Indiscipline within PKR

What is the party doing?

"PKR hasn't figured out how to institutionalise dissent within the party, and balance it with discipline. This needs serious attention. The party has to realise that people expect it to be in business in the long term."

By Zedeck Siew, The Nut Graph

ON 9 Aug 2008, the Malaysian Bar Council held a forum titled Conversion to Islam: Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, Subashini and Shamala Revisited. Today, a year on, we remember the forum not for what was discussed. A 300-person demonstration gathered to protest the Bar Council's apparent "anti-Islam attitude", and some demonstrators even stormed into the forum, resulting in its premature ending.

This crowd comprised members of Muslim non-governmental organisations, as well as a bipartisan section of supporters from Umno, PAS, and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). One of the protest leaders, PKR Member of Parliament (MP) Zulkifli Noordin, was never disciplined by his party. This was even though Zulkifli's actions starkly contradicted one of PKR's basic tenets — pluralism. After all, the Bar Council forum was meant to look at ways in which Malaysians of all faiths could live in equitable compromise.

The MP is still unrepentant. He periodically speaks out on religious issues, taking positions less than ecumenical. On 17 July, Zulkifli released a statement criticising a recent Al Islam article, in which journalists attended a Catholic mass, received holy communion, and then spat out the communion to photograph.

"When you start encroaching [on] other religions, then you are inviting trouble," Zulkifli wrote in his blog. "This is precisely what the two reporters have done. And I, for one, will not condone it, just like I do not condone the intrusion of the Bar Council into matters involving [the] Islamic religion," he explained.

In the meantime, the party leadership remains silent about their elected representative.

Chong (Courtesy of Jonson

But some from PKR are uncomfortable with Zulkifli's outbursts. PKR communications director Jonson Chong tells The Nut Graph that Zulkifli's freedom to speak his mind is "precisely in line with our stand on freedom of expression".

But Chong also admits that the Kulim-Bandar Baru MP's statements show a "lack of initiative to discuss among ourselves, before going on a rant [about certain issues]." Chong recognises that this is an institutional issue, and one that needs to be dealt with in order for the party to consolidate its ideology and policies.

Young and democratic?

He points out that the 10-year-old PKR is "a young party". Right after the watershed March 2008 general election, the party saw many new faces. "Our members come from many different backgrounds," Chong explains, adding that differences in opinion are only natural.