The Kajang Move – Launch pad or Graveyard?

Written on 7th February 2014, not published

Rafizi Ramli is intelligent, charismatic, principled, and a great hope for the future of the country. Unfortunately his strategy, the Kajang Move, is deeply flawed. It is the wrong battle, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong place, at the wrong time. The consequences are so catastrophic, I fear it will lead, not to Putrajaya, but to the graveyard.

Rafizi defends the Kajang move on 3 propositions:

  1. Anwar is needed to make Selangor the model state functioning as launch pad for Putrajaya.
  2. Anwar is needed to resolve the feud between Azmin Ali and MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.
  3. Anwar’s presence in the Selangor State Assembly is needed to combat UMNO’s political game of race and religion.

I examine each of these propositions in turn.

Launch pad for Putrajaya?

This proposition is nothing more than faith that any problem put to Anwar would be miraculously solved. Resolving traffic woes, building more affordable public housing, forward planning of water resources, making Selangor the state with the least number of potholes – no indication is given of what special contribution Anwar can make which Khalid or Azmin cannot. Furthermore Anwar has been appointed Selangor Financial Advisor for more than 5 years. Surely the position gives him sufficient legitimacy and authority to contribute any ideas he has for the betterment of Selangor.

But even if Anwar can solve all of Selangor’s problems, what is the point if he cannot solve national problems? Solving Selangor’s problems needs the full time attention of a human being, and so do national problems. Anwar can be Prime Minister in waiting or Selangor MB. He cannot be both. Granted Selangor is the jewel in the crown, but does Anwar want to save the jewel and lose the crown?  Unless of course both Rafizi and Anwar think he is a superman.

Anwar is reported in Malaysiakini to have said “Lets win the bye election first, and then I will tell you how I will find the time to do the job.” Surely this answer puts the cart before the horse? Surely voters must know whether the candidate has the time to do the job before they vote him into office? The answer shows Anwar is no superman.

Tigers on the Mountain

If two tigers on a mountain cannot be reconciled to living peaceably together, then the alternatives are:

  1. Find another mountain for one of the tigers to go to
  2. Let the two tigers fight so that there is a clear victor and a clear loser
  3. Introduce a third tiger to keep the 2 tigers apart.

By all accounts, Azmin has been a loyal and effective right hand for Anwar and has a stack of IOUs on Anwar. May be without him, there may be no PKR. Being stuck as a Selangor back bencher is poor reward for his services to Anwar and the party. Anwar owes Azmin an opportunity for him to show his political skills and leadership qualities.

With so many mountains for PKR to conquer, why must Azmin be stuck on the Selangor mountain? Why cannot he become party leader in Perak? Another crying need is for Pakatan to set up a Shadow Cabinet. Why cannot PKR task Azmin with the job of working with the other Pakatan members on this? Why cannot Azmin be tasked with drawing up a framework for the national reconciliation talks?

But if Azmin thinks the road to high office is through the Selangor mountain, then there must be a fair fight between him and Khalid, based on their respective strength and capabilities, and not on Anwar’s preferences. The fair fight for the MB post is achieved if the MB is elected by the majority vote of all Pakatan Selangor State Assemblymen, and not by party leaders such as Anwar or Lim Guan Eng. They are the ones who have the best information and have the most incentive to make the best choice; otherwise they stand to lose their seats at the next state election.

Rafizi’s strategy of introducing a third tiger to keep the 2 warring tigers apart is at best only a temporary solution and at worse wastes resources, distracts Anwar from his proper role as Prime Minister in waiting, and exposes PKR to criticism that it is wasting public funds in a by-election to resolve an internal party dispute.

How the ‘Allah’ and related issues impact on the Kajang Move.

We know that the Selangor non Muslim electorate want the Bibles seized by JAIS to be returned. We know Khalid has been called a mouse for not doing this. What can Anwar say during the election campaign to prove he is a lion and not a mouse? What can Anwar do as MB to resolve this issue that Khalid cannot?

Note that the Selangor Islamic Council (Mais) said Jais is free to act because it has the Agong’s mandate to protect Islam, and is not answerable to either the federal or state governments (Malaysiakini Jan 24). Further the seizure of the Bibles was done under the Degree of the Sultan of Selangor.

If the powers of MAIS and JAIS is, at least partly, based on the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988, then the Enactment can be amended or repealed. But the proposal by 3 Chinese DAP ADUNs that this be done has been shot down by Anwar, PAS, and the Selangor DAP leadership, on the grounds of a negative reaction from the Muslim community. If, under pressure to win, Anwar reverses his stand to win Chinese votes, he will lose Malay votes not only in Kajang but nationally. He will also get dragged into local Palace politics.

