PR: A confusing partnership!

Many commentators have pointed out that even in Kelantan governed by a PAS-led state government, beer is still freely available in shops owned by non-Muslims. 

Malaysian Mirror

Finally, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) supremo Anwar Ibrahim has decided to build up internal channels for communication and discipline within this unruly political coalition. 

In recent weeks, we have seen elected reps from the three component parties of PR engaged in very public squabbles over various issues, leading to the perception that their marriage of unlikely bedfellows may risk a collapse soon.

Their recent most controversy was the call by Selangor exco member and PAS state commissioner Hassan Ali to ban the sale of beer in Malay majority townships.

Since then, a local council has seized some beer from a local convenience store. However, upon the instruction of Ronnie Liu the Selangor exco member in charge of local government, the beer has been returned to the store.

anwar-lim-hadi.pngRonnie Liu appears to have the backing of the law. In Malaysia, the sale of alcoholic beverages is governed by Customs regulations. No license is required for the sale of canned and bottled beer. A license is required only for the sale of liquor such as brandy and whisky as well as draft beer.

Many commentators have pointed out that even in Kelantan governed by a PAS-led state government, beer is still freely available in shops owned by non-Muslims.

It is not clear why Hassan Ali is so adamant in his fundamentalist demand on this sensitive subject in Selangor state where only 51% of the population are Malays. But his absolutist position on the issue must have caused considerable unease among non-Malay supporters within Selangor over whether they were right to have voted for PR candidates in the last general election.

While the PKR publicity chief Tian Chua has said that public fights between PR member parties show their democratic equal status, such open blood-letting inevitably give the voters the impression that PR reps are an undisciplined lot, who love public posturing as heroes more than concentrating on good governance in the states that they control.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has already announced BN intention of wrestling Selangor state power back from the PR coalition, and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin has predicted an early demise for the PR coalition in Selangor.

Realising this severe threat from without, coalition chief and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has wisely convened a three-hour meeting for their elected reps on “strengthening Pakatan Rakyat” at the Tropicana Golf Resort and Club in Kuala Lumpur on August 13.

At a press conference after the meeting, Anwar announced that there would not be a gag order on their elected reps to air their views in public. Instead, he said there will be internal channels within PR coalition for the settlement of internal problems, failing which matters would be referred to a disciplinary panel for further actions.

The PR coalition is a new political coalition that made its appearance in Malaysia only after the general election last year. Their three component parties have very varied histories, political styles and ideologies. Compelled by the need to gang together for the sake of sharing powers in the state governments they control, they are obviously not yet schooled in the unwritten rules of coalition politics.

Their frequent spats of public quarrels may give the rakyat the perception that they cannot work closely together as partners because of their many differences. If this trend continues, they may erode the confidence of the rakyat in their ability to run the federal government if they get voted into power in the next general election.

In case politicians become too complacent in their comfort zone of power, we in the civil society should remind them constantly that the voting rakyat are their real bosses who put them there for the tough challenge of working for the benefit of all the people.

Either the PR leaders behave honourably in public, or else they too can be shipped out in future by the voters who elected them in the first place. 

Let them be warned, lest they should still indulge in time-wasting petty quarrels like the beer controversy!