October 12, 2012
PKR: Politics of Principles Vs. Politics of Feudalism
by Nathaniel Tan (10-12-12)@http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: It may be hard to completely free any democratic system based around electing representatives from feudal elements. Even I, an individual who makes his living from the Selangor government under Khalid Ibrahim, could be seen to be writing this article merely as a performance of my feudal duties.
I confess I hesitated somewhat, thinking about the consequences of putting my name to an article that will appear to take sides – blacklisting by certain party factions, possible enmity from old friends and acquaintances, and so on.
I reasoned however, that if we allow this culture of fear to restrain us, then the rest of what we fight for becomes worthless anyway. In any case, I will leave it to my words and to the reader to determine my objectivity or lack thereof.
In comparing our options for future menteris besar and leaders of our country however, the question of core, essential values certainly comes into play, and I daresay there is a big difference as to the level to which they play feudal politics.
The choices an individual makes and the paths he or she take through life obviously have a profound impact on their character and behaviour.
Here, it is relevant to compare the career politician versus the non-career politician – the former having always been in politics (usually starting in one’s early twenties as a secretary of some sort to a bigshot politician), the latter for whom active politics is a later vocation.
Career politicians tend to view everything from a political angle – such of course is their training and upbringing. Every decision they make calculates and takes into consideration political implications – for their career, their party, their public image and so on.
In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing – merely a professional byproduct.
The danger only begins when an excess of thinking in this manner consciously or subconsciously causes one to put political concerns or ambitions (such as how to gain access to resources in order to build a giant political base of underlings) before matters of principle.
Khalid: Just do the right thing
Khalid is seen to sit at the opposite end of this spectrum. He seems to have spent precious little time building a feudal base or political network of any sort, a move many consider unwise.
In fact, the degree to which he does not seem to factor in political calculations and implications into his decisions – whether it be regarding his party or his public image – is sometimes a cause of frustration to his staff.
The man’s insistence on doing what is right instead of doing what looks right does sometimes make life difficult for those whose job it is to make him look good.
Khalid seems to adhere first and foremost to a simple, almost naive philosophy: just do the right thing. Everything else – what people may think of you now, what ‘message’ a certain action sends, or what effect this may have on one’s personal political career – seems always to fade into the background.
Selangor’s current Menteri Besar is far from perfect – I’m sure there are a hundred things he could do better or differently, and I’m sure many wish he would be more open to suggestion.
Certainly, the things written in this article do not apply to all of Khalid’s detractors or critics – it would be horribly inaccurate to paint them all with the same brush. Many, no doubt, have valid criticisms to make.
Many more however, have resorted to acting in the manner of dogs of war let slip by puppeteering lords. You only have to look closely at the networks, the choice of language, and the glaring lack of substance with regard to policy discourse to differentiate between those who want a better Selangor for everyone, and those who merely want their lord to replace the incumbent.
Imperfect though Khalid is, I think time has shown that there are things he cares deeply about.
His ideology is not complicated, but it is consistent: that there is a proper, professional way of running things, and that there is a proper, professional way to ensure that what belongs to the rakyat, reaches the rakyat.
Where others view success in terms of how much they control, Khalid is a man who views success as a job properly done – he takes pride not in how much he influences, but in seeing things done in a manner consistent with just, sustainable principles.
If there is one thing the man hates, it is people who makan gaji buta (profit without working). He has very exact views on what constitutes a reasonable profit margin, and pursues the elimination of the Ali Baba middlemen class with a vengeance.
As you can imagine, this attitude does not always sit well with people who believe that a government has certain ‘financial obligations’ to party members who helped put them there. Perhaps such quarters think that with another man in power, things will be a little more well oiled.
Khalid’s insistence on proper principles first, and everything else later makes him a unique oddity amongst the many politicians we have had the blessing or misfortune to rise to the top.
True to form, throughout this latest round of controversy, he has played the perfect gentleman – much as he has his entire tenure as Menteri Besar. Will this strategy be enough to keep him from being removed by forces within the party as a candidate in Selangor?
Only time will tell, but it would appear that until that moment comes, Khalid will still be working quietly but diligently, trying to do the right thing.