Where are the leaders in PKR?

By Praba Ganesan, The Malaysian Insider

PKR is in great danger of losing a bunch of leaders. The party is bleeding and no one has stepped forward to either take responsibility for the exodus or the lack of effective response.

Two things about the average politicians, the ones who build their lives being politicians before statesmen; 1) They don’t bet their careers on uncertainties 2) They don’t want to be the last one off a sinking ship.

And average politicians inundate the roster of potential and present leaders in the party.

I’m not taking this opportunity to hurt my colleagues in the party. I’m just saying we have to accept our limitations, but that is the easy part. The harder part is to make all links in the chain strong, not just the ones who appear on banners as star attractions for ceramahs.

But to the bleeding first.

The party has been losing belief since the last quarter of 2008. Belief is the core component of opposition politics. When you have no power, you must believe in your ability to affect change with limited access and retain your belief that you will secure power eventually.

Otherwise, every day would be an exercise in futility waiting for your idealism to wear down, next press your inevitable exit countdown button.

The failure of the September 16 takeover in 2008, and the sodomy charges against party de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim before that, did two things. Reduced the focus for the party leaders and members with so much time still left to a general election, and distracted the actual leader of the party from building the party.

Let’s give Anwar all the trust and confidence, but the two events begged the question, who else is in PKR — and can those persons become iconic?

You need larger-than-life characters to capture the imagination of a passive Malaysian people, and for that Anwar has to take the blame somewhat. For all his years in politics and manoeuvring, how many protégés have stood on his shoulders and gone on to become household names people hold in awe?

There are those who claim his daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar has broken glass ceilings in the party by being less aligned to her father than not. She did make her appearance as a 17-year-old in 1998 while her father was incarcerated. And her independence in the party is well-known, even if I have to concede her family name helps considerably.

There has just been a steady stream of departures since 2009, despite gaining a healthy number of non-office holding ex-BN leaders like Chua Jui Meng.

Just look at the list since early 2009 (not in chronological order):

• Bukit Selambau assemblyman V. Arumugam gave up his seat in February 2009, less than a year after winning it.

• PKR Perak excos Capt (Rtd) Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (Changkat Jering) and Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang) withdraw support for Pakatan Rakyat’s state government. The state falls to BN.

• Mohd Fairus Khairuddin resigns as Penang deputy chief minister and Penanti assemblyman.

• Zahrain Hashim, Bayan Baru MP and former Anwar strongman, leaves PKR, taking with him Nibong Tebal’s Tan Tee Beng.

• Bandar Kulim Baru MP Zulkifli Noordin takes on various avatars of religious indignations and eventually gets sacked from PKR.

• Kapar MP S. Manikavasagam goes back and forth on religious concerns and corruption, and always looks like he has one foot out of the door.

• Zaid Ibrahim leaves PKR… well you know the rest.

• N. Gobalakrishnan waits for expulsion or the right time to exit PKR, it seems.

• Jeffrey Kitingan is leaving PKR the day after tomorrow.

• Badrul Hisham Shaharin or Chegubard turns down the offer to become deputy secretary-general of PKR.

• Mustafa Kamil Ayub, the ABIM faction flag-bearer, did show up in a rebel press conference with Zaid Ibrahim before the latter left the party.

The themes present in the list are political fears, possible criminal prosecutions and disillusionments.

What type of intervention did the party activate?