January 29, 2014
Selangor’s Political Quandary: How did we get here?
by Nathaniel Tan@http://www.malaysiakini.com
In December 2013, a man named Zul Hilmi was beaten within an inch of his life while detained by the Penang police. He may be incapacitated for life. Last week, 6,000 migrants were rounded up by the authorities, only a quarter of which were found to be undocumented and arrested. Nobody knows how many were victims of abuse and shakedowns.
This year, prices of basic goods and utilities continue to skyrocket, further breaking the backs of Malaysia’s working classThe country is falling to pieces, and what dominates our headlines?
PKR’s internecine struggles. I wish we could ignore it wholesale, but being weak and human, it seems I too, will be adding my voice to this regretful din. It seems to me that the dreaded day has come – the day where sanity deserts us in favour of much less savoury pursuits, the day that the line is at last crossed.
It’s been an emotional week or so, but I shall do my best to leave that out of this article for now, which will likely be the first in a series. For today, let’s just take a relatively impassive look at the road that brought us here, and do our best to see what is going on for what it truly is. After the recap, perhaps we’ll be in a better position to do more detailed analyses.
I must confess, I have been out of the state government loop for all the months since I lost my job there, and out of the party loop for years. The following is based on what I read in the same news everyone else reads, and a little based on my personal observations of the movers and shakers in this game over the years.
Let’s begin with a chronology. The first shot in this latest round of conflict comes in the form of a Sin Chew Daily report last week, saying that the PKR Supreme Council has decided to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Menteri Besar of Selangor.(It has been a running joke that PKR supreme council meetings are perhaps the least secret meetings in the country. If you want some information to leak, that’s the best place to table it.)
The following day, PKR Secretary-General Saifuddin Nasution held a press conference saying: No such thing, Khalid continues as MB.A while after that, Sin Chew sends out a mass SMS blast to its subscribers, saying that Khalid has resigned as MB. This very quickly turns out to be untrue, and a glaring embarrassment for Sin Chew.
Fast forward a few days, and Joceline Tan of The Star publishes an article saying that Khalid will soon make way for Anwar Ibrahim to take over as MB. At this point it was becoming like the boy who cried wolf. Imagine my disappointment when we were eventually forced to admit that Tan was, for once, more or less right.
The rumours ceased being rumours the minute Lee Chin Cheh stepped down as Kajang state assemblyperson. Some 18 hours later, Khalid announces at a press conference that Anwar will indeed be PKR’s candidate for Kajang.
This was a turning point for PKR, it certainly was for me personally.I cannot possibly state with confidence what really led to this sequence of events. I can only speculate, based on my views regarding the balance of probabilities (a term I learnt thanks to the Teoh Beng Hock legal team).
Azmin Ali wants to be MB, there are few things as obvious. He took this pursuit to the point of launching an open rebellion after GE13. Despite his failure, Azmin retained all his posts. While most seem to be concerned about his removal as Selangor state development agency PKNS director, I think the question we should be asking is; how did he retain the post for so long?
Had the roles been reversed, I’m certain Khalid would have swiftly and surely met the political fate that awaits all those guilty of treason and mutiny.
The reason the punishment for treason is so strong is obvious, as who would tolerate keeping such blatantly disloyal people around, much less in power. Not being punished, Azmin simply continued his efforts.
People also like to describe what is happening as the Khalid-Azmin spat. I’m less certain however. If someone walks up to you in the middle of the road, and starts punching you in the face, are you having a spat?
Things started heating up this year because of the upcoming PKR elections.A long time ago I compared Azmin to Michael Corleone, the Godfather. (Spoiler alert: At the end of the first movie, Michael – who appeared weak and timid as the new Godfather – suddenly launches a brutal set of surprise attacks, in which he simultaneously eliminates all his competitors with extreme prejudice.)
At first, it felt like Azmin was trying to employ the same tactic.Along with the “If you can’t convince them, confuse them” media hullabaloo regarding Selangor, the controversy surrounding another of Azmin’s competitors, Nurul Izzah Anwar, also came to light around this time.
A Malaysiakini article quotes devoted Azmin man Eekmal Ahmad as tweeting: “I don’t care who marries whom, who has a scandal with whom and why they were unfaithful. That is not my business.I have heard of this divorce issue awhile ago, and it is said that there is a third party. I don’t care about that. You live your life…”
If these words truly were as quoted, than they represent nothing more than disgusting, rank, hypocrisy. There is nothing more repellent than appearing to take the moral high ground while so blatantly spreading malicious gossip.
