Evaluating PKR’s reasons for ‘Kajang Move’

Nathaniel Tan

Nathaniel Tan, Hornbill Unleashed

They say gentlemen (and ladies, presumably) never discuss religion or politics. The reason for this is ostensibly that passions and obstinacy would be ignited to the point of friendship and courtesy being thrown out the window.

Discussions about politics and other high-profile subjects in Malaysia certainly seem to go that way. It has become a habit of ours to make personal attacks and attempt to demolish the credibility of a person making an argument, rather than address the arguments themselves.

I cannot say for sure if I, in all my years of commenting, have not been guilty of such things. I can only say that for now, I hope to stay as far away as I can from that kind of unproductive engagement.

With that in mind, I humbly submit my personal evaluation of some of the reasons PKR leaders have most frequently thrown around in defence of Kajang-gate. I know this will be impossible for some of the reasons, but hope that others will be judged on their merit.

I will attempt to list out conditions in which these arguments would hold weight, as well as offer my own analysis and interpretation.

1. Selangor needs a better menteri besar

PKR has been quick to recognise Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s popularity and accordingly (and intelligently) refused to take the position that he has been doing a bad job. Of course, they also find themselves in the awkward position of saying ‘Yes, he’s great, but he still needs to be replaced’.

One popular line of reasoning is that Khalid is not a good politician, and is thus unable to handle the severe political problems that allegedly befall or are going to befall Selangor. This line of reasoning could be justified in the following circumstances.

Firstly, if Khalid is indeed a bad menteri besar. There are many ways of subjectively trying to evaluate this, but not many objective ones. One example of the latter is to simply refer to hard numbers.

In the 13th general election, Selangor increased its seats in the state assembly by eight. The only other incumbent state governments to increase their state assembly seats were Penang and Negri Sembilan – both by one seat.

I think a strong argument can thus be made to say that the rakyat at least think that Khalid is a good menteri besar.

Secondly, if Khalid can be shown to be failing to deal with political problems in Selangor. If for instance, he is engaged in incessant politicking and is the instigator of problems within PKR, and with PAS or DAP, or somehow be responsible for losing political ground to the BN, then we might say he is bad at politics. With regard to facing BN, I think the GE13 results again speak for themselves.

Many point to the problem with PKR deputy president Azmin Ali as proof that Khalid is no good at politics. One must admit various interpretations of this problem: first that Khalid and Azmin are equally culpable for the conflict; second that Khalid is more culpable; and third, that Azmin is more culpable.

As I’ve argued before, if we see two people fighting on the street, we cannot say for sure that both are equally responsible. Is it not possible that one man simply walked up to another and started punching him, while the other was acting in pure self-defence?

As always, it is not for me to force on anyone else my view on the matter, only to say that this is a possibility and that readers will have to decide which interpretation of events they find convincing.

In summary, unless incontrovertible evidence can be provided that Khalid is indeed a bad menteri besar, than the burden of proof as to why he needs to be replaced lies with those seeking to replace him.

One may plead ‘political secrets’, strategy, tactics and so on, but in this day and age, I think many of us do not like to be asked to accept things on blind faith. Some people clearly still will, and that is their right, but the rest of us would like to be treated with a bit less condescension.

2. Pakatan can only take Putrajaya with Anwar as MB

This is quite an odd one. For this argument to be valid, we must be able to demonstrate that there is something positive that Anwar can do as menteri besar of Selangor that he cannot do in his current capacities, which will then lead to Pakatan Rakyat taking over Putrajaya.

The key word here is ‘positive’.

This argument holds water if, for instance, Anwar (right) has not had sufficient opportunity to show his mettle as a leader.

Is this the case? Let us look at the number of positions he currently holds: Member of Parliament for Permatang Pauh, PKR de facto leader, and the Leader of the Opposition, which in effect makes him the head of Pakatan and its candidate for prime minister.

Anwar has consistently been a strongly heard voice on every major national issue for the last seven or eight years; it would seem he has hardly lacked a platform to be heard.

Most of the time, on national issues, people pay a lot more attention to what Anwar has to say, rather than to the menteri besar of Selangor, who apparently prefers to do his work diligently but quietly.

This argument would also be valid if we have never seen Anwar in a position of organisational leadership. However, Anwar has held several portfolios as minister. He is also, as the captain, responsible for everything on the PKR ship and, perhaps to a lesser extent, on the Pakatan ship.

My humble view is that we have seen plenty of what Anwar is like as a political leader, and as an administrator.

People will have to decide for themselves whether Anwar has done a good job in keeping PKR’s house in order over the years. My views were expressed earlier, but in short, I think the current state of the party very accurately reflects the principles of its de facto leader. I imagine any government he runs will have similar dynamics.

On a related note, it has also been argued that Anwar needs legitimacy to speak on Selangor issues.

I agree that Selangor is a key state, but this argument cannot be valid unless we accept that Anwar has less legitimacy to speak about other states; and that as party Number One, Anwar has failed to ensure that unity and common purpose are the order of the day within the party that governs Selangor.