By Watson Peters
Most Malaysians would agree that while Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the catalyst that caused the change of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, that result was not the fortuitous consequence of some fortuitous social process. It did not appear out of thin air. It was the natural and inevitable consequence of a government that could not continue to base itself on arbitrary applications of power that sought to eliminate all forms of dissent and non-conformity.
The process of change began with the cruel, baseless and repeated incarcerations of Anwar Ibrahim and was sustained by the momentum of the Reformasi movement and PKR which has continued carrying the “Reform Malaysia” torch since 1998. People who were not particularly fond of Anwar became Anwar supporters overnight. The Anwar family became the best-loved family in the hearts of most Malaysians. While PKR may have fewer than one million members, it has millions more supporters and sympathisers across the whole spectrum of our nation.
It is against this backdrop that this letter is written.
The current PKR election has denigrated into an internecine warfare that threatens to tear apart not only the fabric of PKR, but also the hopes of millions who see PKR as the hope and way forward for the new Malaysia.
The public utterances by some PKR leaders are rather discouraging and indeed disheartening. This looks like a classic case of talking the party and the government into trouble.
Given that the new government has not properly warmed its seat yet, the issue really is whether it is necessary to have the contests at this time.
Could not the many good leaders in PKR work together for the common good rather than for well-disguised personal objectives?
Could not the contending forces lay down their armoury and allow the Pakatan Harapan government settle down in its business of running our country and leading us to a better future?
It is a tragedy to see how the contest for the post of deputy president between Rafizi Ramli and Mohamed Azmin Ali is turning out. To compound matters, the contest has filtered down to the other echelons of leadership.
Admittedly, both Rafizi and Azmin are great leaders to have within the ranks. They may have different modus operandi but that need not be at cross-purposes.
It is particularly painful to hear accusations of disloyalty aimed at Azmin. Malaysians remember how, in the aftermath of Anwar’s incarceration and while Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, or Kak Wan, as the figure head of the Reformasi movement and PKR had to deal not only with an absent husband but also a young family, it was “Anwar’s boys” (as they were popularly known) who were on the ground – marshalling supporters, organising branches and giving flesh to the bare bones of PKR.
Sadly though, over the years most of “Anwar’s boys” have either “run for the hills” or “crossed over to the other side”.
The sole unwavering sentinel at the PKR guardhouse from day one has been Azmin. His loyalty to the Reform Malaysia cause cannot and should not be doubted.
As Selangor menteri besar, he had shown remarkable leadership, maturity and fortitude in the face of numerous challenges, especially in the early days. The scurrilous attacks on Azmin’s loyalty and integrity must be viewed with the contempt they deserve while his elegant non-confrontational reaction must be applauded.
That said, Rafizi is also an irreplaceable component of the PKR engine. His sacrifices for the Malaysian people have not been forgotten. His frequent exposes at great personal risk are still fresh in our hearts and minds.
Given this scenario, it lies upon the shoulders of Anwar as president of PKR and the Bapak Reformasi to intervene immediately and impose peace upon the party.
Democratic rights aside, Anwar can and must convince the contestants to allow the new government to settle down and dig us out of the quagmire we are in.
Anwar is the only one who can impose an acceptable modus vivendi and he should not abdicate this responsibility.
It may be good for all the contestants to remind themselves that there is always the next party election, in a couple of years’ time, to re-ignite this contest.
Stop the implosion of PKR and the explosion of the hopes of millions of Malaysians.
Watson Peters has been a practising lawyer for more than 30 years.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.