Inaugural Address of the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines

June 30, 2010

The Inaugural Address of the 15th President of the Republic of The Philippines, Benigno Aquino III

His Excellency Jose Ramos Horta, Former President Fidel V. Ramos, Former President Joseph Estrada, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and members of the Senate, House Speaker Prospero Nograles and members of the House, justices of the Supreme Court, members of the foreign delegations, Your Excellencies of the diplomatic corps, fellow colleagues in government, aking mga kababayan.

My presence here today is proof that you are my true strength. I never expected that I will be here taking my oath of office before you, as your president. I never imagined that I would be tasked with continuing the mission of my parents. I never entertained the ambition to be the symbol of hope, and to inherit the problems of our nation.

I had a simple goal in life: to be true to my parents and our country as an honorable son, a caring brother, and a good citizen.

My father offered his life so our democracy could live. My mother devoted her life to nurturing that democracy. I will dedicate my life to making our democracy reach its fullest potential: that of ensuring equality for all. My family has sacrificed much and I am willing to do this again if necessary.

Although I was born to famous parents, I know and feel the problems of ordinary citizens. We all know what it is like to have a government that plays deaf and dumb. We know what it is like to be denied justice, to be ignored by those in whom we placed our trust and tasked to become our advocates.

Have you ever been ignored by the very government you helped put in power? I have. Have you had to endure being rudely shoved aside by the siren-blaring escorts of those who love to display their position and power over you? I have, too. Have you experienced exasperation and anger at a government that instead of serving you, needs to be endured by you? So have I.

I am like you. Many of our countrymen have already voted with their feet – migrating to other countries in search of change or tranquility. They have endured hardship, risked their lives because they believe that compared to their current state here, there is more hope for them in another country, no matter how bleak it may be. In moments when I thought of only my own welfare, I also wondered – is it possible that I can find the peace and quiet that I crave in another country? Is our government beyond redemption? Has it been written that the Filipino’s lot is merely to suffer?

Today marks the end of a regime indifferent to the appeals of the people. It is not Noynoy who found a way. You are the reason why the silent suffering of the nation is about to end. This is the beginning of my burden, but if many of us will bear the cross we will lift it, no matter how heavy it is.

Through good governance in the coming years, we will lessen our problems. The destiny of the Filipino will return to its rightful place, and as each year passes, the Filipino’s problems will continue to lessen with the assurance of progress in their lives.

We are here to serve and not to lord over you. The mandate given to me was one of change. I accept your marching orders to transform our government from one that is self-serving to one that works for the welfare of the nation.

This mandate is the social contract that we agreed upon. It is the promise I made during the campaign, which you accepted on election day.

During the campaign we said, “If no one is corrupt, no one will be poor.” That is no mere slogan for posters — it is the defining principle that will serve as the foundation of our administration.

Our foremost duty is to lift the nation from poverty through honest and effective governance.

The first step is to have leaders who are ethical, honest, and true public servants. I will set the example. I will strive to be a good model. I will not break the trust you have placed in me. I will ensure that this, too, will be the advocacy of my Cabinet and those who will join our government.

I do not believe that all of those who serve in our government are corrupt. In truth, the majority of them are honest. They joined government to serve and do good. Starting today, they will have the opportunity to show that they have what it takes. I am counting on them to help fight corruption within the bureaucracy.

To those who have been put in positions by unlawful means, this is my warning: we will begin earning back the trust of our people by reviewing midnight appointments. Let this serve as a warning to those who intend to continue the crooked ways that have become the norm for too long.

To our impoverished countrymen, starting today, your government will be your champion.

We will not disregard the needs of our students. We will begin by addressing the glaring shortage in classrooms and educational facilities.

Gradually, we will lessen the lack of infrastructures for transportation, tourism and trade. From now on, mediocre work will not be good enough when it comes to roads, bridges, and buildings because we will hold contractors responsible for maintaining their projects in good condition.

We will revive the emergency employment program established by former President Corazon Aquino. This will provide jobs for local communities and will help in the development of their and our economy.

