Hassan’s beef with beer: Time for Pakatan to crack the whip

The suspicion that Hassan was trying to upstage his own party mates – including Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad – cannot be denied. In fact, it is quite widespread.

By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan

Given the uproar over Hassan Ali’s call to his Selangor exco colleague Ronnie Liu to be stripped of his local government portfolio, perhaps it is time for the top Pakatan Rakyat leadership, especially PAS, to speak up on the matter and even issue a reprimand as a deterrent if found to be necessary.

There is already growing frustration that the Pakatan Rakyat will always be held back from achieving its true potential – not because of ideological differences but because of  the gaps between the leaders in terms of their adoption and understanding of the type of new politics needed to transform Malaysia after 52 years of Umno-BN rule.

All three partners want and should insist on keeping promises made to their respective constituents. But at the same time, they must also remember they promised voters to do so in a totally different style from Umno-BN.

The Pakatan has promised it will not play the racial card, it has promised equality to all ethnic groups. However, this can only be achieved if they don’t use the religious card – as Hassan has tried to do.

A month or so ago, PKR vice-president Azmin Ali also incurred controversy for the coalition when he criticised certain exco members. But the basis for his argument was on their performance at work, WITHOUT religious or racial overtones.

Subsequently, an independent poll commissioned by Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim found an impressive 64 percent approval rating for his administration, and the well-respected Azmin has had the grace to stop his attacks.

What is Hassan’s intention?

But within PAS, there is growing unhappiness with Hassan, the party’s state commissioner who kicked up a ruckus on Tuesday, calling for a ban on beer sales in Shah Alam. Sadly, he didn’t stop there but went on to attack Ronnie.

The suspicion that Hassan was trying to upstage his own party mates – including Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad – cannot be denied. In fact, it is quite widespread.

Khalid Samad has already denounced Hassan’s actions, stressing that he did not have the approval of the state liaison committee to make statements with such far-reaching consequences.

So why did Hassan do what he did? Was he just protecting the Islam religion – which bans alcohol? But this is a culture that PAS has always been trying to promote, what new resolve could Hassan add to the party’s cause by his maverick and unpleasant conduct?

Did Hassan harbour any ulterior motive? Was he trying to please Umno as many, many observers suspect? Indeed, what was Hassan’s intention, what was he thinking of?

These questions are very important and Pakatan leaders should not accept tepid excuses from him. Hassan is an experienced politician, who knows full well there are many other avenues for him to air his grievances including at state exco meetings. Why did he not opt to do so?

As state commissioner for his party, Hassan has reportedly coveted the Menteri Besar post. He was among the prime movers looking to match PAS with Umno in the aftermath of the March 2008 general election.

But party president Hadi Awang has already stated very clearly, PAS will remain in Pakatan. This is something that Hadi now needs to make sure that all other PAS members, especially those like Hassan, fully understand.

Otherwise, it will set the Pakatan back in the esteem of voters.

It will also set back Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s state government, which has finally found its footing. Praises are starting to ring in. This result must be protected by the top Pakatan leadership, the performance must be nurtured to ensure excellence is achieved.

2013 is less than three years away. Prime Minister Najib Razak is likely to call for a general election much earlier than that.

Perhaps it is time to remove the kid gloves and start cracking the whip. Sadly, there are no two ways about it – either you are with the Pakatan or you are not. And this extends to ALL members – regardless of individual affiliation to PKR, PAS or DAP.

Only then, watchers say, can the Pakatan truly forge ahead!