Thursday, March 18, 2010

Putrajaya, we have some serious issues

COMMENT: By Habhajan Singh

TWO years after the general elections, the dust has yet to settle on both sides of the political divide. The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat are still grappling with issues that are testing their leadership.
At the last general elections, the nation was rocked by a political tsunami caused by the strong showing of the Opposition political parties.
The three parties, stitched together with "glue" called Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, managed to deny the BN its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament. This margin allows a ruling party to amend the Federal Constitution, the all important legal document for Malaysians. For example, you need that margin to redelineate Parliamentary constituencies.

It has certainly not been smooth-sailing for the BN. The latest debacle involving its second largest component party, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), shows that all is not well within the coalition. The MCA's president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat seems to be caught in a bizzare battle, with most of his central committee members resigning just before the party's annual general meeting held yesterday.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak announced that he will not attend the meeting. One would reasonably expect Mohd Najib, as the coalition's chairman, to attend such an important event.
"The MCA should be given the opportunity to resolve its internal problems. It is hoped that the party will be able to resolve the issue and enable the MCA's leadership to obtain a fresh mandate from party members," the PM's office said in a statement.
The BN's smaller member, the People's Progressive Party (PPP), is also mired in a leadership tussle. Datuk M Kayveas is battling it out with Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk T Murugiah for the presidency. On May 24 last year, the junior minister had actually manouvered to declare himself as party president in an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in Putrajaya.

Across the divide, Anwar and company are also under siege. Losing Perak was certainly the biggest blow to them. After many rounds in the courts, the nation's highest court decided in the BN's favour, allowing Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir to keep the position of Mentri Besar.
Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin from PAS was left out in the cold. With the law on their side, the BN now has a chance to recoup some of their losses in this northern state.
For a while however, it seemed as if Mohammad Nizar and his compatriots from the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) were able to demonstrate some level of active partnership. They are now trying to maintain a semblance of working together.
However, it must surely be so much tougher now that the dynamics of the situation have changed. The latest headache for Anwar comes from the spate of resignations within his own team.
So far, three PKR MPs have left the party, with specualation rife that more may follow. On March 3, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bagan Serai, Mohsin Fadzli Samsuri, became the third member to leave. His resignation comes right after Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim and the MP for Nibong Tebal Tan Tee Beng left the party.
With MPs leaving left, right and centre, PKR on Saturday sacked Kulim-Bandar Bharu MP Zulkifli Noordin, urging the controversial lawmaker to vacate the Parliamentary seat he had won under its ticket.
While trying to get a handle on matters political, there is also Anwar's sodomy trial playing out in the background. PKR leaders are certainly worried and they should be.

Will the "glue" that binds them together now still hold fast when the nation next goes to the polls? All said and done, it has been a roller-coaster ride for everyone on both sides of the political divide, as well as the rakyat.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on 8 March 2010. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh)