Saturday, February 01, 2014


Of maestros, mirrors and feuds in the ‘Kajang move’  

                                                                               The Malaysian Insider 1st Feb 2014
Rafizi Ramli, one of the architects of the 'Kajang move' to allow PKR supremo Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to become a Selangor lawmaker, responds to the heated public anger that has greeted the plot. In an interview with The Malaysian Insider, Rafizi, who is also PKR strategic director, tells of how PKR cannot take a backseat while Umno incites ethnic tensions and uses them to destabilise Selangor.In order to deal with these tensions, which are political in nature, Rafizi said Pakatan Rakyat needs both a political maestro in the form of Anwar and a management maestro, such as Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.

Q: You wrote something about the “Kajang move” (to allow Anwar to become a state assemblyperson in Selangor) and argued that it was necessary because of the looming threat from a more aggressive Umno. But for the past five years, the same Pakatan Rakyat government weathered all sorts of threats from water shortages to racial incitements such as the cow’s head protest. So why the need to fortify Selangor by making Anwar a state legislator (ADUN)?
A: The first years, people would give the Pakatan state government the benefit of the doubt when we are attacked by Barisan Nasional even if we fumbled. As long as we are honest.
We are now into the second term. The dynamics are changing, especially in Umno. The doctrine that non-Malay support should be discarded is completely taking hold. For the first time there is this thinking in Umno that Malays and Umno can rule on their own.
Once they reach that stage, the kind of race and religious politics they will play is nothing like what we’ve seen in the last five years.
On top of that, the public expects more from the Selangor government, as seen in the Jais raid (on the Bible Society of Malaysia premises on January 2).
It’s not enough to play the sympathy card and say we are victims.
The public put us there to defend them. There will be heightened politicisation of everything in the next five years.
You require reinforcement politically because what we will face are cruder political attacks. It will require political answers and fending off.
(Selangor Menteri Besar) Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim is well admired for his administrative skill and prudence.
But we also know that he is not the most agile politician, especially when dealing with Umno’s dirty tactics. So there’s a need to reinforce him, PKR and Pakatan in Selangor politically.
Having Anwar on the ground sends a clear message that we take Selangor so seriously that Anwar is taking charge.
Second, if anything escalates or the political attacks become too messy for Khalid to handle on his own, Anwar can step in.
But this takes a process. It takes three months and that is a long time. So we want to have this option if things escalate.
So if you ask me whether Anwar is coming in to take over as MB, there is a possibility.
Whether it is soon, it’s up to us to assess the situation. But if the need arises, we can use the option immediately, unlike what we have seen in Kedah.
It’s also taking a cue from the last two months of Umno’s incitement that putting Anwar will send a strong message to them.
People say Anwar is already economic adviser.
As much as people ridicule us, we stick to the terms of the arrangement.
Anwar as an economic adviser only advises on economic matters. Anwar has never interfered in the political affairs of Selangor. We don’t engage in political battles with Umno in Selangor.
Having Anwar as an ADUN is a political move as it provides him with the political legitimacy to engage Selangor Umno.
In Parliament, every time he talks about Selangor, people will say “who are you? You are just a one ringgit economic adviser. Don’t interfere in Selangor”.
The public only sees from their point of view. They don’t see the question of political legitimacy.
This is the conundrum of the public and media’s view.
On the one hand, you press for democratic values in political organisation, on the other hand, you expect Anwar to bulldoze everything and command the party like a dictator. It doesn’t work that way.
If we want to meddle in Selangor we have to have legitimacy in Selangor.
Having Anwar in the political structure of Selangor is a necessity to fight BN.
The public thinks that “you are Anwar, you can instruct anything” but it doesn’t work that way.
There is a political structure. The national leadership does not interfere in the political setup at the state.
We need political legitimacy to fight BN Selangor, especially on issues of race and religion that we have to admit Khalid will be hard pressed to manage.
Nothing against Khalid. It’s just not his cup his tea. We will be in denial if we ignore this as he is a management maestro but he is not a political maestro.  
When the turf is political contest, then we have to be honest to ourselves if we need political reinforcement.
