The face of a ticking time bomb

ALL'S not well in Parti Keadilan Rakyat. And a series of email exchanges among key people in the party late last week tells the whole story.

By Syed Nadzri (NST)

They prove that the cracks are clearly widening over the fate of its elected representative Elizabeth Wong and whether she should cease to hold public office following the circulation of some intimate pictures of her on the Internet.

One side, apparently with the backing of Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, wants Wong to stay while the other argues she will be a liability if she stays and, therefore, there should be a by-election in Bukit Lanjan.

It has been two months since the matter was exposed and it is turning into a relentless nightmare with news that more pictures of the state assemblywoman, who is a Selangor executive councillor, are coming out.

The heated email exchanges which were also circulated to some party members provided a big clue to the growing restlessness and a potentially disastrous split. It's more than a crack actually. It's a time bomb, I think.

One message said to be from the PKR parliamentary secretariat, among other things, mentioned: "The Selangor exco will meet next week to decide on Elizabeth Wong's position as exco member and Adun (elected rep). We the residents of Bukit Lanjan, community groups and NGOs are gathering this Sunday to send a firm message to the state government that: we want Eli Wong back in the exco & Adun."

The gathering did take place in Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya, as scheduled two days ago attended by representatives of eight residents' associations who held banners and placards in support of her holding on to the positions.

And this added more blast power to the powder-keg since there were objections earlier to the stand, as evident from one of the responses to the above email. It came from a member of parliament:

"Dear all, I thought PKR has made a stand over this issue as briefed to us MPs by Ketua Umum when the issue cropped up. I think the party should make its stand clear or are we MPs allowed to act according to our own conscience? Please give us MPs clear instructions as I hope no outside party will take advantage of the different stand to be taken by individual MPs (if it happens). I shall abide by the decision of the party leadership after consultation with us MPs. TQ."

The term Ketua Umum above needs no elaboration as it is the party title that goes with parliamentary opposition leader and de facto PKR and Pakatan Rakyat chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

And the above email exchanges appear to have riled him, as gathered from the tone of this admonition which purportedly came from him and was circulated by email to the relevant parties:

"Tk. Saya telah menegur tindakan yang diambil oleh sekretariat parlimen tanpa merujuk kpd pimpinan. Sewajarnya mereka memohon penjelasan dan tidak mempersulit keadaan! Suasana yang dikira reda jika dihangatkan akan memberi ruang kpd musuh menyerang lagi!" (Thank you. I have censured the action taken by the parliamentary secretariat without consulting the leadership. They should have sought clarification and not complicate matters! A calm situation if heated up will provide room for the enemy to strike again!)

Wong, 38, has been at the centre of the storm since February when intimate pictures of her posted on the Internet became everyone's talking point. She offered to resign, first as state exco member and then as state assemblywoman as well.

It is learnt that PKR's political bureau chaired by Anwar, at a meeting when the issue first erupted, agreed then that it was best for Wong to resign in view of the probability of more of such pictures of her emerging in cyberspace and that this would be a liability to the party and opposition.

The party, however, has yet to officially accept her resignation after telling her to go on indefinite leave.

In news reports last week, Khalid was quoted as saying that Wong's position as executive councillor and assemblywoman would only be decided tomorrow, as her leave had been extended until then.

But many people know that the menteri besar prefers not to allow her to vacate her seat. And this is the time-bomb ticking away in PKR.

First of all, it exposes another chink in the party's armour as it comes in the wake of corruption allegations against its Penang frontman, former deputy chief minister I Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, after the defection of two of its assemblymen in Perak that caused the state government to fall and talk that one or two other elected representatives might defect in Selangor.

Second, the problems also affect PKR's relations with its allies in Pakatan Rakyat.

Third, it exposes the fact that many in the PKR ranks now see things in a different light now after the results of March 8 last year. In the 12th general election, the party had to scrape the barrel to find candidates to stand. And the result was some questionable characters holding office.

After the watershed polls, suddenly everyone wants to contest and they don't mind Wong quitting to pave the way for many others waiting in line.

This message came through my phone yesterday: "The public can expect more leaks on her lifestyle and it now looks like Anwar is covering and deluding the public like she's a victim."

Tick, tick tick…..