January 25, 2010
PKR calls for a Special Political Bureau on MP for Kulim Bandar Bharu, Zulkifli Nordin
by Terence Netto (January 24, 2010)
PKR have called a special meeting of its Political Bureau for Tuesday to discuss the latest outburst of its refractory MP for Kulim Bandar Bharu, Zulkifli Nordin.
“It’s the first item on the agenda and it’s likely we will make a decision that will be communicated to him soon after the meeting,” said the party’s newly appointed secretary general Saifuddin Nasution.
Saifuddin, MP for Machang, declined to be drawn further but it was clear that Zulkifli’s (right) latest machinations – his lodging of a police report against Pas MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad and his public denunciation of the man – have crossed the red line separating reasonable intramural dissent from open revolt.
Zulkifli has been scouring that line for a year and more. In 2008, he and a band of cohorts intruded aggressively on a Bar Council meeting that was called to discuss the issue of religious conversion.
The intrusion caused huge public embarrassment to PKR, intent as the party was on augmenting voter support for an agenda of political change based on policies promoting political and economic egalitarianism and social emollience.
Immediately after that incident, Zulkifli was incommunicado. There were reports he had been detained under the ISA, a bizarre turn given that the police are widely viewed as compliant with the powers-that-be and therefore unlikely to act against a politician seen as a liability to the opposition.
While PKR were mulling disciplinary action against Zulkifli, the matter was compounded when vice president Azmin Ali and its MP for Balik Pulau, Yusmadi Yusof, met up with Zulkifli on the margins of a session of Parliament and afterwards pronounced themselves satisfied with the explanation for his conduct proffered by the unrepentant MP.
This was myopic because the party’s disciplinary committee was edging to a recommendation that sanctions be applied on its recalcitrant member. But the recommendation was mothballed after PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim chose to ignore it.
Lost to the subtleties of communication
Privately, Anwar is known to take a dim view of Zulkifli’s machinations but in public, elects to treat the MP like a somewhat prodigal though malleable sibling, an attitude in keeping with the Pakatan Rakyat leader’s more exaggerated notions of inclusiveness.
On the level of personal interaction, this stance was perhaps understandable, but at the level of public projection of PKR’s political goals, it was self-undermining.
This is because Zulkifli’s public posturing on Islam continued to certify him as belonging to the fanatical fringe rather than the broad centre of Malaysian politics where PKR is soundly emplaced.
Any subtleties of suasion that Anwar (left), who enjoys a wholly justified reputation as a conciliator, had hoped to bring across in personal interaction with the much younger man had little chance to succeed because Zukilfi is about as sensitive to the subtleties of communication as a bull would be in a china shop.
Though in his forties, Zulkifli appears to have lost none of the astringent seriousness of youth. Even more, he still seems powered by youth’s missionary energy, the sense of absolute righteousness that maturity usually softens.
Anwar’s lapse of judgment in not earlier acting against Zukifli has led to the current situation where the brazen MP publicly struts his defiance of party policy and attacks a fellow coalition MP widely regarded as an emblem of the new politics of a reforming nation.
Zulkifli does all this while appearing for Anwar in the matter of his application to the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court on an accusation of sodomy. A convoluted situation!