Seeing that a recent Umcedel poll found 77% of Muslim respondents think ‘Allah’ should be used exclusively by Muslims, it is very courageous of Anwar to confirm Pakatan Rakyat’s stand to allow non-Muslims to use ‘Allah’, provided it is not abused. But the Malay voter will ask, “Does voting for Anwar mean I support non Muslims using the word ‘Allah’?” If, to win Malay votes, he says no, Chinese hardliners will say he is as much a mouse as Khalid is. If, to win Chinese votes, he says yes, Malay hardliners will say he is selling out Islam to Christianity. The bad effects will not just be felt in Kajang but nationally.

For Anwar to survive the political cost of the Pakatan stand, he must, in the words of Zaid Ibrahim (Malaysiakini Jan 15), “present to the country ways of resolving the ‘Allah’ issue in a practical manner”. Any leader who wishes to solve the ‘Allah’ issue and related racial tension must call for a compromise solution which means concessions must be made on both sides. He needs time and space to formulate and explain his ideas.

Anwar’s speech on Sunday Jan 26th, when he warned tensions are near May 13 levels, is a speech worthy of a Prime Minister in waiting. But, unfortunately, the very next day, he forced a by-election on the nation. Does Anwar not realise that a near May 13 situation is the worst of all possible times to have an election? Does Anwar not know that elections stir up strong emotions? In the pressure to win, people distort the truth, resort to scare mongering and no one is able to compromise.

Umno plays its political game of race and religion at the national level, not just at the Selangor level. The solution to the ‘Allah’ controversy and related issues lies at national and not state level.

Can Anwar lose at Kajang?

Probably not but PKR’s majority will most likely be smaller than in GE13. PKR should be particularly concerned with the following 2 aspects of the by-election.

Leader left exposed and unprotected

In war, the commander in chief is protected; in chess the king is protected. In Pakatan the leader is left to fight exposed and unprotected under conditions which give a lot of advantages to the enemy.

The nomination of Anwar as candidate for Kajang is an open invitation to all Pakatan’s and Anwar’s enemies to gang up and attack him. It will not be a fair fight of one against one, but of all against one. They will all be there – BN, Zul Noordin and Perkasa, ISMA, those who feel Anwar is taking voters for granted and want to teach him a lesson, even perhaps PSM who were damaged by Pakatan at GE13 and may want to show it can damage Pakatan too.

In a general election the resources of your enemy are scattered all over the country as he has to fight many battles. In a by-election, your enemy’s resources can be concentrated in one place. Has Rafizi calculated yet how much BN will spend in Kajang if Anwar contests? Millions? Billions? The sky is the limit. How much is the cost of 1 Kajang vote? $250? $1000? $5000? Not for sale?

The Kajang by-election is not Pakatan versus BN but PKR versus PKR

In a general election, people who do not like Anwar, will still vote Pakatan because they do not want a BN government. What happens if they vote against Anwar in Kajang? They get a Pakatan government with a strengthened Khalid as MB. If they vote Anwar, they get a weakened Khalid who may be replaced at any time.

Rafizi is saying: “We think Khalid is good, but not good enough. We think Anwar is better. You decide.” (Malaysiakini Jan 31). Because Khalid is a loyal deputy of Anwar, he cannot stand directly against Anwar. People who prefer Khalid will vote for anybody but Anwar or stay at home. Kajang will be flooded with the following banners: “Love Khalid Hate Azmin Punish Anwar” “Vote anybody but Anwar, get Khalid. Vote Anwar, get Azmin”

Rafizi should be concerned with that in a recent poll by The Star, Khalid was top choice for MB, obtaining nearly the same number of votes as the next two candidates put together (Anwar and Rafizi). (Nathanial Tan, Malaysiakini Jan 30)

The assessment of whether Anwar will win depends on what we think are the choices the voters are being asked to make. Rafizi may imagine he is asking the question “Do you think Anwar or BN is better at making Selangor a model state?”, but since the Kajang by-election cannot change the state government, voters will realise the real question is “Do you think Anwar or Khalid is better at making Selangor a model state?”. Rafizi may imagine he is asking the question “Do you want Anwar to stop UMNO’s racial and religious games in Selangor?” but the Malay voter will be asking “Does voting for Anwar mean I support non-Muslims using the word ‘Allah’?”.

If Anwar loses, no less a person than Tony Pua thinks defeat not only spells the end of Anwar’s political career but the end of Pakatan Rakyat.

In 2008, due to over confidence, Anwar made a widely criticised and damaging attempt to persuade BN MPs to jump over to Pakatan. Every Pakatan leader should take responsibility for preventing the Kajang Move from becoming a bigger and fatal repeat of the error of 2008. Let it not be said that the battle for GE14 ended at the Kajang by-election. It would be a tragedy for Anwar Ibrahim to lose an unnecessary by-election.

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