Q: But in the previous five years, when there were escalations, you’ve always had reinforcement from national leaders. You yourself have helped a lot on the water issue. So why do you need this type of reinforcement now?  
A: I don’t think we can continue being in defensive mode and being under siege all the time. People can give the benefit of the doubt in the first term.  
There will come a point when the electorate says, I know you guys are good but you are ineffective. Our lives are difficult and we just want to move on.
Q: Can you give an example of how it would happen?
A: Take the impasse over the water issue. The middle class may be able to tolerate it based on principles but what about those living in flats?
If there is water rationing for six consecutive months, I don’t think they will say I pity the Selangor government.
They will say you are the government, solve this. And the resolution will require political moves.
Same with church attacks. Imagine every week, there are demonstrations outside churches and the state government is seen as defensive and unable to checkmate the political moves.
There will come a point where people will say what’s the point of having you as state government? We elected you with two-thirds majority so that you can protect us and avoid this.
It is stupid of us and imprudent of us to think that the goodwill will last until the end. The goodwill will lessen because the expectation will go up.
First term, people will give you benefit of the doubt. In the second term, people will expect delivery.
That’s what happened to BN also. In first 20 years, people say “Okay-lah you fought for independence” but in the third or fourth decade, people said “come on, do something for us”.
I’m not saying that the state government is not managing it well now. I’m saying there will be a heightening of political fight which requires political hand-to-hand combat.
Khalid may continue to focus on administrative and economic reform but someone must fend off these political attacks.
To allow us to do both, continue the pace of reforms and fend off attacks, we feel that reinforcement in the form of Anwar is the best answer. In order to checkmate BN.
Q: So does this mean that Anwar could come in as menteri besar but Khalid will still be around?
A: The moment Anwar is in the state legislative assembly, the permutation is endless.
Anwar can be MB, Khalid can be adviser, Anwar can be MB, Khalid can be exco, Khalid can be MB, Anwar can be exco.
But the combination of a political maestro and the management expertise of the Pakatan government now is necessary to the political escalation that will happen. It’s also to pre-empt escalation as they will know that Anwar is now in Selangor.
I’ve always advocated having options. Anwar can be MB or Khalid can be MB.
I think the perception that we have to clarify is that we are trying to grab money (from the state government).
This is unfair to the party. Of all the accusations being made against (Selangor PKR chief Azmin Ali) Azmin there hasn’t been a case or proof.
It’s just a matter of perception that people want to come in and take money.
And this fear that Anwar will come aboard is to unravel (the feud between Khalid and Azmin).
I think people will have to give us time to prove that this is a collective party decision. Otherwise, why would Khalid announce Anwar’s candidacy or that Azmin is on the ground preparing for the machinery for the by-election?
We need Anwar on the ground and Khalid understands this.
What is important is to put Anwar there first.
And we can’t wait for a series of attacks before thinking of ways to get him involved. Anwar being economic adviser is not enough.
Having Anwar as an ADUN is also a check and balance to the administration. So that they have to listen more and move reforms faster.
It’s like having a big boss on the board of directors while you are the CEO. You will be more consultative and you will pay more attention.
Q: But it was previously said that the Selangor government always consults the assemblymen when crafting policy.
A: Maybe not enough. We require more consultation, more rigorous consideration of the public impact before a decision is made.
So just by having Anwar is already a game changer because as ADUN, he has to know every little problem and details of how a state policy will impact on the public.
Q: But isn’t having Azmin as BBC chairman enough to check the state administration?
A: Azmin and Khalid don’t see eye to eye. Let’s call a spade a spade. It would be better if they did but they don’t.
Q: So is Anwar replacing Azmin then?
A: It’s not replacing anyone. It’s reinforcement.
We are not getting rid of Khalid or Azmin in Selangor. We need all three. The challenge is bigger than that.
If Anwar wanted to replace Azmin, the party could have removed him as the Selangor chief. But this is not the case, Azmin is still there.
We are trying to manage Khalid and Azmin and having Anwar there as a supremo will obviously put things in order. This is not just a PKR issue.
In Kedah, there was an issue of Azizan(former Kedah Menteri Besar Tan Sri Azizan Abdul Razak) and Phahrolrazi (Kedah senior exco Datuk Phahrolrazi Zawai).
It requires decisiveness on our part in order to protect the interest of the public and to find ways to resolve it.
