Sunday, August 17, 2014

Eyeing: PKR–Khalid feud will break up opposition pact

Azmi Anshar
Never has a sordid PKR plot to take down a popular Selangor menteri besar been this outlandish, so overplayed in its recklessness that nothing in political history could muster a decent precedent.
Selangor has such an epic saga in ridding itself of unwanted menteris besar that you’d think that the post itself is cursed: assuming the post is easy, hanging on is hard and the tendency to get booted out is inevitable.
At their zenith, Selangor Umno warlords can’t hope to hatch a similar conspiracy and they were experts in hounding out disgraced menteris besar: think Datuk Harun Idris (1976), Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib (1997) and Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar (2000).
Now, it is Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s turn to face this political guillotine for mulishly clinging on to his tenure despite his party’s nagging insistence that he resign, backed by a churlish DAP, but just about opposed by a divided Pas and Umno.
This outsized bid to kick out Khalid is a tale of two extremes: PKR defacto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s megalomaniacal push to be prime minister and Khalid’s indecorous last stand to cling on to a placement.
In one extreme, Anwar’s scheming that precipitated the dubious Kajang Move to install him as menteri besar was botched after he lost his Sodomy II appeal and it mutated into a desperate thrust to prop up his wife, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as the alternate pretender after she substituted her husband to win the Kajang by-election.
On the other extreme, Khalid acts as if the menteri besar’s job was won in a menteri besar election, never mind that it was a party appointment and if the party wants him out, he should have withdrawn.
But why does PKR badly want Khalid out? Two visible reasons:
KHALID signed a binding water deal with the Federal Government that ensured long-term supply to a state plagued with a water drought, much to PKR’s distaste; and,
KHALID steadfastly sat on a staggering RM3 billion in state reserves while declining contracts as simple as garbage collection, so much so that desperate contractors begged for help from the Federal Government.
To be sure, there is method in Khalid’s madness: he senses that if he is forcibly removed, ugly things will mess up the state, starting with depletion of the reserves and bad tidings for the people.
Khalid may not be wrong.
PKR thinks otherwise: for a party that’s taking an eternity to complete its elections, it issued a swift show-cause letter to Khalid on why he shouldn’t be sacked for refusing to make way for Dr Wan Azizah.
A two-week deadline is usually accorded to show-cause respondents but Khalid seemed to have until Sunday to defend his deteriorating position, the day axis leaders meet to thrash out for good this ignoble crisis.
To reinforce their overblown case, PKR released in limited circulation a 50-page report chronicling Khalid’s alleged “wrongdoings”, making insinuations about his previous financial dealings as corporate chieftain and raising alleged misdeeds that question his integrity.
The silly question is, why wasn’t this hardboiled inquiry rammed in his face when he was appointed menteri besar after the watershed 2008 general election?
Obviously, it is an improvised afterthought to pressure Khalid to capitulate but he remains defiant, especially with the comfort of support from Pas and Umno.
But this staunch backing by Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat inadvertently forces Pas’ hands: if the Islamists throw their lot with Khalid, they risk disintegrating Pakatan, with Pas obviously disadvantaged should a snap state election is 
somehow manoeuvred to settle the crisis.
That’s how PKR and DAP will try to play Pas, that support the Islamist party enjoyed in two general elections will vanish overnight, but Pas will think that a renewed alliance with Umno, for the sake of preserving the state’s coffers, will be worth the risk.
Anwar also won’t risk a vote of no-confidence at the state assembly because he knows PKR’s tag team with DAP can’t outmatch the Pas-Umno combo, plus Khalid’s hand-in absolute numbers.
The only tough hand to play is to sack Khalid as PKR member and use the moral/integrity card to force his resignation, of which Khalid is too astute to even entertain.
Legally, Khalid can still continue as menteri besar, even as an expelled PKR member: his state assemblyman status undisturbed, his Pas and Umno backing solid, and most importantly, a tacit palace endorsement. As for the people, as long as the water crisis is worked out, this feud is political entertainment in a moment of tragic despondency.

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