We will not be the cause of your suffering or hardship. We will strengthen collections by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and we will fight corruption in the Bureau of Customs in order to fund our objectives for the public welfare, such as:

  • Quality education, including vocational education, so that those who choose not to attend college or those who cannot afford it can find dignified livelihood;
  • Improved public health services such as PhilHealth for all within three years;
  • A home for every family, within safe communities.

We will strengthen the armed forces and the police, not to serve the interests of those who want to wield power with impunity, but to give added protection for ordinary folk. The armed forces and the police risk their lives daily so that the nation can live in peace and security. The population has doubled and yet their numbers remain unchanged. It is not right that those who make sacrifices are treated pitifully.

If there was a fertilizer scam in the past, today there will be security for farmers. We will help them with irrigation, extension services, and marketing their products at the best possible prices.

We are directing Secretary Alcala to set up trading centers that will directly link farmers and consumers thereby eliminating middlemen and opportunities for corruption. In this way, funds can be shared by farmers and consumers. We will make our country attractive to investors. We will cut red tape dramatically and implement stable economic policies. We will level the playing field for investors and make government an enabler, not a hindrance to business. This is the only means by which we can provide jobs for our people.

Our goal is to create jobs at home so that there will be no need to look for employment abroad. However, as we work towards that end, I am ordering the DFA, POEA, OWWA, and other relevant agencies to be even more responsive to the needs and welfare of our overseas Filipino workers.

We will strengthen the process of consultation and feedback. We will strive to uphold the constitutional right of citizens to information on matters of public concern.

We relived the spirit of people power during the campaign. Let it take us to good and effective governance. Those who believe in people power put the welfare of others before their own.

I can forgive those who did me wrong but I have no right to forgive those who abused our people. To those who talk about reconciliation, if they mean that they would like us to simply forget about the wrongs that they have committed in the past, we have this to say: there can be no reconciliation without justice. When we allow crimes to go unpunished, we give consent to their occurring over and over again. Secretary de Lima, you have your marching orders. Begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.

We are also happy to inform you the acceptance of Chief Justice Hilario Davide of the challenge of strengthening and heading a Truth Commission that will shed light on many unanswered issues that continue to haunt our country.

My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflict, inclusive of the interests of all — may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.

We shalI defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform, and equitable governance leading to a better life. With proper governance life will improve for all. When we are all living well, who will want to go back to living under oppression?

If I have all of you by my side, we will be able to build a nation in which there will be equality of opportunity, because each of us fulfilled our duties and responsibilities equally.

After the elections, you proved that it is the people who wield power in this country. This is what democracy means. It is the foundation of our unity. We campaigned for change. Because of this, the Filipino stands tall once more. We are all part of a nation that can begin to dream again.

To our friends and neighbors around the world, we are ready to take our place as a reliable member of the community of nations, a nation serious about its commitments and which harmonizes its national interests with its international responsibilities.

We will be a predictable and consistent place for investment, a nation where everyone will say, “it all works.”

Today, I am inviting you to pledge to yourselves and to our people. No one shall be left behind. No more junkets, no more senseless spending. No more turning back on pledges made during the campaign, whether today or in the coming challenges that will confront us over the next six years. No more influence-peddling, no more patronage politics, no more stealing. No more sirens, no more short cuts, no more bribes. It is time for us to work together once more.

We are here today because we stood together and believed in hope. We had no resources to campaign other than our common faith in the inherent goodness of the Filipino.

The people who are behind us dared to dream. Today, the dream starts to become a reality. To those among you who are still undecided about sharing the common burden I have only one question: Are you going to quit now that we have won?

You are the boss so I cannot ignore your orders. We will design and implement an interaction and feedback mechanism that can effectively respond to your needs and aspirations.

You are the ones who brought me here – our volunteers – old, young, celebrity, ordinary folks who went around the country to campaign for change; my household help who provided for all my personal needs; my family, friends, colleagues at work, who shared, cared, and gave their support; my lawyers who stayed all hours to guard my votes and make sure they were counted; and the millions of Filipinos who prevailed, kept faith, and never lost hope – I offer my heartfelt gratitude.

