Monday, March 01, 2010

PKR defectors’ independence questioned

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politicians and analysts have dismissed a suggestion that the recent defection of two PKR MPs and the threat of more defections would result in the emergence of a bloc of Independent lawmakers in Parliament.

PAS national unity committee chairman Mujahid Yusof Rawa scoffed at the possibility of an Independent bloc in Parliament and said that in Malaysian politics, there was no such thing as a “truly independent” lawmaker. “They are either here (PR) or there (Barisan Nasional),” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The Parit Buntar MP cited the example of the Perak when three PR assemblymen — two from PKR and one from DAP — left their parties to become Independents friendly to BN.

“This is just a political game. They announce that they are leaving now but they will later say they are friendly to Barisan,” he said.

Even if the deserters remained as Independents, said Mujahid, he predicted that the bloc would be used as a back-up for the BN government to win votes in Parliament.

Former PKR secretary-general Datuk Salehuddin Hashim, who has also quit his party, predicted today an exodus of PKR lawmakers. This would result in a whole new faction in Parliament — an Independent bloc — which Salehuddin did not discount happening.

DAP’s Lim Kit Siang said the defections showed that “painful and agonising though it may be”, PR needed to undergo a “self-cleansing process”.

Lim told The Malaysian Insider that if PR wanted to regain voter confidence, they needed to clean up house. “It may be painful and agonising but we have to go through it,” he said.

Lim did not want to speak on the viability of having an Independent faction in Parliament and merely said: “Let them play up the theatre first and we will see what happens. All I want to say for now is that Pakatan needs to undergo some self-cleansing.”

PKR national vice-president Dr Lee Boon Chye said the PKR defectors would find themselves to be fairly restricted in their quest to become truly independent MPs in Parliament.

“Already in the current situation, even as a strong opposition with a third of the seats, we find it difficult to balance the dominance of the Barisan so what more when you are an Independent,” he said.

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat agreed with this and echoed Mujahid’s views that Malaysian politics did not have room for a “third force”. He noted that the independent MPs would not be truly free from influences from either PR or BN. “After all, how many lawmakers do you know are truly aware of their duties? Defecting from their respective parties do not make them better Parliamentarians,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He also pointed out that defectors would have little influence in winning over votes for BN. “The voters have already made up their minds so they do not want a third force. At the end of the day, these ‘independent MPs” would have to choose which side they want to be friendly with. “If in the next elections they want to stand in a three-tiered fight, they would lose,” he said. “The real damage is if the people think that these defections mean that the PKR is split and that Pakatan is weakening,” he said.

In announcing his departure from PKR today, Nibong Tebal MP Tan Tee Beng said that he would remain as an independent candidate and would not be “friendly” to either coalitions. “If I am ‘friendly’ then I am not independent, am I?” he told a press conference this afternoon.

Tan’s departure is the latest departure of PKR’s federal lawmakers, following Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim’s recent decision to also leave PKR.

Former PKR deputy president Dr Chandra Muzaffar said he believes that the existence of more independent lawmakers was a healthy scenario but admitted that the group would have little legislative influence. “If you look at the Malaysian Parliament, the ruling coalition has a comfortable majority to a point that they do not really need these independent legislators to pass bills. Unless of course, they have problems with the attendance of their own MPs,” he told The Malaysian Insider tonight.

He noted that he had little confidence that the group of independent MPs would represent a unified voice in the Parliament as they all came from different ethnic backgrounds.

“Tan and (Pasir Mas MP) Ibrahim Ali will not team up, for example. However, if they could stand united on certain issues especially on ethnic issues, then they can play the role of a multi-ethnic bloc. They can become bridge-builders and this would be very good,” said Dr Chandra.

At this point however, he said that it was difficult to imagine such a thing happening and noted that truly independent lawmakers were hard to come by, especially if they chose not to vote with their conscience in Parliament and instead began, again, to take sides with either party.

BN currently controls 137 seats in Parliament while PKR and DAP have 28 seats respectively. PAS holds 23 seats with one from Socialist Party of Malaysia. Five others are independents. BN needs 11 seats to retain its two-thirds majority.

news courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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