The question then becomes: Did the timing of these revelations indicate that this was yet another prong of the Godfather-style attack?
Coming back to Selangor: Lee Chin Cheh was an Azmin-linked man who replaced the more independent-minded, well-regarded Lee Kim Sin in Kajang – one of the three seats in Selangor (the other two being Semenyih and Kota Damansara) in which I speculate Azmin’s politicking led to disastrous results.
Lee – to the best of my knowledge – is also the only man to be asked: Were you the one who made the leaks to Sin Chew? He vehemently denied the accusation.Lee was also ultimately the man who turned rumours into reality, with his resignation.
One could be forgiven for interpreting everything that happened up to this point as part of some Azmin-masterminded scheme.The twist comes when Anwar was in fact announced to be the candidate for Kajang.
This implies two possibilities. The first is that Azmin pushed for a compromise candidate, seeing that he could not unseat Khalid himself. Perhaps he hoped for a more pliant MB, who would be aligned to his interests.
While possible, I think the facts do not support this interpretation. Looking at the fallout, I believe that it is more likely that Azmin has always had his eyes on the throne, and has no intention of letting anyone besides himself occupy it.
Reading between the lines, I speculate that the truth is closer to the following. Anwar has begun to fear Azmin greatly, and is no longer confident of his own position. Instead of backing Khalid as an alternative to Azmin, it appears he is unwisely giving in to the endless complaints of PKR politicians about Khalid, who have never been satisfied with Khalid’s stubborn stance that principles trump political pragmatism.
(I can practically see said politicians – many of whom I have been honoured to consider friends – jumping up and down at such a characterisation. It saddens me, but be that as it may, we’ll save for another time the details about how it is only people in politics who have expressed serious dissatisfaction with Khalid.)
Anwar along with many PKR liberals the rest of us love to love, has always seen little political capital to be gained from backing Khalid.
Azmin has a sizeable team of his own, which he maintains with an almost beautiful, strict adherence to the most traditional principles of feudal politics, but many people in PKR simply do not like or trust him either.
So, this team starts to think of a third alternative. Eventually, demonstrating the complete loss of perspective that infects far too many in the industry of politics, somebody says: How about Anwar for MB? (Is this a testament to his ability to make enticing promises about what will happen when he controls Selangor’s resources?
There are pages to be written about why this is a bad idea, but for now, let us say that this idea seems to check off enough boxes of enough people in PKR that the idea becomes a reality.
Of course, Anwar – the man who said he would step down after GE-13 if Pakatan Rakyat did not win – vehemently denies wanting to become MB. Clearly, there must be another reason why he now wants to add Kajang assemblyperson to his list of duties.
(It is difficult, and probably very ungracious of me, to write these things of a previous employer who came and stood outside the police station in solidarity when I was arrested many years ago – something I will always appreciate. I have held my tongue for many years, and have never been given sufficient cause to speak ill. Yet I regretfully cannot stay silent forever.)
Azmin wastes no time in putting on his spin. He is quoted as saying: “Anwar Ibrahim contesting there will send a message to the public that we are serious about Selangor and will use the state as a launchpad for Putrajaya.”
It would appear that PKR was not serious about Selangor previously. (Also, I like how people assume Anwar will win – but perhaps this was the plan of the Azmin camp all along, to finish Anwar off for good.Alternatively, perhaps at some later point, someone else will argue that instead of taking over the post, Anwar is being put there just to provide a counterbalance to Azmin, and so on and so on.
I am reminded of the Prime Minister’s remarks about the reduction of kangkung prices.These are all perfect examples of politicians who are submerged so deep in the foulness of their schemes, that they have quite literally lost touch with reality.
That they would imagine Malaysia’s collective stupidity to have reached the level where we would be swayed by such obvious rubbish is a sign that things have gone too far.
It is nothing short of sad that it has come to this. I personally feel that what has happened is a challenge to our integrity and conscience. I feel that we are being tested, to see if those who have been loyal to the cause all this while would blindly follow these ‘leaders’ anywhere.
If that is what they are expecting, they have another think coming. Politicians like to believe in grey areas, and there is merit to that sometimes; but quite frankly, sometimes black is black, and white is white.
NATHANIEL TAN found writing this article difficult and sad. He does not believe it is 100 percent proper for members of the party to say such things, and has thus with a heavy heart started making the necessary remedies.