I will not be able to face my parents and you who have brought me here if do not fulfill the promises I made. My parents sought nothing less, died for nothing less, than democracy and peace. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward.

My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change.

Thank you and long live the Filipino people!

On Justice Thurgood Marshall

June 30, 2010

Thurgood Marshall’s Legacy deserves cheers, not sneers

By Stephanie J. Jones

Note: Justice Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.On November 30, 1993, Justice Marshall was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President William Jefferson Clinton.

As Senators Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl and John Cornyn disparaged the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on the opening day of Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, dismissing him as an “activist judge” in what appeared to be a raw attempt to score political points, I wondered: “Have you no sense of decency, at long last?”

Let me put it plainly, senators: Far from being the out-of-the-mainstream caricature you seek to create, Thurgood Marshall deserves your unyielding gratitude and respect. Among other things, he saved this nation from a second civil war.

It was Marshall who, with Howard Law School Dean Charles Hamilton Houston, his mentor, conceived and then painstakingly effectuated the jurisprudence that led to the striking down of the odious “separate but equal” doctrine that threatened to destroy this country.

While many decry “activist judges” (by which they seem to mean judges who uphold civil rights for minorities and women), those judges who undermine civil rights often demonstrate the most extreme forms of activism. Judges such as those who declared in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was constitutionally sound turned the Constitution on its head and made a mockery of equal protection. Those activist judges subjected an entire segment of Americans to more than half a century of state-imposed degradation, subjugation and humiliation.

A nation thus divided cannot stand. And simmering below the surface was anger, frustration and growing hopelessness. We know what happens to a dream deferred. It explodes.

But Thurgood Marshall did not let that happen. As general counsel for the NAACP, he thoughtfully laid the groundwork for change. He and a cadre of brilliant lawyers, black and white, spent nearly two decades paving the way for the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in 1954 that “separate but equal” was antithetical to our constitutional principles. Far from activists, they were protectors of the Constitution. Unlike many of his detractors, past and present, Marshall showed the utmost reverence for the Constitution, digging it out of the trash heap on which Plessy and its progeny had tossed it and helping the nation begin to heal.

Were it not for Marshall and the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Montgomery bus boycott that introduced the world to Dr. Martin Luther King probably would have been an exercise in futility. Without Marshall, the civil rights movement of the 1960s — which relied heavily on the protections provided in a series of critical federal rulings based on the precedents he created — could have gone another way.

Marshall stood up for the rights of millions of ordinary Americans who, were it not for him, would have continued to be second-class citizens, unable to vote, attend state universities or share public accommodations by virtue of the color of their skin. This would have been a very different nation — had it even survived.

And he carried forth this work on the Supreme Court. “Whether in the majority or in dissent, Justice Marshall’s faith in the Constitution encompassed more than the racial issues of his civil rights days. Indeed, he saw the protection provided by the Constitution as extending beyond color and racial constraints to preventing official governmental abuse of any disadvantaged person,” members of the Supreme Court bar noted in an unanimous resolution honoring the late justice in 1993. “Marshall staunchly believed that equal protection meant equal — regardless of color. In Peters v. Kiff Justice Marshall delivered the opinion of the Court upholding a white defendant’s claim that the Constitution was violated by the exclusion of blacks from the petit and grand juries. ‘The existence of a constitutional violation does not depend on the circumstances of the person making the claim.’ “

Marshall was a great jurist who used his skills to move this country closer to being a more perfect union. As a lawyer and a justice, he protected us from activist judges and the cramped thinking of politicians who tried to keep our country in the muck. And he never forgot how the high court’s rulings affect the least of us.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote: “His was the eye of a lawyer who had seen the deepest wounds in the social fabric and used law to help heal them. His was the ear of a counselor who understood the vulnerabilities of the accused and established safeguards for their protection. His was the mouth of a man who knew the anguish of the silenced and gave them a voice.”

