Trust deficit in Selangor puts Khalid in a corner

( – For reasons both known and unknown, Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim seems to have a strong lack of it among his own colleagues in the state legislative assembly.
Trust, both placing it and earning it, has long been a problem for the top brass of the Selangor government administration.
For reasons both known and unknown, Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim seems to have a strong lack of it among his own colleagues in the state legislative assembly.
The same could be said of the assembly members, who are dissatisfied with the manner with which Abdul Khalid handles state affairs.
For certain reasons close to Abdul Khalid himself, only a few elected representatives have gained his trust, allegedly the likes of Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, and state executive councillors Datuk Teng Chang Khim and Elizabeth Wong.
Several assembly members who spoke to on condition of anonymity agreed that Abdul Khalid has no trust in the state legislative body, his own kin, and for some assembly members, vice versa.
The menteri besar’s lack of trust in his colleagues was made public a few weeks ago, when he claimed that there were several PKR leaders who had tried to influence the valuation of water assets in the state.
However, there is also Abdul Khalid’s recent turnaround of luck in the Bank Islam case over the sale of his shares under the Al-Bai Bithaman Ajil (BBA) facility.
In the original suit filed in 2007, Bank Islam had sued Abdul Khalid to recover RM70 million under the Islamic loan facility, which the latter had used to buy a 5% take in Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd, when he was its chief executive officer.
After being hounded by the federal government-linked bank in the suit for the past seven years, the matter was settled with a far-less amount to be paid by Abdul Khalid.
The settlement allegedly caught PKR leaders and his own lawyers by surprise, leading to them to question if there was a bargain made that eventually resulted in the decreased settlement.
‘Kajang move a culmination of lack of trust’
For a DAP assembly member, PKR’s Kajang move is a culmination of grievances experienced by state assembly members for the past six years.
“There is no trust towards us. He likes Tony Pua, Teng Chang Khim a little bit, but by and large, he doesn’t trust us,” said the assembly member.
“Only he knows (the reasons). He thinks we all don’t know what we are talking about and doing, I guess.”
Initial media reports on the resignation of Kajang assembly member Lee Chin Cheh and subsequent move by PKR de-facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim suggested that it was a move to consolidate the party to cool tensions between Abdul Khalid’s camp and that of party deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali.
However, leaders from PKR have repeatedly shot down that conjecture, saying the Kajang move was necessary to quell religious and racial fissures in the state for which they blame the BN, and in particular, Umno.
Anwar initially denied he was gunning for the Menteri Besar post, then seemed to have swayed in his stand, saying he was open to it.
For the assembly member, Anwar is the best bet for Selangor. He said although Abdul Khalid has a good financial acumen, Selangor needs a strong leader.
“The benchmark for Abdul Khalid has always been that he did not use the state coffers to enrich himself. All the BN (Barisan Nasional) leaders before him have questions to answer. Khir Toyo went to Disneyland and enriched himself, Abdul Khalid didn’t do that,” he said.
“But why must we settle for that? I guess what I’m saying is, that should be a prerequisite for the job, we must expect that from the MB.
“I want more from an MB. I want someone with a vision, someone who can see where the state should be in five years. And Abdul Khalid does not have that,” he added.
He said there are still legacy issues from 2008 that Abdul Khalid has failed to address.
“Corruption among civil servants is still high and he (Abdul Khalid) is turning a blind eye to it. Most of the state GLCs (government-linked companies) are still not up to par. Look at Unisel (Universiti Selangor). No English-speaking parent will send their kids there,” he said.
For this assembly member, Abdul Khalid has lost the backing that bolstered his position, which has compelled the financial maverick to run for the deputy president post in his party.
“He probably realised that he has lost it. If he doesn’t [run], he is out,” said the assembly member.
Although Abdul Khalid had denied a political compromise by reaching a settlement in the Bank Islam suit, the assembly member believes that there is a connection to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the state government and the federal government to resolve the issues surrounding the water services industry in the state.
“I was at the briefing on the MoU on Wednesday. There is an iron-lock on the Langat 2 water treatment plant, but the language surrounding the federal government’s role on the restructuring of the water services industry is so weak,” he said.
“We gave the only trump card we had to the federal government. He (Abdul Khalid) seems to think (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak can be believed. Most of us in Pakatan don’t,” he added.
A political observer said the issue is not so much about Abdul Khalid having no trust in his colleagues but more of a lack of confidence in them.
The observer who is in the loop on PKR politics said Abdul Khalid tends to take on his responsibilities without engaging or consulting with experts and stakeholders on ways to manage the state’s affairs.
“It is just not his style. I have asked him before, why don’t you get in some experts to help you out with the issue and he said it cost too much,” said the observer.
“I once asked him (Abdul Khalid) how much of the budget was allocated towards consultation and he said ‘none’. It was too expensive for him,” noted the observer.
The observer said Abdul Khalid is very much a “conservative corporate” and that is not necessarily positive for the state, especially when the rakyat returned state control to Pakatan Rakyat with a bigger mandate and are waiting for noticeable changes to occur.
However, what Abdul Khalid lacks in political savvy is leveraged by his conviction in his principles.
“The thing about Abdul Khalid is, you can trust him and he has integrity. If you place a bag of cash in front of him, he wouldn’t take it.”
“We appreciate good leaders like that,” said the observer.
For other assembly members, Abdul Khalid is still the preferred choice for MB.
A PAS assembly member told Abdul Khalid’s track record is an indication that he is a good leader.
He may have certain flaws, but people change and certain assembly members have implored him to do so.
“I even advised him to change his ways,” said the assembly member.
The assembly member conceded Abdul Khalid’s handling of the MoU over the restructuring of the water industry could have been handled better by engaging with the state executive council and Pakatan leaders before it was signed.
“Yes, even some of our members were not happy with that,” he said.
“But you put yourself in his shoes, after being criticised by his own party members before the MoU was signed, how do you expect him to feel?”
The months leading up to the Kajang move saw PKR leaders hitting out at Abdul Khalid for failing to address issues and implement policies rapidly.
The Kajang move, announced several weeks before the MoU was signed, saw rather terse language used to describe Abdul Khalid’s administration.
Despite his flaws, what the state administration, state legislative assembly and even PKR do not seem to comprehend is that trust is the very foundation of a successful political coalition.
The lack of it is beginning to cause the structure of Pakatan’s state administration to crack, and is also affecting the lives of the Selangor people.