Wong Choon Mei
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31: PKR leaders have expressed confidence that Bayan Baru MP Zahrain Mohd Hashim will not quit their party nor instigate another 10 Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers to defect and give arch rival Umno-BN its much longed-for two-thirds parliamentary majority.
“This is clearly another case of the Umno-controlled media trying to create the impression that Pakatan is on the verge of a breakup,” Tian Chua, PKR strategic director, told Harakahdaily.
“And their reason is obvious – to deflect attention from the horrifying shortcomings of Prime Minister Najib Razak and his cabinet over the Allah issue, the huge capital flight and economic mismanagement, as well as Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s upcoming sodomy trial that has already been slammed by world bodies.”
Indeed Tian may have hit the nail on the head. At an event in his Pekan constituency, Najib was quick to latch onto the “the political crisis faced by the opposition leaders”.
“It has reached such a serious stage that it reflected a loss of confidence in the policies and administration of the Penang government," the PM told reporters.“The situation has reached such a stage that a group of PKR leaders have issued statements which I consider to be a clear rejection of what is being done by the present leader.”
Yet on the same day, it was his own Umno-BN government that Amnesty International condemned for pushing through with a sodomy “show trial” against Anwar. The global watchdog warned that the sodomy charges were against the rules laid out by the UN Human Rights Commission in 1997 and that the latest federal court ruling disallowing Anwar access to key evidence was against UN specifications of what constituted a fair trial.
Too smart to leave
Nonetheless, it was on Thursday that Zahrain surprised even his own colleagues in Penang by calling Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng a dictator, a Chinese chauvinist and a communist. He also questioned why Guan Eng had delivered one-third of a recent speech in Mandarin.
Zahrain’s outburst, coming hot on the heels of another controversy sparked by by Kulim MP Zulkifli Noordin, was immediately seized on and played up by the Umno-controlled mainstream media. According to their latest speculation, Zahrain was poised to jump ship and take along with him at least another 10 Pakatan parliamentarians.
On the hot list of those most likely to be enticed by the former Penang PKR chief were Selangor PAS commissioner Hasan Ali and Zul Noordin.
“I don’t see Hasan Ali leaving PAS at all. As for Zahrain, he’s a very shrewd man. It is highly unlikely that he will quit PKR and forego all the perks that he is currently enjoying in Penang,” Tian said.
“This is something for him to sort out with Guan Eng. It may well be that he wants to pressure Guan Eng for something or other. If Zahrain really wanted to go, he would declare his departure suddenly – when the time and the numbers are right. Not like now, no need to make so much noise.”
Tian also confirmed that PKR would be holding a supreme council meeting on Sunday but denied it had been specially convened to discuss Zahrain. “It is our usual monthly meeting and there are no plans to discuss Zahrain as reported in some of the press,” Tian added.
Upset over a golf tender to a RM2 company
Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Saturday, Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow blasted Zahrain for his harsh words towards Guan Eng, the DAP secretary-general.
“Zahrain should not try to provoke sentiments and attempt to break up Pakatan Rakyat in Penang by claiming that PKR has no say in the administration of the PR state government,” said Chow.
“How can Lim be a chauvinist when he went to jail and lost his parliamentary seat to defend a Malay girl who was detained even though she was a rape victim?”
Chow went on to reveal that Zahrain was upset because Guan Eng had refused to endorse his decision last year, when as chairman of Island Golf Properties, he had wanted to award a tender for the privatized management of the Bukit Jambul Golf Club to a RM2 company.
“As chairman of PDC, Lim had recommended that the Board of Directors over-rule Zahrain's award of the tender and called for a fresh re-tender,” Chow said. “The Board of Directors of PDC had accepted Lim’s recommendation that to give the tender of running the only golf club in Penang worth tens of millions of ringgit to a RM2 company would not comply with Penang’s CAT governance of Competency, Accountability and Transparency.
“Giving contracts to a RM 2 company would make a mockery of the change that Penangites voted for in the 2008 elections and make Penang Pakatan Rakyat no different from BN.”
Chow also rapped Zahrain for questioning why a third of Guan Engs speech during the first Pakatan Rakyat National convention on December 19 was in Mandarin.
“Clearly Zahrain was absent as Lim had spoken 85 per cent in Bahasa Malaysia with the remainder 15 per cent in English and Mandarin,” Chow said.
“But even if one third of Lim’s speech had been in Mandarin, is it a crime to speak in one own’s mother tongue? This extremist approach befits a typical Penang Umno leader and not a PKR or Pakatan Rakyat leader.”