But perhaps the most eloquent tribute to Marshall was expressed in two words. During some of the darkest times in our nation’s history, when rights were denied, lives were threatened and African Americans knew they could not turn to their government for help, calls would go out to the NAACP. When the answer came, the words whispered in homes, churches and communities were enough to calm fears, lift despair, assuage anger and give enough hope to hold on a bit longer: “Thurgood’s coming.”

Thurgood came. And he came through. He taught us all what it means to love our country enough to work to make it a little better, a little stronger and a little closer to what it’s supposed to be. That’s not activism. That’s patriotism. And for that, Thurgood Marshall deserves respect and thanks, not sneers.

The writer, a public affairs and government relations strategist, was executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute from 2005 to 2010 and was chief Senate Judiciary Committee counsel to John Edwards from 2002 to 2005.

Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia

June 30, 2010

OPINION: Flirting with Zealotry in Malaysia

by Jackson Diehl (June 27, 2010)

Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of Malaysia’s political opposition, has become known over the past decade as one of the foremost advocates of liberal democracy in Muslim countries. His many friends in Washington include prominent members of the neoconservative movement — such as Paul Wolfowitz, the former World Bank president and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia — as well as such Democratic grandees as Al Gore.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman

Lately, Anwar has been getting attention for something else: strident rhetoric about Israel and alleged “Zionist influence” in Malaysia. He recently joined a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur where an Israeli flag was burned. He’s made dark insinuations about the “Jewish-controlled” Washington public relations firm APCO Worldwide, which is working for Malaysia’s quasi-authoritarian government.

Therein lies a story of the Obama era — about a beleaguered democrat fighting for political and personal survival with little help from Washington; about the growing global climate of hostility toward Israel; and about the increasing willingness of U.S. friends in places such as Turkey and Malaysia to exploit it.

First, a little about Anwar: While serving as deputy prime minister under Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s, he began pushing for reforms — only to be arrested, tried and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of homosexual sodomy. Freed after six years, he built a multi-ethnic democratic opposition movement that shocked the ruling party with its gains in recent elections.

It now appears to have a chance at winning the next parliamentary campaign, which would allow Malaysia to join Indonesia and Turkey as full-fledged majority-Muslim democracies.

Not surprisingly, Anwar is being prosecuted again. Once again the charge is consensual sodomy, which to Malaysia’s discredit remains a crime punishable by whipping and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Anwar, who is 63 and married with children, denies the charge, and the evidence once again is highly suspect. His 25-year-old accuser has confessed to meeting Prime Minister Najib Razak and talking by phone with the national police chief in the days before the alleged sexual encounter.

Nevertheless the trial is not going well. If it ends in another conviction, Anwar’s political career and his opposition coalition could be destroyed, and his life could be at risk: His health is not great. Yet the opposition leader is not getting the kind of support from the United States as during his first prosecution, when then-Vice President Gore spoke up for him. Obama said nothing in public about Anwar when he granted Najib a prized bilateral meeting in Washington in April.

After a “senior officials dialogue” between the two governments this month, the State Department conceded that the ongoing trial again had not been raised, “because this issue was recently discussed at length.” When it comes to human rights, the Obama administration apparently does not wish to be repetitive.

Anwar meanwhile found his own way to fight back. Hammered for years by government propaganda describing him as an Israeli agent and a Wolfowitz-loving American lackey, he tried to turn the tables, alleging that APCO was manipulating the government to support Israeli and U.S. interests. He also said that Israeli agents had infiltrated Malaysia’s security forces and were “directly involved in the running of the government.”

Najib describes Israel as “world gangsters.” But he quickly turned Anwar’s words against him; APCO has been peddling the anti-Israel statements around Washington.

Anwar is like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he regards as a friend and fellow traveler. Both know better than to indulge in such stuff. Both have recently begun to do it anyway — after a year in which the Obama administration has frequently displayed irritation with Israel. “If you say we are growing impatient with Israel, that is true,” Anwar told me. “If you say I am not too guarded or careful in what I say sometimes, that is also true.”

