February 1, 2014
Kee Thuan Chye on the Kajang Move
As it is, many of them feel it was wrong for Lee Chin Cheh, the state assemblyman who was voted in during the last general election (GE13), to vacate his seat for no good reason except to make way for Anwar.
Worse, the move is perceived to have arisen from the feud between Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali. The eventual outcome could be Anwar replacing Khalid as MB and keeping the two foes from further tearing at each other. But Selangorians who think Khalid is doing a good job as MB don’t like that.
Furthermore, many people, especially Pakatan supporters, are incensed that Anwar and his party, PKR, are willing to compromise principles, turn the democratic process into “a political circus”, simply to resolve internal bickering. They feel that the politicians are taking the Kajang constituents for granted in order to serve their own selfish needs.
They also feel that Anwar and PKR have lowered their standards and are doing the sort of politicking more in keeping with UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN). If that’s the case, they wonder, is there any difference between Pakatan and BN? What hope is there for positive change?
Well, internal feuds are common to any political party. Heck, it happens a lot within UMNO. Right now, it appears there’s friction between UMNO President Najib Razak and former President Mahathir Mohamad – although the latter has said he’s not out to topple Najib – but nobody makes a song and dance about it. Even though the potential outcome of that feud could bring dire consequences for the country.
Nonetheless, one cannot unequivocally say that what Anwar and PKR are doing is right. Yes, PKR’s Strategy Director Rafizi Ramli, in whom we can see good things for the future, has explained that what he dubs the “Kajang Move” is aimed at strengthening Pakatan’s hold on Selangor, which, he thinks, is likely to come under vicious attack by BN should the ultras of UMNO manage to depose Najib. So Pakatan needs “as many of our top leaders around Selangor as possible to defend the state”. Ergo, Anwar.
But does it require Anwar to be a state assemblyman to fortify the defence? Probably not. And if one looks more closely at Rafizi’s explanation, which also focuses on making Selangor “a model state”, instituting reforms that will make it “doubly better than what it is today” so that it can be Pakatan’s showcase, one can see he is saying that Khalid is not the man to pull that off.
“While Khalid’s administration has set a gold standard in integrity and prudence in managing public funds, we also have to admit there are other areas that we can improve on,” Rafizi adds.
“We need a radical approach to resolving traffic woes, and the pace of affordable public housing has to pick up. There is a need for more rigorous forward planning of water resources and some hard decisions have to be made soon. We have to vigorously protect the rights of the minorities who are the targets of UMNO’s political game.”
The damn thing is, he’s right. Khalid has not made Selangor into something like what Penang is now – a happening place. He lacks oomph and charisma. He has also not been effective in his relations with the Sultan, in firmly establishing that royalty should not interfere in politics. He was inept in his handling of the Bible seizure by Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Jais). On that score, Selangor does appear to need a more forceful MB to make things happen. The right things.
If Anwar were to step into that position, can he do that?The problem is, many people still don’t trust him. Including Pakatan supporters. Some think the “Kajang Move” is about Anwar seeking power for himself. And the power inherent in the abundant reserves in the state’s coffers.
It doesn’t help his cause that he brings much of his past political baggage to the Kajang contest – and his old UMNO credentials. It also doesn’t help that Selangor PAS and its Youth wing have spoken out against the move, calling it “a betrayal of public trust”. If Anwar’s plan is to replace Khalid as MB, Selangor PAS wants to propose its own candidate for that position. This is a risk for PKR because it has the lowest number of representatives in the state assembly compared to partners PAS and the DAP.
As for Selangor PAS’s Youth wing, it has threatened to boycott the by-election campaign. Sometimes, this can be translated into sabotage. And although PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu has declared his party’s support for Anwar’s candidacy, this may not be as effective as what Selangor PAS members can do on the ground.
We have seen this happen in the GE13 contest for the state seat of Kota Damansara. Although PAS headquarters called on its candidate for that seat to withdraw to prevent splitting votes with the candidate of supposed ally PSM (Parti Sosialis Malaysia), the call went unheeded. As it turned out, the vote-splitting caused both to lose and BN to win.
More problematic for Anwar would be if UMNO manages to persuade the MCA to let it stand in Kajang. The electorate is made up of a majority of Malay voters (48 per cent), with the Chinese forming 41 per cent and the Indians, 10 per cent. If non-Malay voters angered by the move decide to forsake Pakatan and BN launches what can be expected to be another nauseating round of pork barrelling to win Malay favour and temper the current anti-BN sentiment caused by the increase in daily costs, Anwar will have a big fight to face.
It would add to his problem if PSM, which is considering contesting, decides to do so. It could split the votes between them and hand BN victory. The better option is for PSM to stay out and not confuse the issue. It should let PKR resolve its own problem. And learn from the Kota Damansara lesson.
At GE13, Lee won with a majority of 6,824, which is quite substantial. If Anwar gets less than that or, worse, scrapes through by a slender margin, how will he look? Worse, what if Anwar actually loses? It could be the end of the war for PKR’s generalissimo. How would that impact on GE14 and Pakatan’s hopes of capturing Putrajaya?
Ultimately, this prospect is what Kajang voters must consider. Especially those who are still hoping for change. Would teaching PKR a lesson for making the “Kajang Move” be of any use if the long-term effects could be counter-productive?
As one pro-change Netizen puts it on Facebook: “I think if we criticise Pakatan for something it’s done, that is fine. We shouldn’t stop doing that. But if such criticising turns into a campaign to vote against Pakatan, it’s virtually calling the public to vote for BN. Until we have a third force that is strong enough to take over the government, then we have to face the truth that if we want BN to fall, we have no alternative but Pakatan. It’s just mathematics. I hate such a situation, but that’s all we’ve got. After BN has fallen, we can vote against Pakatan whenever we dislike them and have a better party rule the country. But it hasn’t happened yet.”
Another netizen puts it more succinctly: “No one or no party is perfect. We just vote for the lesser evil.” At the polling booth, Kajang voters must decide which is the lesser evil – Anwar or BN? – Yahoo! News, February 1, 2014.
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of The Elections Bullshit.