After much observation and conversations with those who had been to Ijok, Keadilan (PKR) had failed to win the semi-urban seat due to its own shortcomings as well, which they must address at once, to prevent further damages and casualties in the coming elections.
Yes, although PKR’s deputy Syed Husin Ali said that BN’s win was an “immoral victory” and there were lots of hanky-panky going on, allegations of vote buying, phantom voters and violence, but PKR is not without its faults. Moral victory or no, a post-mortem should be done internally to investigate the reasons for losing. For whenever there is an accident, one cannout blame the other for total wreckage. Somewhere along the line, something went wrong. And the sooner PKR people identify these sore points, the better it is.
I must say from the onset that I am impressed with all the dedication, hardwork, sweat and sleepless nights that party workers had to endure, without which, I believe PKR would have lost even further. These people are your assets, and the real blood and diamond in your struggle for a better Malaysia.
The Ijok by-election would have been a really good platform for PKR to convince the people that it is a viable alernative party for all Malaysians. However, I felt, the party didn’t explore its potential to the fullest in this area. Instead of fleshing out issues of real concern to the people, PKR showed its over dependency on the Anwar factor.
Yes, Anwar (Ibrahim) may be a hero to some, but not to the world at large, and definitely, not to all Malaysians who have witnessed his personality in the past when he was a government official. His magic is created by the foreign media but what is reported does not represent the reality. Let’s face it: any news that’s anti-government or anti-Prime Minister is “hot news” as so few people actually speak againt the authority. Which is why the foreign media crowd around him like moths to a flame, for example:
The by-election became as much about the possible return to prominence of Mr Anwar – seen as the opposition’s “leader in waiting” – as it had to do with the people of Ijok. (BBC).
So, its time for PKR to re-assess their selling point. Will they continue to use Anwar as a brand name or move on? This, I believe, would determine their future performance in Malaysia’s political arena.
What is also sadly missing in the last by-election is a viable media to counter all the negative news about PKR, and its candidate Khalid Ibrahim. Its true that the Opposition has its party organ and Opposition newspapers, magazines and online news like the DAP’s Rocket and PAS’ Harakah or even Malaysia-Today. But all these are seen as pro-Opposition, perception of them are very much like how people perceive The STAR (MCA paper) and Utusan Malaysia or NST (Umno paper). In short, I can say the news follow a certain agenda , especially where politicial news are concerned, therefore, they are less credible.
However, Malaysiakini, supposedly an alternative online newspaper, also did not carry as news Khalid’s clarification on his position as CEO of Guthrie, whereas the news about Deputy Prime Minister’s Najib Tun Razak’s allegations was. Malaysiakini merely carried Khalid’s clarification as a letter. Some complained about the online new’s coverage as being heavy on the MIC side, though some accuse it of being ‘Anwarkini’ instead of Malaysiakini. Which means, there is a credibility problem here at stake.
It’s time PKR and its Opposition allies really sit together and think of how to address the issue of media potrayal against them. There is a need for a truly independent media who will report news fairly and independently, without fear or favour, and whose content is Malaysian in nature.
The other factor contributing to the downfall of PKR, probably not only in Iok, but elsewhere as well, is the lack of coordination at ground zero. For example, blogger Jed Yoong @ Freelunch2020 noted that she couldn’t even get a straight answer from PKR’s information chief Tian Chua about Anwar’s ceramah schedule. Now, that is frustrating, for someone who want to help the party promote its activities. Imagine, how frustrating it would be for reporters, who need to get their job done, which includes, at the same time, helping you advance your activities?
PKR certainly need to upgrade their quality and level of politicians. They need to learn how to deal with the media and party supporters as well or else you’ll lose these hopeful gems. Young turks, professional or otherwise, may be mesmerised by the initial glamour of fighting for truth or justice, but when push comes to shove, when reality strikes like lightning, even the call for justice or truth can taste bitter.
But updraging of politicians is not enough. Those with an ‘evil’ past like Khalid would have to come clean and be honest about his involvement with Guthrie. If possible, he needs to admit his mistakes and probably vow never to do such a thing again. Malaysians are forgiving. We even forgave Najib Tun Razak for wanting to “bathe the keris in Chinese blood” in 1987. So why can’t Khalid be forgiven?
