Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Surprise Kajang polls 'necessary'

11:51AM Jan 29, 2014
COMMENT I am aware that a lot of explanation has to be made on PKR’s decision to vacate the Kajang state seat to force a by-election.

I am also acutely aware of Ambiga Sreenevasan’s advice, communicated personally to me, that we have to be as honest as possible with the people.

So let me begin by offering the sincerest apology to the public, especially the voters in Kajang. The by-election will certainly consume public money and public space at a time when the people have to go through economic hardship.

There is no excuse for wasting public money except to offer my sincerest apology, and for the party to be prepared if the voters of Kajang decide to punish us.

In all honesty, as the strongest proponent of the scheme I bear most responsibility for the decision.

Dynamics in Umno

Precisely because we are honest with ourselves and the people, we have to acknowledge that we are facing problems and challenges in Selangor that require intervention.

While Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s administration has shown a sterling performance over the last six years that has endeared him to the public, there is room for improvement in many areas, especially given the latest dynamics in Umno.

It is an open secret that the move to remove Najib Abdul Razak (right) has begun.

As a party strategist, I cannot rule out the possibility that, should Najib be removed, Umno would fall to the ultras led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s faction.

The unscrupulous attacks and schemes to take Selangor by hook or by crook will begin the moment the weak Najib is removed. Even as we speak, Umno’s cards are all too obvious, as seen in the racial and religious controversies stirred up in Selangor over the last few months.

Should Najib fall, expect a full-blown manipulation of racial and religious issues to create mistrust and frustration with the Selangor government.

Launchpad for Putrajaya

While Khalid’s administration has set a gold standard in integrity and prudence in managing public funds, we also have to admit there are also other areas that we can improve.

We need a radical approach to resolving traffic woes, and the pace of affordable public housing has to pick up. There is a need for more rigorous forward planning of water resources and some hard decisions have to be made soon.

We have to vigorously protect the rights of the minorities who are the targets of Umno’s political game.

As a MP, I certainly believe we can do better especially with regard to cleanliness and the livelihood of the people. We have the potential to become a model state with the least number of potholes in densely-populated areas.

In other words, Selangor has to be doubly better than what it is today if it is to become Pakatan’s showcase in its quest for Putrajaya.

Just as Istanbul was a launchpad for Erdogan and Jakarta is a launchpad for Jokowi, Selangor can be a great launchpad for Pakatan to take over Putrajaya.

Fortification of Pakatan

The job is not done and we are about to face another onslaught from Umno.

Therefore, while it is certainly inexcusable to spend public funds unnecessarily in a by-election, it would be an even bigger dereliction of public duty if we do not do anything, knowing that this round is going to be tougher.

What PKR and Selangor Pakatan Rakyat need is fortification so that we can expedite reforms and simultaneously fend off political attacks and manouevring by Umno.

We need as many of our top leaders around Selangor as possible to defend the state because it remains the crown jewel of any political coalition in the country.

Hence the decision to field Anwar Ibrahim for a state seat as this provides an option that we can readily exercise, should the need arise.

Does this mean there will be a change of stewardship of the Selangor government? Maybe yes, maybe no. But we do have the option to optimise our leadership potential if Umno stirs up more trouble.

Option is key. Having the option means having the flexibility of manouevres that can easily frustrate Umno’s game in Selangor especially with regard to racial and religious controversies.

Avoid the Kedah experience

At the end of the day, I know no amount of explanation can soothe public anger. I only appeal for time to let the rationale sink in and space for us to do what is necessary.

I also have to apologise on behalf of my party for the differences we have among ourselves that are seen as factional and often frustrate the public.

Yet we trying our best to resolve it now for the sake of Malaysians, because not doing it now will certainly condemn us to the same experience of Pakatan in Kedah.

We learnt the lesson bitterly that differences must be managed early because the party always has to be whole to face Umno.

Game-changing move

Good political leaders will never be popular.

It pains me that we have to drag Anwar through this and subject him to public anger, yet his willingness to be a part of the bigger picture is the mark of the man.

Throughout the last few days, I’ve reassured myself that it was Churchill who chose to be unpopular and remained a minority voice of alarm against the advancing Nazis till the end despite a public popularity to appease the Nazis. An the height of Nazi power, Churchill stood alone when every one else in Europe bowed to Hitler.

The conviction of doing the right thing, in the face of extreme criticism and public anger, remains a yardstick of what honest leadership is.

I thank the top leadership of Pakatan which understands the necessity of doing this. I thank my comrades in the second leadership line-up of Pakatan who have given us the moral and political support to proceed.

I hope that one day when we are in Putrajaya, we can look back to the difficult days of what will be called the ‘Kajang Move’ as the game-changer in our quest for Putrajaya. I honestly hope that it will be a defining moment that allows us to move one step closer to Putrajaya.

I maybe naïve and ridiculed for my naivette, but that’s as honest as I can be.

Let’s look ahead for a stronger Pakatan in Selangor - one that is posed to take over Putrajaya in the next election and which won’t look back.

RAFIZI RAMLI is the PKR director of strategy.

~ Malaysiakini

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