doubt BN will do the same if their MPs or Adunss do not perform …

    As for Teoh’s death, I’m sure it’s not an accident la … How come a man going to get married with a baby to come wants to die? FYI, experts once said that it takes a lot of courage for someone to commit suicide …

  3. Nirman says:

    There is no issue here. What is happening in the Pakatan Rakyat collision is that they are only practicing their freedom of speech and not like the shut-out BN. In BN they cannot talk bad things to the leader. Unlike BN, Pakatan are more liberal in giving out opinions. This is the new politics. It will come one day, if not today. Think positively, and follow the leaders of Pakatan Rakyat.

  4. Half Truth says:

    Wee CK, truth has to be spoken at the right place and right time in order to address the issue. The basic principle is, “Do not hang your dirty laundry in public.”

    Since you contested under the PKR party during GE12, any problem, please refer the problem to PKR for resolution. If the party member committed a crime, e.g. corruption, and crime etc., hand over to the police or MACC etc. If no action is taken by PKR, quit and contest under your MDP banner either now (if you dare) or during GE 13.

    Do not confuse the rakyat and cause hardship to the PR government although your intention might look wholesome, but it is a definitely not a wise decision to expose to the public as a comrade. Unless it is a life and deathe matter, by all means exposed it.

    We need a two-party political system to be firmly rooted before GE13 and PR to be the government-in-waiting. By then, PR would already be strong enough to take all sort of challenges/issues/problems exposed by the public.

    Wee CK, spend your time wisely and effectively to make it happen, rather than wasting time raising petty issues to discredit the PR government.

    Besides, do not expect a PR government to be a perfect government overnight. Even BN with more than 50 years experience, continually encounter many issues and not all actions are being taken and some are swept under the carpet.

    Wee CK, back up and let’s move forward to make a two-party political system in Malaysia by GE13. This is utmost and top agenda for you to execute. If you unable to do it, quit.

  5. fylam says:

    Wee Choo Keong’s credibility as a PR MP is in doubt.

    In the first instance he said that he had raised the issue within PR through casual conversation. Why casual conversation? If the evidence is substantial it should be highlighted to the top leadership of the DAP immediately.

    Secondly, since the subject was already made public, Wee should bare all the evidence as no one would condone such so-called government links with the underworld. But Wee did not and chooses to hide behind his veiled threat.

    My analysis of Wee Choo Keong is that this is a opportunistic politician and hinges on to Azmin Alis’s call for change in the Selangor Exco. I hope he does not have a political agenda in this instance.

    He lost his Bukit Bintang constituency to Dr Lee Chong Meng by default in a very dubious way in the way Dr Kua Kia Soong failed to nominate himself for the PJ parliamentary seat.

    Time will tell the whole truth.

  6. Nicholas Aw says:

    Politics is clean but the players involved tend to be dirty. As I have commented before in The Nut Graph, the Pakatan Rakyat had better put their house in order as the people are slowly but surely getting disillusioned with PR’s internal bickering.

    All component parties of PR must uphold the moral of integrity and honesty so that the rakyat will continue supporting them and that this support would be sustained come the next general elections. Otherwise, PR might as well close shop. They also have to bear in mind that the BN will not stay quiet as the latter will embark on a mission to win back the people’s trust.

  7. chinaman says:

    Most PR assemblymen/women and members of parliament are accidental or greenhorns who did not expect to be voted. How to blame them? Everyone wants to show that they are working and caring for the rakyat but they should know how and what to do and say. Don’t be big headed and simply belittle your partners. Consult, negotiate and discuss with your bosses. Why want to tell the whole world your problems. WCK, what the heck you are trying to point at? You and your party were rejected by the rakyat before and you begged to use PKR’s banner. Resign and make way for a PKR loyalist to stand in the by-election if you have the guts.

  8. Fikri Roslan says:

    You do not need to be an expert to predict that the PR will suffer badly in GE13. They won in 2008 because people did not like BN. Between the two, however, people are now realising that BN is far better managed than PR. PR itself is not a party, but just a loose coalition between three “funny” political parties who do not mind trading [their] principles [for] power. I do not think that they can even form a party. Do not trust this PR as the [component] parties themselves do not trust each other.

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