Hornbill Unleashed

June 17, 2009

PKR Should Woo Tengku Razaleigh

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 5:35 AM
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By Kenny Gan @ hueditor

Zaid IbrahimDatuk Zaid Ibrahim’s (right) entry into PKR has given a boost to the opposition party. The reform minded moderate had been wooed by both PKR and DAP even before he resigned from the BN government in September last year over the use of ISA on civilians. Zaid was subsequently booted out by Umno for his presence at opposition functions. Well respected by both PAS and DAP, Zaid is expected to play a role in strengthening ties between the three Pakatan Rakyat parties.

Datuk Zaid was a prime target for the opposition’s courtship because it was clear that his reform minded personality made him a misfit in the Badawi administration and better fit for the social justice ideology of Pakatan Rakyat. Zaid is indeed a good catch for PKR but there is another prominent Malay leader who can also be said to be a “misfit” in Umno and whom the opposition should court assiduously. The person I’m referring to is none other than Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, also affectionately known as Ku Li.

A Brief Recap

Tengku Razaleigh HamzahTengku Razaleigh is a member of the Kelantan royalty and was once Finance Minister under Prime Minister Hussein Onn. In 1987, Razaleigh challenged Mahathir for the Umno Presidency and lost narrowly amid charges of cheating. As Tengku Razaleigh was dissatisfied with the result, Umno was seriously split into two teams.  The narrow loss frightened Mahathir who changed the Umno constitution to make it very difficult for anybody to challenge the incumbent.

The split in Umno led to a court decision to ban Umno and the establishment of Umno Baru by Mahathir. Unfortunately it also brought out the worse in Mahathir who began to compromise all of the country’s democratic institutions starting with the judiciary.

Two years later, Tengku Razaleigh left Umno to form his own political party, Semangat 46. But the new party failed to make much headway against BN in two subsequent general elections and was officially disbanded in 1996 with many of its leaders including Tengku Razaleigh rejoining Umno.

Sidelined in Umno

Ever since the prodigal son returned to Umno, things have not been the same. Tengku Razaleigh has been constantly sidelined in the BN government with no post of any importance given to him. A person of his stature should have been part of the Umno Supreme Council and a senior Minister but he is not even the Kelantan Umno Chief despite his strength in Kelantan.

Rais YatimAssociation with Semangat 46 is not necessarily a hindrance as others who joined or supported the defunct party have risen back in Umno, notably Abdullah Badawi and Rais Yatim.(left)

But Tengku Razaleigh is not content to remain in the backwater as he still harbours hopes of being Prime Minister. Twice he challenged the incumbent for the post of Umno President but failed to garner the required number of nominations to contest. He would need 30% of the divisions to nominate him to be eligible to contest but actually, he only got one from his own Gua Musang division in both cases.

The reason could be as Ku Li claims that he does not want to play the money politics that is symptomatic of Umno but one cannot deny that for sometime now, he has spoken in a voice which is discordant with the rest of Umno’s leaders and warlords.

Voice in the Wilderness

In the rough and tumble world of Umno where money talks, patronage rules and no dissent is tolerated, Tengku Razaleigh has stood out as one who will not fade into the of pack of Umnoputras jostling to be in eerie conformity to the top leadership.

He is the voice of moderation and restraint whether it is on race relations or oppressive laws or any gross injustice perpetrated by his party.

His stand against his party on the Perak power grab is clear. He is against the dubious method the state was taken over and advocates the dissolution of the Assembly to solve the impasse against Umno’s determination to hold on at any cost.

But his is a voice in the wilderness, ignored and unheard by the Umno leadership although applauded by the population at large. When he talks, Umno behaves as if he does not exist and none even bother to attack his stand. Tengku Razaleigh may as well be still in the political wilderness like his Semangat days

Clearly, Ku Li’s future does not lie in Umno. If he hopes to achieve any more earthly political ambition, it must lie outside the party.

Battle for the Malay Soul

There is no doubt that Tengku Razaleigh can do much for PR by bringing up Malay support a few notches. The battle for the Malay soul is the main battle that PR must fight with Umno and the outcome is of crucial importance to the future of the coalition.

