PKR Members Should Thank Zaid

By Pandak Tukan

The top echelon of PKR may feel relieved that the Zaid Ibrahim saga has apparently reached its end within the party’s confines.

But lest they get too comforted by what had happened, this message has but only one aim: for the party leadership to do some serious soul-searching and the ordinary members to consider things in a clearer perspective.

In the stream of vitriol directed Zaid’s way over the past few weeks, two basic issues became mixed up and indistinguishable one from the other.

One issue was of course Zaid himself and the other issue was the party elections.

These two became so inextricably linked that people became muddled up in their thinking. Tragically, those people included the ones at the very top level of the party leadership and management.

Yes, Zaid has a mind of his own. A loose cannon, as some liked to say. But surely that particular trait of his had been on ample display well before he joined the party and into the welcoming arms of Anwar Ibrahim.

In fact, Zaid Ibrahim received plaudits from PKR for being Zaid Ibrahim when he was a dissenting voice in his final days in Umno. But when Zaid Ibrahim was just being himself in PKR, all kinds of invective were directed at him.

Was the party being hypocritical when it sang praises of Zaid, the sole Umno stalwart with principles or are Anwar and other PKR leaders such poor managers that they didn’t anticipate and therefore had no contingency plans in the likely event that Zaid, the PKR member, will speak his mind about what he had seen and gone through in the party?

Yes, Zaid had ambitions of going up the party hierarchy. What is wrong with that? He was a cabinet minister when he was in Umno. Plus, everyone would have thought the greater democratic space afforded to ordinary members by the direct elections method was precisely to allow those with the ability, talent and desire to rise to the top of the party irrespective of how long they had been active party members.

In short, an implicit repudiation of the ‘serve-time-first’ philosophy prevalent within the BN parties. And yet, when Zaid decided to run for the party’s deputy presidency, some accused him of being a Trojan horse, of being impatient and not knowing his place. Is this yet another evidence that Umno/BN attitudes are alive and kicking within the PKR?

The greater issue that should emerge and exercise everyone’s mind when Zaid took matters into his own hands and expressed his grouses in the only way he knew how, that is publicly, was the inept way the party elections were being conducted and the fraud and rigging made possible by such ineptitude.

Sadly, the party leadership and management decided to dismiss and ridicule the messenger instead of seriously looking at his message. The justification for this it seems is that the messenger is a sore loser. Well, that is exactly what the Elections Commission says each time PKR or any other opposition party makes a complaint after having lost an election or by-election.

One would have thought the unfairness of such a rebuff should have taught the party to behave more sensibly towards complaints about its own internal elections. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.

The leadership of PKR does not seem to realise that after behaving the way it has over the issue of the conduct of its own party elections, it has to all intents and purposes forfeited all moral right to criticise the country’s Elections Commission over that body’s shortcomings. To put it more plainly: you can’t complain about how the country’s elections are administered when you can’t even properly conduct and manage your own.

The party membership and the electorate in general ought to be thankful that the Zaid Ibrahim saga happened.

First, if he did not do what he did, none of the faults, flaws and shortcomings of the party elections would have been brought into the open by ordinary members who would have been bullied into silent submission. The fact that Zaid did it his style, rightly or wrongly, the matter could not so easily be swept under the carpet.

Second and perhaps more important, having brought those into the open, it is the faults and shortcomings of the party leadership that became exposed in the manner that they decided to deal with his complaints.

Had they been able to think more clearly and less emotionally, they would have been more adept in steering the party through the uncharted waters of ‘one member, one vote direct elections’ infested by individual party members with unabashed political ambitions.  As it was, the party’s image has been severely damaged. Whether it is irretrievably so, only the next general elections can tell.