Monday, March 01, 2010

The unhappy saga of Fairus

The news that Mohd Fairus Khairuddin, the controversial former Penang deputy chief minister, has joined Umno brings to a close a saga in PKR that was emblematic of the problems faced by the party prior to and after the seismic general election of March 2008.

Desperately short of suitable candidates to stand in the election, PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim had to settle on an unknown quantity in Fairus for the Penanti state seat in Penang, barely 48 hours before nomination day on Feb 20, 2008.

Penanti, one of three state wards in the parliamentary constituency of Permatang Pauh, then held by Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, was won by PKR in the 1999 general election on the back of Malay voter resentment over Anwar's public humiliation by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

But PKR not only lost the seat in the 2004 general election, its defeated candidate, Anuar Shaari, went on to join dissident Ezam Mohd Noor in quitting the party and criticising it from outside.

Like Ezam, Anuar Shaari was an Anwar lieutenant who by turning turtle exacerbated Anwar's problem of a shortage of suitable Malay candidates.

lim guan eng koh tsu koon penang land scandal issue 220409 fairus  khairuddinFairus came into the reckoning in the vacuum created by quislings and in face of the reluctance of potential candidates with superior credentials to enter the fray on account of the Barisan Nasional's strong showing in the 2004 general election.

Virtually nobody expected that the results of the 2008 general election would be radically different to the previous one. A reluctance to contest among opposition-leaning individuals had much to do with the as-yet unshattered myth of BN's invincibility.

But even given the power of that regnant myth, Fairus, a graduate in political science of the International Islamic University, and touted as a holder of double Master degrees, was the sort of fellow unfazed by the odds.

He had a track record, though one not known to PKR insiders, because none of them were from sports circles where the 30-something Fairus was already head of a silat society, one of many schools of the Malay martial art.

But unusual among such leaders, Fairus was ambitious for the unity of the various schools under one head - himself, of course.

His ability to speak English confidently and fluently enabled him to push himself forward in Olympic Council of Malaysia circles as the man who should be trusted to bring the various branches of silat, all zealous of their own turf, under one umbrella - with him as chief.

However, OCM officials became leery of him when his evident ambition was not matched by execution.

At an Olympic academy course in Kuala Lumpur to test young Malaysian sports leaders for selection to undergo a much-sought-after course at the International Olympic Committee's youth training academy in Greece, a keen-to-succeed Fairus was beaten to the top spot because of some flaws in his deportment, among them a lack of punctuality.

The great Malay hope

When the DAP swept all 19 state seats it contested in Penang in the 2008 general election, Anwar, with his keen antennae for what is felt by the Malay ground, took fright, especially after his candidate for deputy chief minister, Mansor Othman, was defeated in a sate ward in the parliamentary constituency of Balik Pulau, won by PKR's Yusmaidi Yusof.

Anwar must have felt that the Indian Muslim background of Abdul Malik Abul Kassim, PKR winner of the state seat of Batu Maung in the Bayan Baru constituency, was a disadvantage for the post of deputy chief minister to Lim Guan Eng, what with the rampant DAP performance and a consequent fear of Malay marginalisation.

Alas, the quintessential Umno attitude towards the ordinary Malay - that of feudal patron vis-à-vis ward - is a contagion that even Anwar, with a justifiable reputation as a transformative leader, is not entirely exempt from.

lim guan eng and penang deputy cm p ramasamy and mohd fairus  khairuddin 120308 meetingThus an incontestably Malay, Fairus, was selected as PKR deputy chief minister, to assuage supposed Malay anxiety at what was felt to be incipient Chinese chauvinism. It was a choice that quickly turned out to be disastrous.

The Umno-stoked propaganda, abetted by the BN-controlled mainstream media, about newly-appointed Lim's threat to Malay interests within days led to a demonstration of Class F contractors at Komtar.

Lim took the bull by the horns by addressing the demonstrators, several hundred in number, by assuring them he had neither the power nor the intention of abolishing the category of Class F contractor, a group mandated by the law and confined to bumiputeras.

In the reckoning of those who watched Lim tackling the crowd, the DAP secretary-general had passed his first test of adversity as chief minister.

Inability to be punctual

Meanwhile, Fairus, the great Malay hope in the circumstances, proceeded to embarrass his party and the Pakatan Rakyat coalition that was empowered by the opposition triumph in Penang.

His inability to be punctual was the most troubling of his several defects. Nobody seemed to know for sure why he was often late. Initially, he was heard to offer the excuse that funerals kept him tied up but when it was suggested to him that a sympathy appearance was sufficient to satisfy bereaved constituents, he ran out of excuses.

A lack of punctuality, the high turnover rate among aides hired to help him, underperformance at his state executive portfolios, and his maladroit handling of the ensuing discontent over his shoddy performance, all combined to undermine the image of PKR in the state government.

His PKR colleagues in the state executive council, Malik and Law Choo Kiang, were deeply embarrassed by Fairus' poor performance and were exposed to the resultant, albeit largely unspoken, derision of their DAP colleagues.

Malik, in particular, was faulted for alleged undermining of Fairus, who responded to the criticisms of his performance by blaming bad-intentioned elements within the state PKR.

It was left to Anwar to solve the problem, triggered by an error of judgement on his part. He prevailed upon Fairus to resign which the latter did in mid-April 2009, after 13 tumultuous months as DCM.

In the ensuing by-election in late May 2009, PKR's Mansor Othman was elected and went on be sworn in as DCM, replacing Fairus.

It was said the change for the better was evident at the very first meeting of the state exco hours after Mansor was sworn in early June.

mansor othman 300909In fact, Mansor (right in photo) went into the meeting straight after his swearing-in at the governor's official residence.

In the telling of an attendee, the vast contrast between Fairus and Mansor was clear within minutes of the meeting's start. The PKR component immediately breathed a sight of relief and the brief and unhappy tenure of Fairus not only came to an abrupt end, but was soon forgotten like a bad dream.

True, Mansor is not regarded as a radical improvement over Fairus, but the PKR complement in the state exco is no longer the object of derision.

The news that Fairus has joined Umno almost a year after resigning as Penanti rep and DCM of Penang state, suggests that even PKR discards have their uses for the BN.

news courtesy of Malaysiakini

No comments: