October 5, 2015
MB Azmin Ali: Off to a Good Start
by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: PKR supporters must have felt a frisson of delight over photographs of Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali clambering onto to dump trucks, peering into clogged drains, and peeking into makeshift homes of illegal residents as the newly-installed state CEO took his touch to the streets in the last few days.
To them, these are welcome days of vim and vitality after eight months of embarrassing public feuds and excruciating backroom follies that had engulfed the party’s effort to have Khalid Ibrahim replaced as MB of the state. It seems like the arrival of springy sunlight after a long dark passage during which it often seemed that things could not get any worse; that things were rock bottom, until someone or something was heard tapping underneath. It’s not that bad stretches don’t occur in politics; it’s when they threaten to be unending that the trapped feel the joke is on them. Emerging from these straits, they are apt on seeing a vigorous point man blazing a trail, to react like travelers in a desert would upon discovering an unexpected oasis.
Thus photos of Azmin in full kinetic stride stirred memories of the early days of Nizar Jamaluddin (left), the post-tsunami Pakatan Rakyat MB of Perak, a man of torrential energy, reformist passion but evanescent.
No doubt, cynics would be unimpressed at Azmin’s display of new broomism until, perhaps, apprised that in the Kuala Selangor village where Khalid was born, Azmin’s predecessor only had piped water supply installed after he was beaten by competitor Manikavasagam to the chairmanship of the division in PKR’s long drawn out internal polls that ran from late April to early August.A leader that tardy at provisioning a hamlet where he was born is hardly the sort that could succeed at passing off as authentically PKR, as different to an UMNO rethread masquerading in the tricolors of the party born in revulsion at UMNO.
Off to good start
If it takes an infrastructure and drainage inspector’s mentality to be seen as a more effective MB better than Khalid, then Azmin’s off to a good start. After all, wasn’t it a rebuke hurled at Pakatan that the credits Khalid was racking up for their brand in good governance was spoilt by the state chalking up the highest rates in dengue fever incidence.
A Common Sight in Selangor
Mounds of rubbish uncollected; drains and canals clogged; roads pot-holed badly enough to imperil the life and limb of users, were caveats flung in Pakatan’s face whenever reports appeared that the excellence of Khalid’s management of state finances were set to attain stratospheric heights.
Having breached the RM3 billion in reserves level before the onset of his troubles, it seemed that the man was a genius at conserving money for the state. But to what end when dengue menaced the otherwise healthy, a hard bump on a wet night imperiled unwary road users, clogged drains and canals and stinking refuse heaps made it hard to keep in mind when visitors or residents were in the richest state in the country?
So pictures of Azmin, in what is now being billed as Jokowi-like acrobatics, not only pumps the adrenaline in PKR and Pakatan veins, it should also stir voters and residents of Selangor to refreshed expectations of their MB.The new man has not committed a single misstep, though it appeared he had done so when he ordered a stop to the special aid meant for the needy elderly in his predecessor’s parliamentary seat of Bandar Tun Razak and state seat of Port Klang.
On a second look, the aid has not stopped; it has been rerouted through the PKR-appointed point man for the two constituencies, Khalid having been expelled from the party. There’s nothing wrong with the rerouting.
Of course, tougher issues are up ahead, like the matter of the seized bibles, the water agreement between Putrajaya and Selangor, and the proposed tolled highways that would crisscross prime residential districts in the state.
These are matters of considerable complexity and won’t yield to easy resolution. But a more consultative MB than Khalid, and a more solicitous CEO for the concerns of the public, party (PKR) and coalition (Pakatan) ought to see Azmin in rather better stead than Khalid eventually contrived to be.
It’s hard to see how Azmin could go grievously wrong on these matters unless, of course, he becomes abruptly amnesic or blurry. That happened to Khalid as when he seemed to have lost sight of what the public interest, as distinct to his personal interest, was matters ancillary to and concerning the Putrajaya-Selangor water agreement; and where his corporate persona had to yield to political calculations, as in issues ranging from salary increases for state assembly persons and executive councilors to tolled highways and seized holy books.
If Khalid was often a corporate persona lost in a political thicket, like deer caught in headlights, Azmin looks to be a hardened veteran of the subterranean alleyways in which political battles are sometimes waged. If he can avoid the skullduggery that is a constant temptation of these battles, he may find the MB-ship of Selangor a long-waited opportunity for the display of latent powers.
In that event, for PKR and Pakatan the exercise would amount to a grand retrieval from the doghouse the two were consigned to as the Selangor MB crisis raged for eight shriveling months.