It’s unfair on Azmin. You can’t just sack Azmin as he is democratically elected as the deputy president.
He has a high place in the state and the party.
Khalid is nominated by the party and well loved by the public. So how do you go about with this?
You can’t replace and get rid of one or the other. So how do you solve it?
We feel the best way of doing it is by putting Anwar there to bring the two parties together to work together.
This is a two-pronged approach while we prepare for Umno’s attacks.
We bring together the cohesiveness of our team and Anwar is the only one that can bring that cohesiveness.
Q: So you’re saying this “Kajang move” is basically to solve the feud between Azmin and Khalid? Because both can’t work together so Anwar has to come in and solve it.
A: It’s not primarily just that. It’s wrong to say that this is to solve to an internal matter. If it was to solve an internal matter then why is DAP is 100% behind it?
Because there is a recognition that the political game is changing and we require reinforcement in the form of Anwar Ibrahim.
While we are at it, because it will bring cohesiveness between Azmin and Khalid, then why not do it?
If it was purely a question of Khalid and Azmin feud so to speak, then why did we not do it in the past two or three years?
The feud has always been there. It’s not just because of the feud. It is a secondary thing.
We want to fortify Selangor, we want to make it a model state and we want to have the option to respond to BN as best as possible.
And that will come in the form of having Anwar on the ground in Selangor. The fact that it will bring more cohesiveness to the PKR team in Selangor, well that is jolly good.
But if it was just to solve differences between the two, we would not have done it. We could have done that before the general election or during the election.
Q: Another criticism is that you want to make Selangor a base in your quest to take Putrajaya. Yet in order to take over Putrajaya, you need seats from Johor, Sabah and Sarawak. So how does Anwar being in Selangor help you get those seats?
A: Selangor is both a boon and a bane. Boon in the sense that if we can hasten the pace of reforms, it can be a showcase for the rest of Malaysia of how we can govern. Much like Penang is a showcase for DAP.
It is also representative of Malaysia in terms of demographics and its economic landscape.
You have kampung, Felda schemes and places where the richest of the rich live.
So if we can show how we are inclusive and implement our pro-rakyat programmes in Selangor, it is proof to the rest to the country that we can pursue  fair socio-economic policies without alienating or victimising Malays, for example.
If we can show how a needs-based system benefits Malays more than other people. This is all about implementing things in Buku Jingga into policy.
Have we done it before? We have. Have we done enough? No. Have we done enough to win us Putrajaya? I don’t think so.
We can’t just continue to hammer BN for the next five years.
People know they are corrupt and it’s hard to find the next juicy scandal.
You can’t just be in the same mode going into the next general election.
In the first term, people wanted to see if would stay together (as a coalition).
Now people want to see our ability to find the delicate balance between race and economic development.
We can do it in Selangor but it is not enough to manage Selangor prudently. We require that our performance is doubly better. (Selangor) should be a mirror image to what we can do if in Putrajaya.
For the same reason, it is a bane because it is a mirror of Malaysia.
The complexity of societies in Selangor is more than Penang or Kedah or Kelantan.
You have multireligions, cultures, differences in economic class and the urban poor. You have all sorts of problems in Selangor and each is a hot spot.
And BN will create problems in these hot spots. They have struck a goldmine with the “Allah” issue.
If we continue to manage these issues administratively like we did in the past, I don’t think we can convince the rest of Malaysia that we are fit to rule Putrajaya.
They want to see with all the complexity in Selangor, can we manage it politically and administratively so that everyone is taken care of.
So as much as a showcase for Pakatan, Selangor can also potentially be an ugly picture for what a federal Pakatan Rakyat government can look like if we don’t manage all these hot spots.
Q: You said that you needed to convince the public that you can stay together as a coalition. But in the “Kajang move” it seems like your ally PAS differs with you. Selangor PAS has come out with statements about not agreeing with the move.
A: That is PAS. When we consulted the national leadership of both parties they agreed.
That is why we went ahead. That’s why (DAP parliamentary leader) Lim Kit Siang and (PAS vice-president) Salahuddin Ayob were there at the press conference to give us their full support.
The over-reaction from Selangor PAS is understandable. Where do we stop? Do we consult the divisions as well? The decision was cleared at the presidential council level.
We had the go ahead. Of course, it was surprising even in PKR. Khalid didn’t see it coming, Azmin didn’t see it coming.