My friend, human rights activist and blogger Chang Lih Kang has a good piece on the issue. He said:
In this particular case, I would suggest Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim to make a public apology for what he has done to the plantation workers in the past. As a politician who vows for changes, one must possess the quality to admit his blunders and apologise over it. As the proverb goes, a fault confessed is half redressed. This move (by making a public apology) will benefit Tan Sri Khalid because he will be seen as a courageous candidate.
Like all political parties, the talk to engage and win over Chinese voters is rife as they could provide the necessary swing to ensure victory. Likewise, PKR is engaged in this campaign as well, but I do not see its Chinese leaders given the appropriate attention, prominence or publicity as they should. I am not talking about Tian Chua, he gets the publicity he deserves by being arrested for countless of times. But I am talking about hopefuls like heart surgeon Dr Lee Boon Chye (from Ipoh) and CK Law from Butterworth. They have come into PKR with an open and sincere heart, wanting to see change for all Malaysians.
However, the way I see it, PKR rather depend on DAP leaders to charm voters in the Chinese areas. Now you see why PKR is only often seen as a Malay party? There are many Chinese and Indian leaders, with the exception of one or two (who I would not recommend at all) within PKR who should be projected publicly to upgrade the party’s image. This has to be done now, not a day or two, before the General Elections. Perhaps, they may even need a media blitz.
Focussing on Chinese and Malay voters alone is unfair for there is a sizeable number of Indian voters as well, who often throw their support behind MIC or Sammy Vellu. Why shouldn’t PKR try to win them over as well? They are after all Malaysians. Just because they are small in numbers and may not provide the necessary swing, they are human beings, who also seek better lives for themselves and their children. After all, in elections, the mentality should remain that every vote counts.
Training is of utmost important for PKR candidates for not all are born with campaigning or public speaking skills. They need to be trained in PR skills as well, on issues related to common folks. This can only be done if the candidates actually go to the ground. Of course it is easy to talk about big and noble concepts like democracy, rule of law, justice, judiciary and equality, but so what? Wwhat does it matter to ordinary folks who can’t even be satisfied with two meals a day? In brief there is no short cut to success. It’s 99 percent hardwork (homework) and 1 percent luck. I am afraid that 1 percent is running thin for PKR.
Talking about PR or ceramah skills, it was noticed that some politicians like Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, who spoke in Tamil should also try to speak in Bahasa Melayu as well, or get his speech translated. This goes for Chinese speaking leaders as well. Try to do this so that everyone who attends your ceramah would feel apart of the event, and not feel alienated. Do this as a gesture to respect our national language and at the same time, bring all Malaysians closer in better understanding of the issues you want to propagate.
As for supporters, PKR has many who are not only academically inclined but artistic as well. Zunar the political cartoonist should be really roped in to draw cartoons on posters depicting the injustices in people’s daily lives. Enough of posters about Anwar, Wan Azizah and rest. We need humour, but humour that goes to the heart and make people think.
I hear that many singers or artiste support PKR as well. Albert Ho, the blind singer had openly declared his support for PKR. Invite him to entertain the crowd at cermahs and at the same time, impart some interesting messages. I am sure he will be more entertaining than some of the politicians PKR have on stage.
Finally, and most importantly is the follow-up strategy after this by-election. Is there any? I know PKR is collecting evidence of the violence and vote buying in Ijok, but what is equally important is a follow up plan to prepare the party for the coming GE. An objective, open, sincere and honest evaluation on the party’s failure is needed. Else, I am certain there would be a lot of regrets when this year is over.
This election is one of the best opportunities for the people to make a difference. The ruling party is in a disarray. We have an ex-premier and an ex-Umno president, falling short of saying it out loud : vote PKR. We have a deputy prime minister tainted with controvery of a murder of Altantuya, the mongolian citizen. And we have a Prime Minister who seem intent on staying another term though there are forces who do not want to see this happen.
Indeed, it is one of the best chances for the people to say that “enough is enough”.
As for PKR, it is time to move on from the Anwar factor. Make other leaders known. have their alternative policies paraded for all to see. This or any other election is not about Anwar alone. It should be about the people. It should be about Malaysia.
Read also Jed Yoong’s piece in The STAR: PKR should find out why it lost.