I am aware that there is a lot of explanation that has to be made on the decision to vacate the Kajang seat to force a by-election. I am also acutely aware of Dato’ Ambiga’s advice communicated personally to me that we have to be as honest as possible with the people.
Apology to the public
So let me begin by offering the sincerest apology to the Malaysian public especially the voters of Kajang. The by-election will certainly consume public money and public space at the time when the people have to go through economic hardship.
There is no excuse for wasting public money except to offer my sincerest apology and for the party to be prepared if the voters of Kajang decide to punish us.
In all honesty, as the strongest proponent of the scheme I bear most responsibility for the decision.
Dynamics in Umno, racial and religious controversies
Yet precisely because we are honest to ourselves and the people, we have to acknowledge that there are problems and challenges that we are facing in Selangor that require intervention.
While Khalid Ibrahim’s administration has shown sterling performance over the last 6 years that endears him to the public, there are rooms for improvement in many areas especially given the latest dynamics in Umno.
It is an open secret that the move to remove Najib Razak has begun. As a party strategist, I cannot rule out the possibility that Najib is removed and Umno falls to the ultras led by Mahathir Mohamad’s faction.
The unscrupulous attack and schemes to take Selangor by hook or by crook will begin the moment the weak Najib is removed. Even as we speak, Umno’s cards are all too obvious in the latest round of racial and religious controversies stirred up in Selangor in the last few months.
Should Najib fall, expect a full blown manipulation of racial and religious issues to create mistrust and frustration with the Selangor government.
Model state as a launchpad for Putrajaya
While Khalid Ibrahim’s administration has set a gold standard in integrity and prudence in managing public funds, we also have to admit there are also other areas that we can improve.
We need radical approach to solving the traffic woes, the pace of affordable public housing has to pick up. There is a need for more rigorous forward planning of water resources in Selangor and some hard decisions have to be made soon. We have to vigorously protect the rights of the minorities who are the targets of Umno’s political game.
As an MP, I certainly believe we can do better especially with regards to cleanliness and livelihood of the people. We have the potential to be a model state with least potholes in densely populated areas.
In other words, Selangor has to be doubly better than what it is today if it were to become a showcase for Pakatan in its quest for Putrajaya. Just as Istanbul was a launchpad for Erdogan and Jakarta is a launchpad for Jokowi, Selangor can be a great launchpad for Pakatan to take over Putrajaya.
Fortification of Pakatan in Selangor
The job is not done and we are about to face another round of onslaught from Umno.
Therefore, while it is certainly inexcusable to spend public fund unnecessarily in a by-election, it is an even bigger dereliction of public duty if we do not do anything, knowing that this round is going to be tougher.
What PKR and Pakatan Selangor need is a fortification so that we can expedite reforms and simultaneously fend off political attacks and manouvres from Umno. We need as many of our top leaders around Selangor to defend Selangor because it remains the crown jewel of any political coalition in the country.
Hence the decision to field Anwar Ibrahim for a state seat as this provides an option that we can readily exercise should the need arise.
Does this mean there will be a change of stewardship of Selangor government? Maybe yes, maybe no. But we do have the option to optimize our leadership potential if Umno stirs up more trouble.
Option is key. Having the option means having the flexibility of manouvres that can easily frustrate Umno’s game in Selangor especially with regards to racial and religious controversies.
Avoid the Kedah experience
At the end of the day, I know no amount of explanation can sooth the public anger. I only appeal for time to let the rationale sink in and space for us to do the necessary.
I also have to apologise on behalf of my party for the differences we have among ourselves that are seen as factional and often frustrates the public. Yet we trying our best to resolve it now for the sake of Malaysians, because not doing it now will certainly condemn us to the same experience of Pakatan in Kedah. We learn the lesson bitterly that differences must be managed early because the party always has to be whole to face Umno.
The game-changing Kajang Move
Good political leaders will never be popular. It pains me that we have to drag Anwar Ibrahim through this and subject him to public anger, yet his willingness to be a part of the bigger picture is the mark of the man.
Throughout the last few days, I reassured myself that it was Churchill who chose to be unpopular and remained a minority voice of alarm against the advancing Nazis till the end despite a public popularity to appease the Nazis. An the height of Nazi’s power, Churchill stood alone when every one else in Europe bowed to Hitler.
The conviction of doing the right thing, in the face of extreme criticism and public anger, remains a yardstick of what an honest leadership is.
I thank the top leadership of Pakatan who understand the necessity of doing this. I thank my comrades in the second leadership line up of Pakatan who have given the moral and political support for us to proceed.
I hope that one day when we are in Putrajaya, we can look back to the difficult days of what will be called the “Kajang Move” as the game changer in our quest for Putrajaya. I honestly hope that it will our defining moments that allow us one step closer to Putrajaya.
I maybe naïve and ridiculed for my naivette, but that’s as honest as I can be.
Let’s look ahead for a stronger Pakatan in Selangor posed to take over Putrajaya in the next election and don’t look back.
Rafizi Ramli is the MP for Pandan and strategic director for Parti Keadilan Rakyat