Q: Azmin didn’t see it coming? But he said it was planned all along.
A: It was discussed but at the speed the things were going, we couldn’t tell everyone. Something like this was a strategic move.
We did not consult everyone because it was meant to surprise BN. It was also made to manage the difficult differences internally in PKR and Pakatan Selangor.
It was cleared at the presidential level. Otherwise, Selangor DAP would not have issued such as strong statement, otherwise (PAS deputy president) Mohamad Sabu wouldn’t have made the statement he made.
It’s because we are in this together and everyone agreed that Pakatan needs reinforcement.   
Q: What about the Selangor palace?
A: I think the palace will react professionally and have utmost respect to the decision of a people’s government that was elected by a two-thirds majority. I think this fear about the palace is predicated on the Perak case.
But there is no parallel between Perak and Selangor. Perak was a slim-majority government and the question of who commanded the majority of the house was tricky and required interpretation.
In the case of Selangor, this does not arise. Historically, the Selangor palace has always been extremely professional and has utmost respect for the working relationship between it and the state government.
We have to go through the process and engage the palace and be mindful of the role of the palace.
We have lines of communication with the palace.
When the time comes, we will go through due process. Having seen the track record of the Selangor palace, I don’t think it has a problem with the unanimous decision of all three parties.
Q: Even if you change the menteri besar so that Anwar becomes the menteri besar?
A: The question does not arise now. But the track record of the constitutional monarch in Selangor has been exemplary.
Selangor has had changes in menteri besar halfway through.
But the palace has had a clean track record of guarding its role as a constitutional monarch. So long as Pakatan follows the due the process, respects the role of the palace, I think we will be able to manage it well.
Q: So are you happy with Khalid but more is needed? Is that what this is all about?
A: I think he needs assistance. It’s not that he is not doing well, it’s just that the challenge is going to get bigger. The political challenge is going to get bigger.
If this was just about Azmin and Khalid, there were many junctures where we could have resolved it.
It’s a build up of the impasse of the last seven months.
Many say we are over-reacting but if you were in our shoes, would you take chances? You don’t and can’t.
So that strong message of game changing has to be sent. I know people will disagree with me but, politically, it does change the landscape.
So now Umno has to go back to their drawing board on how to deal with Anwar being in Selangor.
So it does alter the political landscape. Whatever the public think of Anwar and the party, Umno does not underestimate us.
Q: But is the public anger and backlash worth all this?
A: It is.
Q: There is that possibility that Anwar won’t even win.
A: That’s what political leadership is all about. That’s why we say and thought about this a thousand times whether we do this or not.
Because the risk is really, really high. But what choice do we have? Do we just sit back and wait for things to escalate?
People ask Anwar for political leadership. This is the leadership that we have to offer. It’s difficult.
I feel so bad that he has to be dragged through the mud. But if we don’t do this, it’s going to be status quo and where do we go?
On the one hand, people want Anwar to solve this issue.
Not just between Azmin and Khalid but about the “Allah” issue.
On the other hand, we know that this is a political battle. And it requires a political maestro.
As much as I admire Khalid for his administrative and management prowess, he is not a political maestro and we have to accept that.
Not accepting it is being irresponsible to the public and then we don’t deploy the best person to manage this situation.
It’s about the looming political battle both at the state and national levels.
We have to pull at the national level by offering reconciliation but we have to push at the state level for them to take up the offer.
Q: If Anwar does become MB, he gets bogged down with all these responsibilities as menteri besar then how he is going to play the role of Pakatan Rakyat opposition leader?
A: This is not the first time. Hadi (PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang) was like that in 2004. People forget that he was a former acting prime minister. He has done a lot of bigger things.
With the right team, I don’t see any problem, should Anwar become MB. It’s about the team. I don’t see it as problem it will go back to style of management and the professional team you put together.  – January 31, 2014.


Winston Yap said...

Well, well, well.
Ultimately, it's all about winning over the rural folks in both East & West Malaysia.
It would also be better if the civil servants and armed forces can be won over.
With these bastions knocked off from under their feet, BN will be left hanging in mid air!!!

hmatter said...

Agreed. In fact the 1.4 million civil servants.