Why it’ll be a tragedy if PKR botches GE15 candidate selection

The only truly multi-racial party in terms of elected representatives needs a facelift and an overhaul.

COMMENT | Another week, another defector. Voters are so used to the nauseating spectacle of a once-trusted face unveiling its mask, that it’s a wonder if we bother to show up at the polling booths next time around.

What’s worse is that for every disingenuous serial party-hopper like Julai MP Larry Sng, there is someone who portrayed himself as a Reformasi lifer like Dr Xavier Jayakumar who would suddenly turn his back on his life’s work and write himself into infamy.

Why the Kuala Langat MP chose to discard a decades-long legacy of standing up for a progressive agenda to suddenly declare his support for a regime that he seemed to despise until recently, is clearly open to speculation, but I don’t really care to hear his excuses. The damage has been done.

To make matters worse, party president Anwar Ibrahim still seems to be playing the same losing game of relying on converting some Umno MPs and forging an unholy alliance, despite the fact that this same gambit failed when he declared he had majority support in advance of the Sabah elections and then again during the budget last year.

I have always had sympathy for the man and his family considering his 10 years in jail, but not to the extent of sacrificing the country’s future. The truth is that he’s like the Pied Piper leading his followers on a confusing path, running around in circles at a most critical juncture when bold steps need to be taken.

In the midst of Xavier’s unceremonious and shameful departure, I took note of PKR’s Negeri Sembilan executive councillor Mohamad Rafie Ab Malek who recalled that the party still carried the hopes of the people and that many had sacrificed in course of the struggle – being beaten during demonstrations, put in lockups, fired from jobs and other forms of harassment.

Now, PKR members were not alone in bearing the brunt of Alliance/BN’s sporadically dictatorial rule, but I have my reasons for believing that the party – or at least what it is supposed to represent – is especially important to the future of the nation.

Simply put – no other party in our country’s history has come close to its diversity of representation in terms of race, religion and language – although a few more female representatives would not be amiss.

Where DAP’s solitary Malay MP out of 42 and dominant Chinese leadership gives the lie to its Malaysian Malaysia claims, PKR has non-Malay and Malay MPs in almost equal, albeit diminishing, numbers. Up until the recent departures of Sng, Xavier and Tebrau MP Steven Choong, the party had 38 MPs.

Ex-PKR Vice President Dr Xavier Jayakumar (second left) with other current and party members during the 2018 general election campaign period

Considering the toxic divisions in our society, this is quite a remarkable achievement and the party even seemed to have developed a degree of resilience and staying power ever since the breakthrough election of 2008.

And that’s despite a regular stream of turncoats dating back to Zulkifli Noordin, Badrul Hisham Abdullah and Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin who either deserted or were ejected from the party soon after that first tsunami.

You would think that politicians practising ideology instead of identity politics would be quite a basic point 64 years after Merdeka, but it isn’t. Try and find another country where most of the politicians belong to a party that is limited to or dominated by a single race. Try and find another country where so many children go to separate school streams that emphasise divisions instead of healing them.

Generations have been taught that their gods, ethnic roots, vernacular schools etc are so important that a national identity can be sacrificed for it.

This makes it all the more tragic that Anwar appears lost in a prison of his own making. His ivory tower comprises a coterie of sycophants and opportunists, many of whom were not around in the party’s formative years.

Despite having been a mesmerising orator in his prime, he has singularly failed in managing his followers and the vicious infighting that reared its head more than a decade ago during Zaid Ibrahim’s colourful tenure in the party, which proved to be a fatal fault line.

A former party treasurer told me that having been used to backers with deep pockets, Anwar found it hard to resist those who came promising lots of financial input, such as Sng, Segamat MP Edmund Santhara and even the man behind a friendly news portal The Vibes.

Whether it was fickle moneybags, incompetent novices or those who leaned towards corruption, too many chosen under PKR’s banner have betrayed the cause that the people elected them to represent.

Right now, the party faithful is looking for the return of the prodigal duo of former Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli and Anwar’s own daughter Nurul Izzah as the best hope for the future. But as Rafizi himself warned, Anwar has been surrounding himself with scoundrels and opportunists.

Former Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli and Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar

For the sake of the rakyat, Anwar and his electoral team have to select untainted candidates for the next general election, or the people will suffer similar disappointments. This would mean no room for the likes of Perak PKR chief Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak who was hauled up by cops in connection with a brawl in 2019.

Actually, it’s likely the time has come for Anwar himself to wave goodbye to his personal dreams of glory and let others in the party lead – but one wonders if he and his remaining supporters have the clarity of vision to recognise it.

As it is, voters could already be turned off by the party’s failings, and if the messiah-like Rafizi and Nurul are not given a free hand in choosing sincere and promising candidates, PKR could soon find itself swept away in the tide of identity politics.

By : MARTIN VENGADESAN – MALAYSIAKINI

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