August 27, 2014
Selangor in Crisis, nation in extremis
“But when the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people. If any of them should happen to propose a scheme of liberty, soberly limited, and defined with proper qualifications, he will be immediately outbid by his competitors, who will produce something more splendidly popular. Suspicions will be raised of his fidelity to his cause. Moderation will be stigmatized as the virtue of cowards; and compromise as the prudence of traitors; until, in hopes of preserving the credit which may enable him to temper, and moderate, on some occasions, the popular leader is obliged to become active in propagating doctrines, and establishing powers, that will afterwards defeat any sober purpose at which he ultimately might have aimed.”
by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com
For Pakatan Rakyat the Khalid Ibrahim saga has become a rent garment – the more they fuss with it the worse the tear becomes. The issue begs closure; regnant confusion in the Attorney-General’s Chambers over the distinction between legitimate criticism and seditious speech has now become the most ominous threat to fundamental liberties.
Pakatan Rakyat ought to be concerned with the latter menace. Unchecked, it will wipe out the gains the federal opposition has made since the seminal general election of March 2008. The country is drifting without a rudder because it has a leader at the helm who mistakes decidedly inelegant silence for moderation, in tandem with an Attorney-General who misconstrues the irreverent for the inflammatory.
Because Pakatan views itself as a government-in-waiting, it cannot allow continued neurosis over who is to be Selangor MB to be as disabling as Najib Abdul Razak’s catatonia and Gani Patail’s confusion are for the country.
Fatal to Pakatan would be the impression, now fast gaining ground, that it is a coalition where problems within one component incapacitate the whole, or worse, exposes its unity as a thing of expedience more than principle. Hence the question of who is to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Menteri Besar of Selangor must now be resolved with all deliberate speed. The matter has preoccupied Pakatan for eight exasperating months during which public confidence in the ability of presumptive occupants to Putrajaya has been gravely undermined.
The crisis is headed for further protraction, judging from the initial reaction of PKR and DAP to soundings yesterday from the Selangor Palace that each component of Pakatan should recommend three candidates for the position of MB. It appears that PKR and DAP are insistent on wanting only Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for the post. Their insistence on nominating one candidate will keep the matter of Khalid’s replacement simmering.
After withering on the vine for eight months, the issue demands resolution, if only because it has been overtaken by other – weightier – concerns, of national rather than merely provincial import. Further delay in resolving it will redound to Pakatan’s disadvantage more than it would to any other entity, now that Khalid has tendered his resignation and has been requested by the Sultan to hold it in abeyance until his replacement is appointed.
PKR and DAP, in insisting on one candidate for the MB position, will appear to be unduly captious just when they should be – especially now when greater dangers impend – more concerned to get things over and done with.
Horizon-scanners, not navel-gazers
Their insistence will open them to the charge of being navel-gazers, to the point of myopia and hallucination, just when they must be horizon-scanners – for the good of the overall polity, given the clear and present danger posed it by a rudderless national leadership and confused law enforcement.
The DAP, in particular, should put itself within sight of a Deputy MB-ship in Selangor, something that can be contemplated within the dynamics of political developments in the state. Should a PKR candidate other than Wan Azizah be appointed, the DAP’s support for that candidate would be critical and, therefore, a quid pro quo is within the ambit of the possible. (Isn’t politics the art of the possible?)
This is not to say that the DAP should put position before principle. There is the matter of the room that democratic politics allows its players wherein they can test the parameters of the allowable. They should look at what is happening in a neighboring country which has elected as President someone who is from well outside the usual strata of Indonesian political society from which candidates for that position usually emerge.
The DAP ought to be encouraged that, by the elevation of Joko Widodo to the Indonesian Presidency and the avenue this has opened for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese and – what is more – a Christian, to become governor of Jakarta, the proof is clear that democratic politics rotates on an axis that is ultimately subversive of unjust barriers posed by race and religion.
Therefore the DAP should not feel itself unduly tied to the logic of what is essentially internecine feuding within PKR, especially if that wrangling has more to do with of individuals who have the destructive serum in the veins from their party of origin (UMNO).
The Khalid Ibrahim of the last several months is not an aberrant incarnation but a continuum with his party of origin. Nothing much can be done about this phenomenon unless, of course, the pestilence of UMNO rule is finally removed from the body politic.
More delay in resolving the Selangor crisis means more deferrals to the day of our release from our primary ailment. With the spate of sedition charges filed against an assortment of Pakatan stalwarts, that ailment is at its most febrile. Pakatan must not be seen to fiddle in Selangor while the country seethes in an UMNO-induced stupor.