A heavy crown for Pakatan

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


After winning big at last year’s general election, Pakatan Rakyat seems to be having a tough time managing that victory, no thanks to feuds within the coalition.

BIG brother PAS is again flexing its muscle trying to derail the Selangor state government’s Select Committee for Com­petency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) into why and how district officers released millions of ringgit in development aid in the run-up to the 2008 general election.

There were instances when officers had released RM500,000 in annual allocation in a single day and in one case, the money was released for spending on the day Parliament was dissolved.

Naturally, the DAP and PKR that had pledged to promote transparency and accountability now want to know why the money was released as such and whether it was used for its intended purpose.

But the Islamist party has come to the defence of the district officers, seeing the committee, chaired by Selangor Speaker and DAP assemblyman Teng Chang Khim, as an act of harassment against civil servants.

Selangor PAS chief Datuk Hassan Ali has publicly crossed swords with Teng and questioned the worth and motive of the Selcat inquiry while a district officer accused the committee of political opportunism and causing shame to high-ranking officials serving the people.

It is alleged that the DAP is continuing its long-standing anti-Government agenda but this time, it is using the Selangor state machinery to advance its political agenda.

Hassan also said Selcat officers were “bullying” the district officers during the inquiry and suggested that further inquiries be held behind closed doors.

The issue took a turn for the worse after at least five district officers, who were questioned by Selcat, boycotted the Selangor state government’s Malaysia Day celebrations last Wednesday.

To compound the matter, within Selangor PAS itself, Hassan is not entirely loved for his hardline policies like banning the sale of beer in Muslim-majority areas, banning foreign artistes and closing down massage parlours.

His critics in PAS want the party and state government to stop Hassan who is strongly supported by the conservative leaders in the party’s top leadership echelons.

Saari Sungib, a former ISA detainee who is PAS assemblyman for Hulu Kelang, told The Malaysian Insider on Monday that Hassan should be referred to House Privileges Com­mittee for his outburst on the Selcat inquiry.

Unlike Saari, PAS leaders like Hassan are agreeable to working with the district officers, many of whom are connected to Umno, in the best interest of the people and Islam.

Likewise in the PKR, not everybody is happy with the lukewarm leadership coming from Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, a former corporate bureaucrat-turned-politician.

He has his small circle of supporters but PKR sources said he is generally out of tune with key PKR leaders like vice-president Azmin Ali, who is seen as a potential candidate for the job.

In the DAP too, Teng is not in the good books of the top DAP leaders but is popular with the DAP grassroots for his precise manners, eloquence and knowledge.

Their intra-feuds in their political parties is intrinsically linked to their inter-party disputes that are frequently breaking out between the Pakatan allies, giving the impression they are amateurs at government and cannot or are unwilling to get their act together.

“I get the impression their disagreement between them is too deep and too fundamental especially PAS and the DAP,” said Richard Lim, a retired bank worker who strongly supports Pakatan.

“My fear is that unless the differences are resolved and they find a common ground, they might eventually go separate ways,” he said, adding that PAS is proudly Islamist while the DAP is totally secular.

PAS, because of its numbers, Islam and Malay support, sees itself as an alternative to Umno and natural choice to lead the Pakatan and rule the country after its own vision of society.

The DAP, on the other hand, will remain a small, Chinese chauvinistic party if not for the support of PAS members.

In that is their dilemma — both need each other but their policies run counter to each other’s philosophies, causing frequent eruption over various issues especially in Selangor, which is multi-ethnic with a large, well-educated and upwardly mobile non-Muslim population.

Former Umno minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, now with the PKR, has been given the task of getting the Pakatan transformed into a full-fledged coalition with a common aim and agreed objectives.

One of the reasons the Pakatan was successful was because it was a loose marriage of con­venience with each party agreeing to bottle up its core principles in order to win at the polls.

It performed exceptionally well, capturing five states and denying Barisan the two-third majority in Parliament. But the hard part is managing that victory.

The DAP and the PKR are focused on cleaning up, promoting transparency and accountability and for settling scores with the Barisan.

PAS, on the other hand, is focused on its Islamist mission – to turn the country into a syariah-obedient society, thereby setting off the now all-too-familiar fights in the Pakatan. - The Star


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