By Dr Kua Kia Soong
Who wants to be Menteri Besar?”
“I do…” says Khalid Ibrahim.
His comrades in PKR think otherwise. DAP is not too hot on him either. Nor is PAS, although it seems numero uno Hadi Awang has not given the thumbs down yet.
PKR even went to the extent of concocting the “Kajang Move” to ease Khalid out in order to bring in Pakatan Rakyat “de facto” leader Anwar Ibrahim through what turned out to be a botched by-election.
Who would want to be the Selangor Menteri Besar right now when all your comrades are slamming you left, right and centre?
Nevertheless, there are stark questions that Menteri Besar bashers need to ask themselves, namely:
• How do the Pakatan parties choose their Menteri Besar?
• How does a Menteri Besar who has all along been portrayed by his comrades as a competent and outstanding administrator suddenly be publicly lambasted as a liability to PKR?
• On what basis did party perceptions of him change so radically?
• Has Khalid suddenly turned rogue and if so, in what specific way?
• And if he did turn rogue, when did this happen? Post-2013 for him to be re-appointed Menteri Besar?
I am no fan of Khalid’s. I have consistently critiqued his policies on free water, highway development, hefty pay increases for state assembly representatives and lack of initiatives to tackle many pressing infrastructural, environmental and social problems in Selangor.
Nevertheless, I find it distasteful and perplexing that his Pakatan comrades have suddenly decided to dump him and are doing so in such a rude manner, with not an iota of sopan santun.
These are questions they might want to ask themselves:
• How did they choose him in the first place in 2008? Did he just happen to be a corporate ally of Anwar’s?
• Did they oppose the populist (highly irresponsible) free water policy when it was announced or did they also think it was a great way to win votes?
• Did they oppose his hefty pay increase for state representatives when it was first announced or was it after the public uproar?
• Did they oppose the highway development and the violation of the state park as soon as these were announced or did they oppose these only after public protests?
• Were they powerless to stop the Bible seizure by Jais?
• Is there no collective leadership in the state government? If not, is a collective approach at the top of today’s political agenda or does the agenda stop at ousting Khalid?
Principled politics or realpolitik?
The cynical would interpret the anti-Khalid move as simply realignment within the party as a result of the balance of forces in favour of Khalid’s rival in the party leadership race.
Everyone can see how Khalid’s rival and Menteri Besar-hopeful flexed his muscles during the selection of the candidates for the 13th general election. Those who have come out to attack Khalid can now see which side their PKR bread is buttered!
As for the rest of them, pinning all Pakatan policy failures on one man, Khalid, seems like a convenient attempt to absolve them of blame when the next general election comes round.
But then, what does it tell us about policy-making in PKR and Pakatan? Does one man decide all policies? Have they forgotten their criticisms of the old Barisan Nasional authoritarian who ruled this country for more than two decades?
No, PKR and Pakatan leaders cannot shrug off their responsibilities so easily by putting all the blame on one man.
How did they allow this state of affairs to happen? Why haven’t they put in place a democratic mechanism to ensure such a situation does not ever arise again?
After all, Khalid is not even the de facto leader of PKR or Pakatan. In fact the “Kajang Move” was an unwitting admission that Anwar Ibrahim was not the de facto leader of PKR or Pakatan either.
Since Anwar is not even the de jure leader, he must be the apparent leader. Pakatan could have done with some good de facto leadership of the coalition in the years since 2008.
Unfortunately, it appears the de facto PKR leader has lost his influence with PAS and DAP as a result of his lack of leadership initiative and especially after the “Sept 16″ (2008) fiasco.
Another cynical view is that the adversaries of Khalid want to lay their hands on the RM3 billion in state reserves for their own political purposes.
Otherwise, why are they washing their dirty linen in public? How often do we hear leaders of these same political parties admonishing their members for openly criticising their parties and for not solving these problems internally?
I dread to think of the fallout when the inevitable happens after all the open criticism of Khalid by Anwar and other Pakatan leaders.
This is a spectacle we don’t witness even among BN parties. Is Khalid going to remain the perfect gentleman that he has been despite all the flak he has received so far, or will he let rip, like all other former partners of Anwar when his inevitable exit takes place?
Only time will tell… and that won’t be a pretty story for sure.
To be taken seriously, the PKR and Pakatan leaders must show us by what criteria they are judging Khalid and what specific credentials are required of a Pakatan Menteri Besar.
In what specific way will the replacement Menteri Besar be deemed ‘qualified’ as compared to Khalid’s present credentials?
Will the new Menteri Besar present his or her alternative state policies for all to judge?
What reforms will the state government set up to ensure collective and democratic leadership and to spare us further Menteri Besar bashing?