Monday, May 24, 2010

Time for PKR to 'reformasi' itself

Time for PKR to 'reformasi' itself

Commentary by Chan Kok Leong, The Edge Daily; Monday, 24 May 2010

IF it hasn't caught on by now, it is no longer a mystery that PKR has the highest number of legislators who have quit the party to become independents.

Beginning with Jamaluddin Mat Radzi and Osman Jailu in February 2009, and ending (for the moment) with Wee Choo Keong this month, PKR has now lost five state and five national legislators.

And as PKR member of parliament for Kapar S Manikavasagam fended off more rumours of him leaving the party too over the weekend, another Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state may be in danger of falling.

Over the weekend, Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak felt necessary to hold a "solidarity" gathering to dispel talk that the PKR state assemblymen would turn independent.

Of the five state assemblymen PKR has in Kedah, two — Radzhi Salleh (Lunas) and Tan Wei Shu (Batu Arang) — have already quit. If the remaining three assemblymen — Lim Soo Nee (Kulim), Tan Show Kang (Sidam) and S Manikumar (Bkt Selambau) — were to leave PKR, PR could lose another state.

Party apologists blame the "defections" as all part and parcel of a deep-rooted conspiracy by their political rivals to weaken them. They accuse the rivals of having bought, coerced and blackmailed their legislators into leaving PKR.

Since the last general election, other PR partners — DAP and PAS — have lost one legislator each. Jelapang assemblyperson Datuk Hee Yit Foong quit DAP in 2009 before the fall of Perak while Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who ran on a PAS platform, turned independent almost immediately after the general election.

If this was a concerted effort by PKR's rivals, wouldn't DAP and PAS be hit by more defections?

And if disillusionment and switching parties are endemic in Malaysian politics, why are PKR's legislators the only ones quitting their party?

From being the leading light and the strength that binds PR, PKR is now deemed its weakest link.

Beginning from Thursday in Kota Bharu, PKR will hold its third annual congress since coming into power in three states and it will be tempting for delegates and leaders to blame the big bad wolf for all its troubles.

But that would be the easy way out. Instead, the party should rethink some of its own invitations to other legislators to leave their own parties.

During the congress, PKR delegates must make a stand on elected representatives who choose to leave their political parties before their terms are up. If the delegates choose to accept that switching parties midway through an election cycle is part of their ideology, then it should accept that PKR will have lost the moral authority to belittle those who leave unless they can back up their allegations with fact and not mere rhetorical arguments.

Teamwork over individuality
In the four-day conference, PKR must also look into its handling of party machinery affairs.

Against the much stronger and better managed Barisan Nasional by-election machinery, PKR ran a directionless campaign marred by infighting in Hulu Selangor. Differences between election director Fuziah Salleh and Selangor state PKR chief and Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim over how the campaign should be conducted flowed from the meeting room onto the ground.

The resulting disagreement disrupted the election machinery so much so that it took days before campaign material was properly distributed to the workers. Coordination with its partners was so feeble that it was several days into the campaign before PAS leaders swung into action.

Therefore, it was unsurprising that the popular Datuk Zaid Ibrahim lost out against little-known P Kamalanathan.

The weak machinery PKR has is no big secret.

While its leaders continue to expound the importance of new eligible voters registering themselves with the Election Commission, it holds the weakest record among the PR parties. In 2009, PKR registered just 3,331 new voters (4.76%) compared to DAP's 17,790 (24.45%) and PAS' 17,022 (24.35%).

Among all parties, PKR performed marginally better than MCA's 1,467 (2.1%), MIC's 355 (0.51%) and Gerakan's 322 (0.46%), pointing to a weak machinery.

While PKR continues to push for the improvement of the nation, it is high time the party looked deep into its problems and reformed itself before sounding the next "reformasi" bugle.

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