State of despair

By Terence Fernandez, The Sun

AS OLD wives tales go, if someone were to mention your name many times, it could induce non-stop sneezing. Hence if Port Klang were a person, it would have been suffering a serious bout of the “a-choos” since 2005 due to the numerous times its name had been mentioned. And we are not talking about bah kut teh, banana leaf at Meiyappan’s or St Anne’s Feast.

As though the shenanigans of the late assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Md Deros and a multi-billion ringgit scandal were not enough to keep Port Klang in the news for the past six years, now it’s back in focus, no thanks to a looming by-election.

It seems like just as the action in Tenang is about to get started, we are going to be treated to yet another edition of Barnum & Bailey’s Big Top. Of course the players this time are not trapeze artists, clowns and dancing bears but politicians.

On Wednesday, Selangor State Assembly Speaker Datuk Teng Chang Khim declared the Port Klang seat vacant as its assemblyman Badrul Hisham Abdullah had failed to attend assembly sittings since July 15 last year.

Reporters who cover the state assembly will vouch that Badrul’s seat was frequently empty during assembly sittings. The man who beat Zakaria’s daughter-in-law in the 2008 general election on a PKR ticket has since declared himself a BN-friendly independent, following frequent chiding from party colleagues including Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim for his absenteeism.

It is true that the people of Port Klang had not been served as regularly as they should have been by their representative; and their voice not heard in the State Assembly for many months. While Badrul may not be the best of representatives, the fault lies in his former party’s leadership for choosing
“half-past-six” candidates in the general election.

Badrul had not been a visible representative for his constituents unlike his controversial predecessor who was often fighting with fellow councillors in the Klang Municipal Council; arm-twisting VIPs into helping his voters either through the awarding of contracts, scholarships, foodcourt stalls, financial aid or university placements.

But let’s look at Badrul’s case: He had an accident just after the general election and his health suffered as a result. He informed Teng of his absence via a letter during the assembly meeting (when it should have been before), and is on sick leave for alternative treatment as opposed to a medical certificate from a government hospital acceptable to excuse one from public duties?

Hence maybe it is in the public interest to choose a rep who actually works.

Teng is well within his rights and prerogative to declare the seat vacant, even if Badrul has made sporadic appearances at the assembly. But one does wonder if Teng would have been as eager to declare the seat vacant had Badrul remained in PKR. Now that he is Umno-friendly, there could be an impassionate attempt to get rid of him and retake the seat.

So yet again politics takes precedence in Selangor as the state’s machinery and resources – including the time of its executive councillors and assemblymen – are galvanised towards campaigning to win Port Klang.

Granted that whoever replaces Badrul may do a better job than he, but the question is: do we need another round of by-elections when the general election is already looming?

Ideally, one party should exercise goodwill and concede that there is no point in putting taxpayers to further grief, but that would be naive and asking too much of our politicians.

But the truth is that the people of Selangor have had it up to here with the politicking which had even drawn the sultan into the fray. Just as we are recovering from the state secretary fiasco, we face the prospect of mass unemployment as Muslims in Subang Jaya are banned from working in establishments which serve alcohol. And now this.

When will it end? When BN retakes Selangor? What guarantees are there that even then, we will not have a state government which is distracted by attempts to undermine it?

Seriously, when will the people’s interests be a priority for a change?