Anwar, who was in Washington for a couple of days last week, spent a lot of time offering explanations to old friends, not to mention House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman and a Jewish leader or two. He said he regretted using terms such as “Zionist aggression,” which are common coin for demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Why do I need to use it if it causes so much misunderstanding?” he said. “I need to be more careful.”

Many of the Malaysian’s friends are inclined to give him a break. “What Anwar did was wrong, but considering that he’s literally fighting for his life — physically as well as politically — against a government that attacks him as being ‘a puppet of the Jews,’ one should cut him some slack,” Wolfowitz told me.

But Anwar’s story can also be read as a warning. His transition from pro-American democrat to anti-Israeli zealot is sobering — and it is on the verge of becoming a trend.

Do Economists know what they are talking about?

June 29, 2010

Do Economists know what they are talking about, asks Robert Samuelson of Newsweek (June 28, 2010)

“..the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.
—John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1936)

Almost everyone wants the world’s governments to do more to revive ailing economies. No one wants a “double dip” recession. The Group of 20 Summit in Toronto was determined to avoid one. In major advanced countries—the 31 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—unemployment stands at 46.5 million people, up about 50 percent since 2007. It’s not just that people lack work. Lengthy unemployment may erode skills, leading to downward mobility or permanent joblessness. But what more can governments do? It’s unclear.

We may be reaching the limits of economics. As Keynes noted, political leaders are hostage to the ideas of economists—living and dead—and economists increasingly disagree about what to do.

Granted, the initial response to the crisis (sharp cuts in interest rates, bank bailouts, stimulus spending) probably averted a depression. But the crisis has also battered the logic of all major theories: Keynesianism, monetarism and “rational expectations.” Economics has become the shaky science; its intellectual chaos provides context for today’s policy disputes at home and abroad.

Consider the matter of budgets. Would bigger deficits stimulate the economy and create jobs, as standard Keynesianism suggests? Or do exploding government debts threaten another financial crisis?

The Keynesian logic seems airtight. If consumer and business spending is weak, government raises demand through tax cuts or spending increases. But in practice, governments’ high debts impose financial and psychological limits. The ratio of government debt to the economy (gross domestic product) is 92 percent for France, 82 percent for Germany and 83 percent for Britain, reports the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland.

This means that the benefits of higher deficits can be lost in many ways: through higher interest rates if greater debt frightens investors; through declines in private spending if consumers and businesses lose confidence in governments’ ability to control budgets; and through a banking crisis if bank capital—which consists heavily of government bonds—declines in value. There’s a tug of war between the stimulus of bigger deficits and the fears inspired by bigger deficits.

Based on favorable assumptions, the Obama Administration says its $787 billion “stimulus” program created or saved up to 2.8 million jobs. This might be. Lenders haven’t lost confidence in U.S. Treasury bonds. Interest rates on 10-year Treasurys are just over 3 percent. But in Europe, financial limits have bitten. Greece’s huge debt (debt-to-GDP ratio: 123 percent) resulted in a steep rise of interest rates. Germany and Britain are debating plans to cut their deficits to avoid Greece’s fate.

That’s lunacy, writes Martin Wolf, chief economic commentator for the Financial Times. Concerted austerity may destroy the recovery. Exactly, echoes Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who argues that the U.S. economy needs more stimulus and bigger deficits. “Penny-pinching at a time like this . . .,” he writes, “endangers the nation’s future.”

Not so, counters Harvard economist Ken Rogoff. President Obama’s stimulus package may have “helped calm the panic” in 2009, but boosting spending now—with federal deficits exceeding $1 trillion—raises “the risk of having a debt crisis down the road.” Deficits should be gradually trimmed, he argues.

Indeed, some economists believe that budget cutbacks can stimulate economic growth under some circumstances. A study by economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna found that budget cutbacks in wealthy countries often had an expansionary effect when spending reductions, not tax increases, were emphasized. Presumably, these budget plans favorably influenced interest rates and confidence without weakening the incentives to work and invest.

