National reconciliation

najib guan eng

Lim Mun Fah, Sin Chew Daily

After Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim was seen standing side-by-side with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the signing ceremony of the state’s water restructuring Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), another Pakatan Rakyat leader, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, also attended the opening ceremony of the 2nd Penang bridge with the Prime Minister.

It is certainly a coincidence, but both events are actually related to “”water”.

Khalid, Najib and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin attended the event to sign a MoU between the federal government and Selangor state government on water restructuring, giving hope to solve the water issue which has been in a deadlock for six years.

Meanwhile, Lim and Najib attended the bridge’s opening ceremony to witness the historical moment. The 24km-long bridge crossing the sea between Penang Island and Seberang Perai, has also crossed the political differences between the ruling and alternative coalitions, bringing convenience to the people, as well as new business opportunities.

The bridge project was finalised by the former BN Penang government and the federal government but before it was implemented, Penang fell into the hands of Pakatan Rakyat in 2008, triggering doubts whether the project would be carried on.

As the BN is the opposition in Penang but ruling coalition in the Parliament, while Pakatan Rakyat is the ruling coalition but opposition in the Penang state assembly, the confrontation was intense, forming a Gordian knot. Fortunately, the BN chose to honour its commitment and the 2nd Penang bridge was declared completed eight months after Penang was taken over by Pakatan Rakyat. The deadlock was resolved and the bridge was opened for operation.

Nevertheless, political games are inevitable. There was a rumour earlier saying that Penang Umno had threatened not to attend the opening ceremony as a protest against the arrangement making Lim and Najib to attend the same ceremony.

Meanwhile, the water supply issue in Selangor is even more complicated and thorny.

Selangor was also taken over by Pakatan Rakyat in 2008. Political differences and interest conflicts have led to a secret wrestling, while turning the water supply problem a nightmare for the people over the past six years.

Finally, the MoU was signed, giving a relieve to the people. It is hoped that the state government ans federal government will work together in helping the people to get rid of the nightmare. However, there are voices within Pakatan Rakyat. PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the Selangor economic adviser, seems not very happy with it as he and the PKR were kept in the dark before the MoU was signed. Khalid’s rival, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, even openly demanded an explanation from Khalid, as some people questioned Khalid’s motive behind the move during the Kajang by-election. Khalid said that the reason the MoU was kept in secret was to avoid intervention of some PKR leaders. He also revealed that some party leaders had attempted to influence the state government’s deal of taking over the water supply concession.

Khalid’s remarks have apparently caused an uproar and exposed the contradictions within the party, sparking a debate: Is it more important to separate party from government or to enhance transparency? Should party interests be prioritised, or the people’s interests?

There is nothing impossible in politics. The 2nd Penang bridge completion and the Selangor water supply MoU seem to have shown us some signs of “reconciliation” between the BN and Pakatan Rakyat. More importantly, such a “friendly cooperation” has received recognition and positive responses from the public. It has also shown that some confrontations and conflicts are actually not necessary and avoidable. Under the premise of the interests of the masses, rational reconciliation and cooperation are pragmatic moves and it is not necessary to care too much about win and loss.

In fact, the voice calling for national reconciliation has grown louder in recent days. It is indeed an encouraging phenomenon. But national reconciliation needs some degree of political reconciliation. If the two coalitions refuse to bid goodbye to the zero-sum game and any forms of reconciliation and cooperation, but continue to create contradiction and confrontation, even conflict and hatred, the so-called national reconciliation will inevitably turn out as only an empty talk!