By PRABA GANESAN
Guest Writer (Sin Chew Daily)
Guest Writer (Sin Chew Daily)
The PKR is in great danger of losing a bunch of leaders. The party is bleeding and no one has stepped forward to either take responsibility for the exodus or the lack of effective response.
Two things about the average politicians, the ones who build their lives being politicians before statesmen:
1) They don’t bet their careers on uncertainties, and
(2) They don’t want to be the last one off a sinking ship.
And the average politicians inundate the roster of potential and present leaders in the party.
I’m not taking this opportunity to hurt my colleagues in the party. I’m just saying we have to accept our limitations, but that is the easy part. The harder part is to make all links in the chain strong, not just the ones who appear on banners as star attractions for ceramahs.But to the bleeding first.
The party has been losing belief since the last quarter of 2008. Belief is the core component of opposition politics. When you have no power, you must believe in your ability to affect change with limited access and retain your belief that you will secure power eventually. Otherwise, every day would be an exercise in futility waiting for your idealism to wear down, next press your inevitable exit countdown button.
The failure of the 16 September takeover in 2008, and the sodomy charges against party de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim before that, did two things -- (1) reduced the focus for the party leaders and members with so much time still left to a general election, and (2) distracted the actual leader of the party from building the party.
Let’s give Anwar all the trust and confidence, but the two events begged the question, Who else is in the PKR, and can these persons become iconic?
We need larger-than-life characters to capture the imagination of a passive Malaysian people, and for that Anwar has to take the blame somewhat. For all his years in politics and manoeuvring, how many proteges have stood on his shoulders and gone on to become household names people hold in awe?
There are those who claim his daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar has broken glass ceilings in the party by being less aligned to her father than not. She did make her appearance as a 17-year-old in 1998 while her father was incarcerated. And her independence in the party is well-known, even if I have to concede her family name helps considerably.
There has just been a steady stream of departures since 2009, despite gaining a healthy number of non-office holding ex-BN leaders like Chua Jui Meng.
Just look at the list since early 2009 (not in chronological order):
• Bukit Selambau state assembly member V. Arumugam gave up his seat in February 2009, less than a year after winning it.
• Perak PKR exco members Capt (Rtd) Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (Changkat Jering) and Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang) withdraw support for the Pakatan Rakyat Perak state government. The state then fell to the BN.
• Mohd Fairus Khairuddin resigns as Penang deputy chief minister and Penanti state assembly member.
• Bayan Baru MP and former Anwar strongman Zahrain Hashim leaves the PKR, taking along with him Nibong Tebal leader Tan Tee Beng.
• Bandar Kulim Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin takes on various avatars of religious indignations and eventually gets sacked from the PKR.
• Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam goes back and forth on religious concerns and corruption, and always looks like he has one foot out of the door.
• Zaid Ibrahim leaves the PKR … well you know the rest.
• N. Gobalakrishnan waits for expulsion or the right time to exit the PKR, it seems.
• Jeffrey Kitingan is leaving the PKR the day after tomorrow.
• Badrul Hisham Shaharin or Chegubard turns down the offer to become deputy secretary-general of the PKR.
• Mustafa Kamil Ayub, the Abim faction flag-bearer, did show up in a rebel press conference with Zaid Ibrahim before the latter left the party.
The themes present in the list are political fears, possible criminal prosecutions and disillusionments.
What type of intervention did the party activate? Maybe the first few ones failed, but did they learn from the failures, did they do better henceforth?
Leaders have to be managed too, not in telling them what to feel and act — then they would be no different from the BN reps. But in managing their expectations, and yes their fears.
This is why expecting just Anwar to heal the party is just asking for trouble. There are just 24 hours in a day, and everything is going on in real-time.
The PKR is a large disparate party of groups. This is why it is large, attractive to different people for different reasons, and yes, difficult to manage.
Others have to step forward to communicate, to get everyone feeling they are part of the PKR family. Those who believe in the party have to start engaging those who have doubts, there are no quick fix-its. It’s time to lead, guys.
That is the party. What happens if nothing enough is done?
More leaders will leave. Manikavasagam, Chegubard and a few more are in the radar, and the courting is not limited to the BN alone, there are newer players. The others will get stronger. Zaid’s KITA and the embryonic Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM).
The average PKR members though mostly uninvolved in party activities at branch, division, state or federal levels hold their cards to indicate their voting patterns only. They may not need a lot of servicing, but they need to feel confident in the party direction even if it is not going to govern the country. That confidence will dip substantially if the situation persists.
A large number of PKR members are Indians, and there is a major Indian congregation in 15 days — Thaipusam. Some initiative has to be launched before then to foster goodwill, because if the million-plus arriving in Batu Caves and Penang have millions of conversations and leave with similar sad stories about the party, it will be ominous. (Azmin Ali might want to capitalise on the event falling in his constituency.)
The dynamics of the PR might be forced to alter. The PR cannot lose those who are seen on the same side. The side bent on ending the BN rule of Malaysia.
If the PKR is unable to take the lead as Anwar did in the lead-up to the March 2008 general election, then either the DAP or PAS leaders have to devise a new equitable and digestible power equation in the lead-up to the polls, this year or next.