Like textbook Keynesianism, “monetarism” has also suffered in its explanatory power. This theory holds that big injections of money (“reserves”) into the banking system by the Federal Reserve should lead to higher lending, higher spending and—if large enough—inflation. Well, since the summer of 2008, the Fed has provided about $1 trillion of reserves to banks, and none of these things has happened. Inflation remains tame, and outstanding bank loans have dropped more than $200 billion in the past year. Banks are sitting on massive excess reserves.

There’s a great deal economists don’t understand. Not surprisingly, the adherents of “rational expectations”—a theory that people generally figure out how best to respond to economic events—didn’t anticipate financial panic and economic collapse. The disconnect between theory and reality seems ominous. The response to the initial crisis was to throw money at it—to lower interest rates and expand budget deficits. But with interest rates now low and deficits high, what happens if there’s another crisis?

Robert Samuelson is also the author of The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence and Untruth: Why the Conventional Wisdom Is (Almost Always) Wrong.

Dearth of Thinking Minds and Quality Labour

June 29, 2010

A Dearth of Thinking Minds and Quality Labour by 2020, say MP for Klang Charles Santiago

by B Nantha Kumar

Malaysia may likely face a dearth of thinking minds and quality labour by 2020 if the current outflow of professionals is not quickly stemmed, said Klang MP Charles Santiago.

Citing statistics, Santiago said between 2000 and 2009, some 700,000 professionals had left the country seeking opportunities elsewhere.

“Looking at the current scenario and the number of professional leaving the country we are unlikely to achieve the 6% economic growth target in the next five years. The brain drain is a serious reality. Between 2000 and 2009, Malaysia has lost 700,000 professionals… that is 3% of our total population. At this rate by 2020, we will have no professionals in the country,” he said.

Attributing the brain-drain to the current social and political climate, he told participants at a 10th Malaysia Plan forum here it was a fallacy to think that it was only the Chinese and Indian professionals who were migrating.

“It is no more the story of old that only Indians and Chinese are immigrating… a large number of Malays too are looking abroad for jobs and opportunities because of the social and political instability in the country,” he said.

Santiago said the continued uncertainty over prices of goods and services and stagnant salaries were contributory factors to Malaysians seeking employment abroad.

He also drew attention to the government’s lack of interest in developing new industries. “PETRONAS has no more money to spend… now is the time for the government to look at new industries and ensure the country has a diverse source of income,” he said.

PKR: Azmin Ali-Khalid Ibrahim Rivalry

June 29, 2010

PKR: Azmin Ali-Khalid Ibrahim Rivalry

by Dr Ong Kian Ming (June 28, 2010)

COMMENT Competition and jostling for positions and power are par for the course for politicians in any political party, including the opposition parties in Malaysia.

The notion of the parties in Pakatan being made up of idealists who are united in a single purpose or for a single ideology should be disabused, especially after March 8, 2008, because of increased political stakes.

That said, the most recent political salvo fired by Azmin Ali, MP for Gombak and state assembly representative for Bukit Antarabangsa, comes across as nothing more than a naked power grab, barely a month after the PKR congress where indications were that the current MB of Selangor, Khalid Ibrahim, would be given some breathing room to enact reforms and to improve on his performance.

azlanThe shortcomings of Khalid are well-known and well-documented. Not all of them are necessarily bad traits to have and in fact have made him rather popular in the eyes of the general voting public. His insistence, for example, on not wanting to dish out contracts and favours to party insiders, including PKR MPs, while seen as a shortcoming from within his own party, actually boosts his public popularity.

Other weaknesses are more legitimate, including his inability to make quick decisions as a result of which many business opportunities in the state have been put on the backburner. His indecisiveness on certain matters have also led some Pakatan state assembly representatives, some of whom could easily have been turned into his allies, to view him as an impediment to development and to solving problems faced by the Selangor residents.

I am sure others who are more familiar with the affairs of the Selangor state government and know Khalid personally can tell you many more weaknesses (as well as strengths, I may add). But there must be better ways for Azmin to pressure Khalid to improve his performance (if this is even a consideration) or to legitimately challenge his leadership of the state.

