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Friday, March 5, 2010

Frogs, Zul Noordin and the PKR dilemma

Wong Choon Mei   
Later this week, the PKR disciplinary committee will announce its decision on recalcitrant Kulim Bandar Bharu MP Zulkifli Noordin.

Whether it outright recommends his sacking or passes on his request for an all-Muslim panel to 'judge' him will be closely watched. Will the irascible Zul be the fourth PKR MP to jump ship, or will the high-flying PKR be forced to back off and take a more ‘conciliating’ stance?

In the minds of most Malaysians, Zul will surely jump - sooner or later. Less certain is whether PKR will eat humble pie and compromise. Such a move would surely disappoint its supporters, although they may understand given the massive negative publicity the party has been hit with over the recent defections.

But really, which would Malaysians prefer the PKR to do?

A very different kettle of fish

To some pundits, it is more important to stem the flight of MPs – after all, the PKR has now fewer seats in Parliament than the DAP. And Prime Minister Najib Razak is closing in on the magic number he needs to regain two-thirds majority in Parliament.

To these observers, sleepy PKR leaders have only themselves to blame for not sniffing out which way the wind was blowing sooner. Why didn't Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim negotiate, why did he let let the situation boil over this way?

Indeed, concern has taken root nationwide that a new Malaysia governed by new politics is now at threat.

No doubt, the finger can be pointed at former secretary general Salehuddin Hashim and his new, deep-pocketed masters from the Umno-BN, but surely, the PKR is not that powerless to defend itself. Or is it?

The question raging across the nation is should PKR leaders have stood on high moral ground and just tut-tut their disapproval when MPs like Zahrain Hashim, Tan Tee Beng and Mohsin Samsuri were busy waving goodbye? Shouldn't Anwar have done something - anything. After all the ends justify the means.

But do they? And Anwar is not Najib Razak. The Opposition Leader is a very different kettle of fish than Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister.

To some, that’s because Anwar doesn’t have as much money to splash around as Najib. Well, that’s a fact, no doubt about it. Another fact is that Najib is not using his own but taxpayers' money to fund his and his party's stay in power.

So is using money to counter-offer defectors acceptable to Malaysians? Is it in sync with a new and clean Malaysia ?

The different types of prey
What about the defectors themselves? PKR insiders say 99 per cent of these are non-performers who know they will not be picked to run again in the next general election. Most of these either have bad work records or have stirred up too much internal trouble by backstabbing other colleagues or chasing after extra position and benefits.

PKR is also vulnerable because it has a high number of first-term lawmakers at both state and federal levels. Many have made clumsy debuts and are still learning the ropes. Some may have even decided that politics is not their cup of tea after all, which is fair enough.

But what is not fair - to PKR and the people who voted for them - is that if unprincipled individuals were to come along and offer them a few millions to defect, some would willingly jump without a second thought. After all, they are going to get the chop anyhow, so why not grab a few millions now for their retirement.

Could you negotiate with mentalities like these? Actually, it's quite easy because only money is involved, so all you need to do is to up the counter-offer.

Yet the question remains - should it be done? Can such means justify the ends? And what sort of ends are Malaysians seeking, what sort of Malaysia do they want?

Then there are those with secret lives and personal problems that may not be directly related to money, for example former Bukit Selambau assemblyman V Arumugam who quit because Umno-BN threatened to expose him for alleged bigamy.

Again, persuading such members to brave it out is not difficult -  provided there really is no link to money, there are no financial problems, no unsettled loans or gambling debts. After all, secrets have a nasty way of following a person around. So it matters not if he or she remains in PKR or hops to Umno-BN, the rumors would reverberate anyway.

Better to show your mettle and stay and fight - like Selangor’s Eli Wong. The chances of any rival wresting her Bukit Lanjan seat now or in the next G.E. are zero and this is a fact even former mentri besar Khir Toyo would have to admit.

But perhaps the favorite prey for Najib and Umno are Pakatan members facing corruption charges.

Not only because graft and bribery are absolutely familiar ground to them, the prospect of jail can be counted on to 'convert' even the most difficult of skeptics. Unless of course they have the spine of people like Karpal Singh, Kit Siang, Guan Eng, Nik Aziz, Hadi Awang, Mat Sabu, Azmin Ali, Tian Chua and Anwar himself.

Staying true to the people

Perhaps after five decades of unchecked corruption, broken promises and insincere leadership, what Malaysians need to be assured of most is that the next administration they elect will not play them out.

That it will do the right thing by them – no matter how painful and come what may.

Truly, these are not normal times. Malaysia is in the final throes of a very major political, social and economic transformation. Upheaval will mark the next few years no matter who the star players are, because the change that will surely come will not be driven by any group of politicians but by the people themselves.

Flux is not being created by the leaders but swirling within the 27 million people living in the country now. There has to be an outlet for this force. All that the politicians can do is to chart a direction, a channel for this energy to flow through.

Because of this, PKR and Pakatan Rakyat must stay true to the reforms they represent. They cannot afford to let new politics become twisted into old politics even before it has a chance to take off.


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