Abdullah Badawi _headacheThe usual baseline Malay support for Umno stands at 55% and is notoriously difficult to shift up or down by much. To illustrate, Malay disgust over Mahathir’s cruel treatment of Anwar caused support for Umno to fall to 49% in the1999 general election while euphoria over Mahathir’s resignation and Badawi’s ascendancy saw Malay support rise to 60% in 2004. In the 2008 general election, Malay support stood at 55%.

But it does not have to shift by much to have a big effect. At the present level of non-Malay support for PR, a swing of 5% Malay support to either side virtually guarantees victory to that side.

While PAS battles Umno for the rural Malays, PKR must battle Umno for the urban Malays. Tengku Razaleigh can provide a good complement to Anwar by swaying support from Malay fence sitters who still harbour a lingering distrust of Anwar.

Despite PAS’ strength in Kelantan, it is worth noting that Ku Li’s parliamentary seat at Gua Musang is one which PAS has never been able to touch.

But Ku Li’s  popularity extends beyond the Malay community. He is one of the few Malay leaders besides Anwar who is acceptable to all races if he were to be Prime Minister. This is of crucial importance in Malaysia’s multi-racial mixing pot which is still stirred by ethnic insecurities.

Tengku Razaleigh will immediately bring huge respectability to PR as a government-in-waiting. With his entry, the battle for the political future of the country begins to tilt to PR’s favour. Putrajaya is in sight!

Who should be Prime Minister?

The problem is that both Anwar Ibrahim and Tengku Razaleigh want to be Prime Minister so who should get the job after a hard fought victory?

Anwar Ibrahim

At his age (now 72), Tengku Razaleigh can’t wait much longer but Anwar is known to have an impatient streak. This can be seen in Anwar’s failed bid to engineer the fall of the BN government by defections.

Perhaps Tengku Razaleigh can take the PM’s post first for one term and then let Anwar take over from then on, assuming of course that PR wins more than one term.

To be PM is Tengku Razaleigh’s burning ambition and he would want nothing less for his help so let’s hope that he and Anwar can come to a win-win agreement.

However it is clear that Razaleigh can only lay claim to the PM’s job if he leaves his comfort zone soon to fight together with the opposition. The road to Putrajaya is a long and bumpy one and it is hardly legitimate for him to waltz in and claim the top job after Anwar has struggled, fought and won the war.

Along the way, Anwar will face the possibility of being a reluctant guest of the government at Kamunting or Sg Buloh but Tengku Razaleigh’s stature and being part of royalty should keep him out of such dire surroundings.

The Future Beckons

When a person harbours ambition which cannot be achieved in his present situation, he is ripe to be courted to move to another place where he can hope to achieve it. If PKR isn’t courting Tengku Razaleigh now it would be a surprising oversight.

Other names bandied about as possible candidates for the opposition to court are Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin and MCA Deputy President Chua Soi Lek but both of them are unlikely to be successfully wooed.

khairysKhairy (left) has been denied a government post and he does hold some liberal views but his heart is with Umno and he is unlikely to move. At his age he can afford to wait to rise up the Umno ladder using the time tested formula of being radical and ultra-nationalist although glimmers of the real man sometimes shines through.

Chua Soi Lek is unhappy with being sidelined in MCA but he does not give PR’s ideology of racial inclusiveness much chance of success within his lifetime, probably due to long cultural conditioning of MCA’s politics of accommodation. However his threat to jump ship is a good way to gain attention to his plight.

Speculation of Tengku Razaleigh joining PKR is not new. At one press conference when Ku Li was asked if he will join PKR, his coy reply was that anything can happen in future.

So Tengku Razaleigh does not dismiss the possibility. The future is pregnant with possibilities for this elder statesman so let’s all hope he makes his move soon and help build a better Malaysia.

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“Hornbill Unleashed invites readers to email us at hueditor@gmail.com with leads or other specific information on issues or individuals involved in or related to the article above.”

:)

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