Isnin, 30 Jun 2008

Pakatan Teething Weakness

Khoo Kay Peng | Jun 27, 08 12:27pm

Kedah Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak’s insistent on going ahead with logging at the state’s catchment areas has exposed a teething weakness of Pakatan Rakyat.


Concerned environmental groups have said that the move could see the cutting down of one million trees. A possible lack of enforcement may threaten these areas and cause an irreparable damage to the environment and ecosystem. At present, Perlis and Penang source more than 80 percent of their water supply from Kedah.

azizan abdul razakEarlier, Azizan has justified his move over the failure of the federal government to compensate the state a total of RM100 million to disallow logging in the areas. The MB has made an about turn when he announced his intention to go ahead regardless being paid or not.

Despite a strong opposition from Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, his fellow PR colleague, who called the move ‘a disaster’, there is very little he can do to prevent Azizan from going ahead with the plan.

It is obvious that the newly minted coalition does not have a federal structure to address and mitigate disputes arising from differences such as this one which affects the interest of its neighbours. Disputes and disagreements if left unmitigated may threaten unity in Pakatan Rakyat.

Reflect mutual respect

A formalised working committee at the national level akin to Barisan Nasional’s supreme council would have helped to mediate the problems. It is natural for Pakatan leaders to avoid forming such a council since there are a lot of misgivings and weaknesses in the BN supreme council.

The formation of a council is not wrong but the process of decision making in the council must reflect parity and mutual respect among its members.

Calls for Pakatan to form a shadow federal cabinet were distracted and diverted away by speculations of Pakatan seizing power through defections. These speculations came mainly from PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, also touted as the ‘prime minister in-waiting’. Unfortunately, the defiant shown by the Sabah Progressive Party against PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will strengthen the speculations and continue to distract Pakatan from putting its own house in order.

anwar ibrahim pc 120508 03Anwar should realize by now that having an ambition alone is not enough. The truth is his hardly three-month old coalition is still fragile and uncertain. There is a lack of mutual understanding and a framework for cooperation within his coalition. Piecemeal approach to problem solving and decision making will expose yet another weakness of his coalition – the lack of a consensus on the way forward.

Inevitably, both Guan Eng and Azizan may have to go back to Anwar to mediate their dispute. Both leaders are driven by conflicting needs to stake a stronger claim of their respective leadership. Guan Eng has to ensure that water supply from Kedah to Penang is not disrupted or threatened and Azizan wanted more funds to develop his state. Both have to be convinced that there is a middle path out of their deadlock. Can Anwar pull it off?

For the longevity of Pakatan Rakyat, it is best that the coalition starts to operate and cooperate beyond one personality. No doubt Anwar is the ‘glue’ who put parties of extreme differences together but a coalition which does not see itself functioning beyond the leadership of Anwar has no future.

BN, for its own political expediency, will not jump in to soothe the situation and offer Kedah its RM100 million. Kedah Umno Youth has already started to criticize the move. Earlier, Azizan had announced that Kedah will be charging for its water supply. Perhaps, this is a better move for the state. Obviously, both Penang and Perlis cannot expect to get their water supply for free. Both states will have to work out a fair compensation to Kedah for the water supplied to them.

Similarly in other states controlled by Pakatan, the BN federal government needs the cooperation of the state governments to help implement its national socio-economic development plans. For the cooperation, the state governments could demand or negotiate for a fair compensation or monetary allocation from the federal government.

Food production

Its recent move to cut oil subsidies will trigger higher inflation throughout the country. Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Shahrir Samad had tabled a motion of support for the cuts and argued that the country’s deficit could balloon to five percent if subsidies are continued at the previous level. As expected, the parliamentary support he got came entirely from BN members. He should not rejoice at the outcome. If he is serious is getting support, the cooperation from Pakatan members is crucial.

ulu muda kedah 260608Food prices have increased by seven percent on average and any further increase may cause social disorder. If social protests erupted, most of the anger will be channelled towards BN and it will be blamed for its failure to govern. Already, protesters have planned to organise a mammoth demonstration on July 5 to protest against the oil subsidy cuts.

States such as Perak, Kelantan and Kedah can offer to become the basin for food production in the country. By helping to reduce our import bill on food, it will lower inflation and ensure that ample food stocks are made available to the people. For the efforts, these state governments should be compensated.

Hence, echoing the call of Perak monarch Sultan Azlan Shah, both BN and Pakatan should not continue to outdo each other but to work together to put this country on a better ground so that socio-economic progress can continue.

Azizan’s stubbornness may be a good indicator and a warning bell for Pakatan. Can the coalition stem its desire and lust of power and focus on putting its house in order or risk its own undoing?

From Malaysiakini

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