Astute political operator

If Azmin wants to show that he can be a better MB than Khalid, then he has to show that he can do more for the state than be an astute political operator within his own party, which no one doubts. In fact, that is precisely his problem.

The general public, which is far less interested in the internal maneuvering of PKR and how Khalid may or may not be improving the institutional and financial capacity of his own party (both legitimate concerns), sees Azmin as nothing more than a political operator with greedy ambitions to replace Khalid.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that most of the public who do follow politics closely probably sees Azmin as ‘Anwar-like’ and perhaps even ‘Anwar-lite’. In other words, a skillful political operator with great ambition but somewhat lacking in substance and perhaps even patience.

Why not use his position as MP and ADUN to show to the public what kind of state Selangor would be under his leadership? While I have not followed his debates in the state assembly closely, the thrust and content of his speeches in Parliament have mostly focused on revealing corruption on the part of the BN.

While this is an important responsibility (revealing corrupt practices), it shows a certain unwillingness to do the hard thinking which is required when it comes to examining important policy questions.

For example, how does the 10th Malaysian Plan affect the growth prospects of Selangor? In what way can the state government work with the federal government to carry out aspects of the 10th Malaysian Plan which calls for more development in the Greater KL area?

Everyone knows that Azmin wants to replace Khalid as the next MB of Selangor. Why not come out in the open to say this and to present an alternative plan of leadership rather than to resort to the same old Umno practices of ‘wayang kulit‘ and political machinations behind the scenes? This is the very sort of thing which many voters voted against on March 8, 2008.

Naked ambition

Azmin has perhaps taken the playbook to the next level by having these open mutinies against Khalid. Even the much more inept Terengganu MB Ahmad Said has had greater reprieve from his Umno counterparts who despise his leadership, compared to the constant attacks Khalid and his staff have been subjected to, courtesy of Azmin.

Sadly, Azmin’s naked ambition also shows his failure to appreciate the fact that even if he succeeds in unseating Khalid, the public damage done would be so great that Pakatan would not be able to retain the state. It would be different if Azmin could come in and demonstrate great leadership that would catapult Selangor to stratospheric heights of economic development or to capture the public imagination with a great vision of what Selangor will be under his leadership as MB.

But nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe that this will happen. In fact, many of Azmin’s own weaknesses, including the inability to build institutional capacity within his own party and the preference to want to play internal politics (remind you of anyone?) would be exacerbated to a far more worrying degree if he took over from Khalid as MB, let’s say starting tomorrow.

If this was the case, then his tenure as MB would probably last until the next general election. Furthermore, there’s no telling what sort of lasting damage this would do to Pakatan’s electoral prospects both within Selangor and at the national level. Just think of Anwar’s own failed power grab on Sept 16, 2008.

It’s still not too late for Azmin to demonstrate that he can be a better leader for Pakatan in Selangor than Khalid and not just a better political operator. He needs to use his new position as the chief of PKR in Selangor and his existing platforms as ADUN and MP to show that he has a clear vision of what he wants Selangor to be.

What Khalid must also do

Meanwhile, Khalid has to decide if he really wants his job and the extent he has to work in order to keep it.

He needs to realise that he cannot avoid the political aspects of his job. He needs to win support and gain allies from within his own party. He doesn’t necessarily need to dispense projects to these potential allies. Perhaps by being more decisive, he can spur business opportunities in some of the constituencies of his political detractors.

Khalid may have been weakened by Azmin but he still holds the position of the MB and with that, the power that comes with the office. He needs to communicate the achievements of his state government more effectively. He also needs to restate the case for his own leadership and why Pakatan needs him to lead Selangor into the next general election.

In the meantime, I, like many other interested parties, will watch the continuing political battle between Azmin and Khalid. Finally, because of space, I have left out any discussion of Anwar Ibrahim’s role in this. Fodder for another article perhaps?

ONG KIAN MING is a political analyst and a lecturer at UCSI University. He holds a PhD in political science from Duke University. His views expressed here are obviously his own and not that of the university he is attached to.