This article was first published in Star Online by Tarrence Tan on 15 September 2018 at
KUALA LUMPUR: As the PKR polls draw closer, political pundits are closely monitoring the party’s internal squabble as it unfolds slowly, offering outsiders a rare glimpse of bickering leaders from differing factions.
What stands out in the looming party polls is the fight for the party deputy presidency between Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Rafizi Ramli, which saw an intensifying split between several outspoken leaders from both factions.
To PKR Youth chief and Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, the party’s internal rivalry is part and parcel of politics in a democratic setting.
“We could run the party with a system of having appointed leaders, but that wouldn’t be democracy.
“That is why we should welcome such competition (Azmin vs Rafizi). People are asking, ‘Why now?’
“Well, democracy is messy and democracy is noisy. But democracy is necessary,” Nik Nazmi said during an interview at his service centre in Setiawangsa here.
Nik Nazmi, who has been a PKR member since 2001, pointed out that the race for the party’s No.2 should be centred on finding a suitable leader to be in the same team as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is expected to be the eighth prime minister.
“As this is a consensus in Pakatan Harapan, when he (Anwar) becomes the eighth prime minister, he will need a solid team to back him as party president,” he said.
On July 27, Nik Nazmi publicly endorsed Rafizi, a current vice-president, for deputy presidency, saying that the Anwar-Rafizi combination would be the best to lead PKR.
Pressed for comment, Nik Nazmi said: “I don’t believe that Azmin is bad, but I believe Rafizi is better.”
Observers had said a split could take place in the nearly 20-year-old party if Azmin, a key PKR leader, fails to defend his deputy presidency.
But Nik Nazmi said members should vote in their preferred leaders, as leaders through meritocracy should win top party positions.
“If I believe that Rafizi is better, then we shouldn’t be afraid to put someone better just because it could break the party.
“PKR has never shied away from making difficult decisions,” he said, citing the infamous Kajang Move of 2014 as an example.
The Kajang Move was orchestrated by PKR to replace former Selangor mentri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim with Anwar. However, the plan fell through and Azmin ultimately replaced Khalid as mentri besar.
“But it was with the Kajang Move that we succeeded in removing Khalid. We also broke up with PAS because of the Kajang Move, which subsequently created Pakatan Harapan. So, it is better that we make the difficult decisions now.
“Otherwise, the next party polls would be very close to the 15th General Election,” said Nik Nazmi.
Allegations of Azmin being Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s lackey and the conspiracy to prevent Anwar from being the next prime minister have been Rafizi’s battle cry as he campaigns across the country.
Nik Nazmi felt that Rafizi’s concerns were legitimate, citing Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin’s criticism against Pakatan’s choice of prime minister as an example.
“Zuraida has in the past criticised the announcement of Dr Mahathir as the seventh Prime Minister and Anwar as the eighth,” he noted.
Zuraida is a known Azmin loyalist.
Nik Nazmi remains optimistic about the party’s resilience.
“PKR is not Azmin’s party, Rafizi’s party or Anwar’s party. It is a brand that has existed since the reformasi era. PKR will remain no matter who wins,” he said.
Globally, 2016 was a watershed year for politics. Unexpected events, such as Brexit in the UK and the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential elections shook long-held certainties.
Some have seen these episodes that the obvious choice would be to appeal to the right-wing, anti-immigration rhetoric that made them a reality. But that ignores the other side of the story – the US of Trump and UK of Brexit was also the US of Bernie Sanders and the UK of Jeremy Corbyn – political figures that succeeded by pursuing radical agendas beyond the mainstream. Furthermore, the Trump and Brexit episodes happened partly because of the same reasons that propelled Sanders and Corbyn: a disillusionment with the prevalent economic system.
What does this have to do with Malaysia? With the continuous stoking of racial and religious sentiment by the UMNO-BN political establishment, it will be a matter of time before more extreme policies become more mainstream, before more demagogues become successful.
Same as elsewhere, the underlying tensions are economic. More Malaysians – of all races, but especially the Malays and Bumiputera that make up the majority of the poor – are being left behind. Young Malaysians suffer the most. They take on more and more debts. Education becomes more scarce and expensive. Available jobs, if any, are measly. Owning a home becomes an increasingly distant dream.
While the UMNO-BN administration becomes embroiled in more corruption scandals, it is only by offering the Malaysian public radical alternatives that addresses these concerns that the Opposition can prevent a ‘Donald Trump’ from winning power in Malaysia.
There have been reports in the media that Prime Minister Najib Razak is allegedly planning to drastically reshuffle his Cabinet this week by dropping several senior ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The Prime Minister should immediately clarify whether or not he is indeed planning to take this move as Malaysians deserve clarity on the state of their government.
On the other hand, Muhyiddin should also make a stand on whether or not he will remain in the Cabinet if he so dissatisfied with how the 1MDB issue is being handled.
The same goes for UMNO Youth Leader, the Minister for Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin who frequently talks about change but keeps acting otherwise.
The Mentari Project, a voluntary tuition and children empowerment project of that I founded with entrepreneur and former teacher Mawarni Hassan in 2007 was recently featured on the radio station BFM.
Mawarni and I went to the studio while the station went to the project to meet the students who were also featured in their I Love KL program.
Listen to the MP3 podcast here.
The project is situated in Desa Mentari, a massive low-cost housing estate with 12 blocks and around 30,000 residents in Petaling Jaya. The students are aged 4-17 years old and the project involves full time teachers as well as volunteers who not only help the students academically but also organise trips, projects and activities to make learning fun. The emphasis is on Bahasa Malaysia, English, Science and Mathematics.
The endeavour has been recognised by the Menteri Besar of Selangor as a successful youth initiative and was among the top four teams at the national Lego robotics competition that involved many distinguished schools and institutions.
I used to teach at the project until I became a State Assemblyman. I am currently the patron of the project.
In the past, the project has received assistance in various forms from the likes of Brunsfield, CIMB, General Electric, Vijayaratnam Foundation, Hess, Sri KL, KDU, TNB, PKNS, the Menteri Besar of Selangor, PJCC, KDEB, Ikano Centre, Karangkraf, Mari Kita Membaca and PNSB. Generous individuals have also assisted the project.
I have personally witnessed the difference the project has made in the challenging community of Desa Mentari.
However in order to be sustainable the project needs to broaden its donor and volunteer base and is seeking new donations and volunteers. It would be unfortunate if this project that has benefited over 200 students since it was established cannot continue due to a lack of resources. The project needs RM84,000 a year to pay full time teachers, rent and utilities and run activities.
To find out more, please go to their website http://www.mentariproject.com.
Ultimately, education provides the best opportunity to change the community.
To those who argue that we need to retain a 40-year old age limit for KEADILAN Youth Chiefs at the national, state and division level because the difficulty in identifying under-35 year olds for the position, John F. Kennedy’s famous speech come to mind:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
We have been talking about lowering the age limit of KEADILAN Youth from 40 to 35 for so long, and the Constitutional amendment was passed in 2010 for it to be effective next year.
No matter how difficult, let us not look backwards, but forward to continue to put our party at the forefront of change.
I decided to revamp my website after the 13th General Election in view of my role as the State Assemblyman for Seri Setia, the Selangor State Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker, KEADILAN Communications Director and as an individual.
I believe this site will help you to follow my activities as well as interact with me.
I’d appreciate any comments and feedback.