Friday, October 15, 2010

Coming home to roost

This is not just about PKR. This is also about Pakatan Rakyat. The head honcho of PKR will automatically become the head honcho of Pakatan Rakyat -- just like the head honcho of Umno becomes the head honcho of Barisan Nasional.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

We shall soon be seeing the 12th by-election since the March 2008 general election, which will be held in Galas, Kelantan.

Galas is in the Gua Musang parliamentary constituency, a seat that has been consistently won by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the taiko of that area.

As much as Umno tried to topple Tengku Razleigh in the days when he led Semangat 46 they never could kick him out. Tengku Razaleigh could have won that seat even as an independent candidate.

About 15% or so of the voters in Galas are Orang Asli and it is said that this is the biggest Orang Asli constituency in Malaysia (I have not checked the statistics yet). So the Orang Asli would most likely be the group that will determine whether PAS or Umno wins this seat.

In the 2008 general election, PAS managed to win this seat although the other two state seats, plus the parliamentary seat, went to Umno. However, was it PAS or was it the candidate who won this seat? The Galas seat, just like Gua Musang, is ‘personal to holder’ and was not won because of the party.

The Orang Asli in Galas are not happy with the state government. This is because the district office demolished their church. Why they would demolish a church deep in the jungles, which is of no threat to anyone and is off the beaten track, is anyone’s guess.

The Orang Asli took the government to court and won. But the district office is appealing the court’s verdict so the matter is still unresolved. Why can’t the district office admit defeat and allow the Orang Asli to rebuild their demolished church? I don’t know. Maybe it is because the government hates losing.

Now, PAS needs the support of the Orang Asli to be able to win the Galas by-election. But will the Orang Asli give PAS their votes or will they use this by-election to punish PAS for what the district office did to their church and for stubbornly still fighting to overturn the court decision?

There are a number of Chinese voters in Galas but the community is not as large as the Orang Asli. So PAS will have to depend on the Malay voters. But with Tengku Razaleigh, the Gua Musang taiko, leading the charge, the Malays may be delicately split 50:50. Thus the Orang Asli votes are very crucial.

It is a predicament that PAS is soon going to face. If PAS can ‘pull rank’ and instruct the ‘Little Napoleons’ in the district office to withdraw its appeal and accept the court’s verdict and allow the Orang Asli to have their church then it is possible that the situation can still be salvaged. If not, then this seat may fall to Umno.

It is perplexing that the district office refuses to allow the Orang Asli their church when the state government gave the Hindus in Kelantan permission to build a temple. In fact, the Hindus did not ask for a temple. It was Menteri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat who summoned the Hindus for a meeting and offered permission for them to build a temple. Why now make a big deal out of the Orang Asli church?

Over to you PAS and may common sense prevail.

The PKR party election is probably a bigger event than the Galas by-election, in particular the contest for the post of deputy president.

Understandably, the deputy presidency is an extremely sought-after post because if anything were to happen to the president or the party adviser then the deputy would become the de facto president. And many are not sure if Anwar Ibrahim can succeed in staying out of jail seeing that the government is bent on getting him on the Sodomy 2 charge.

The issue is not whether Anwar is guilty or not. It is how badly the government wants him behind bars. After all, in the Sodomy 1 case the government failed to prove Anwar’s guilt. Anwar was sent to jail because he failed to prove his innocence although any first-year law student can tell you that this is not how the law works.

The party contest has seriously split PKR. As it is, PKR is already the weak link in Pakatan Rakyat. Can the members close ranks once the party contest is over and the winners and losers have been decided? I don’t know but then it will all depend on who the winners and losers are.

To save the party, some compromises may have to be ironed out. The main friction appears to be between Zaid Ibrahim and Azmin Ali. And both sides has accused the other of ‘playing dirty’.

What the members should do is to reject both. Don’t vote for either Zaid or Azmin. Instead, vote for the ‘dark horse’. That would be one way of ending the conflict.

The only two dark horses I can think of would be Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and MP Nurul Izzah Anwar. And if Nurul is not able to contest then it would have to be Khalid.

But will Khalid contest if Nurul is not eligible to contest? He may have to, not because he wants the post, but so that he can offer the members a third choice in the event they want to ‘punish’ both Zaid and Azmin.

I would rather see Nurul join the contest so that Khalid can be free to run the state. Selangor is too important a state to lose in the next general election. And if anything happens to Anwar then Khalid will be lumbered with the job of running the party. And if he focuses on the state instead, then the party is going to suffer. There is no way Khalid can run both the party and the state at the same time seeing that both are ‘problem areas’.

That is why I want Nurul to contest. But if she can’t then she can’t. What more can I say?

I have nothing against Azmin. In fact, he is my friend (as is Zaid) and we do still keep in touch, at least via SMS. But Azmin just has too many enemies. And the other two coalition members, PAS and DAP, are more comfortable with Khalid than with Azmin.

This is not just about PKR. This is also about Pakatan Rakyat. The head honcho of PKR will automatically become the head honcho of Pakatan Rakyat -- just like the head honcho of Umno becomes the head honcho of Barisan Nasional.

Some think I am getting too personal about the PKR party contest. Maybe I am. Anything that affects the future of Pakatan Rakyat I take very personal because this invariably affects the future of Malaysia as well.

So we need to look at the big picture. I couldn’t care a damn who becomes the number two of PKR if it is just about PKR. But when the outcome has a bearing on the wellbeing of Pakatan Rakyat, then it becomes everyone’s concern, even those in PAS and DAP.

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