PKR is going all out to remove Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as the Selangor MB. But PAS one of its key partners in Pakatan Rakyat is opposing the move to replace Khalid with Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who is the PKR president and newly elected Kajang assemblyman. On Saturday, PKR sacked Khalid from the party. In this interview with The Star, PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution gives the party’s reasons why Khalid must go even if this causes friction in Pakatan with PKR and DAP on one side and PAS on the other. He is certain that if Khalid remains as MB, Pakatan will lose the state in the next general election.
Below is the full interview:
Q: What has gone wrong for Pakatan Rakyat? In the last general election, they looked like they were ready to govern, they even won the popular vote but now they are falling apart and in such a mess?
I am not the kind who has a denial syndrome. I believe whatever problem we are facing we have to first admit that ‘yes we do a problem’.
Before we reached the point we are at now, we have over the past six years made some progress. We formed a loose coalition consisting of three political parties (PAS, DAP and PKR) facing Barisan Nasional’s coalition of 14 component parties.
In Dec 2009, a year after we formed the coalition, we managed to come up with a common policy. I remember it was a Sunday and we had our three top leaders (Datuk Seri) Hadi Awang (PAS), Lim Kit Siang (DAP) and (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim sign a common policy and the things we agreed upon were on the position of the Ruler, Islam, the Malay language and article 153 of the Federal Constitution (on special bumiputera rights). The next day when I went to parliament, the first person to congratulate me was Tengku Razaleigh (Hamzah) who said we achieved what he had failed to do when he was the Opposition Leader (Parti Melayu Semangat 46 in 1990) which is get everyone to agree on these four things. He said this is why he had to have two coalitions – Gagasan Rakyat and Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah. I personally felt honoured being congratulated by such a respected senior politician like Tengku Razaleigh.
After that, we never failed to come up with joint statements on policy matters. Every year, we will come up with our own alternative budget (before the Finance Minister tables the Budget for the year in parliament ) and we also have the Buku Jingga (Orange Book which is Pakatan’s administrative master plan) which explains in detail what our policies are if people give us the choice to form the government.
We also came up with a short, simple yet attractive manifesto. We didn’t pluck this from the air. It involved a series of negotiation. The core word in Pakatan Rakyat is consensus. Each party can come up with their ideas. When we come to a Pakatan meeting, we defend the idea. If we fail to convince the other two parties, we cannot put it in the Pakatan manifesto.That’s how things work.
As a result, we managed to give a strong winning message prior to the last election in the sense that we were never prepared to be the loser. We put BN into a very defensive situation. That has never happened before.
Although we came up with a strong winning message, internally we do have problems. But those problems are manageable.
There are two things which triggered the situation that we have now. First was PAS trying to introduce the Private Member’s bill to enforce Hudud. The moment you raise things that have not been agreed to in the Pakatan policy, this causes problems.
We spent hours to come up with a joint statement on certain things, but it only takes one leader who did not attend the meeting to come up with a unilateral statement to cause problems. We can’t continue doing this because that will potentially give wrong signals to people.
But I believe that no one can break up Pakatan Rakyat – not even the issue of changing the Selangor MB. The real threat to Pakatan is Pakatan itself.
If individual parties keep raising issues that have not been agreed to, that will be the real threat in Pakatan. Pakatan faces the potential of break up if the individual component parties show no respect to the commitment given to the Pakatan promise.
This contributes to whether you can trust each other in Pakatan, which is not good for the coalition. All these are internal factors.
The more Barisan attacks us the stronger we will be. Your question as to what went wrong after a year, one is the Private Member’s bill on Hudud and the second the Selangor MB issue. This is a real test for Pakatan whether we can trust each other.
Q: You mentioned the need for consensus. Why didn’t PKR get a consensus from Pakatan to remove Khalid? Wouldn’t that have been better than causing a split with having DAP going along with it and PAS not agreeing to it?
There is actually a gentleman’s understanding in Pakatan that if we win in Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu, then a PAS assemblyman becomes the MB, if we win in Penang the Chief Minister would come from DAP, and if we win in Selangor it is PKR who gets to nominate who becomes the MB. This is not written in stone but comes from an understanding. The gentleman’s understanding is that the right to nominate the MB belongs to the party that is to head the state provided that party wins.
Of course if a party wins only one seat and its partners win 20 and 15 seats respectively then it wouldn’t apply.
In this election, PKR won one less seat in Selangor than it did in the 2008 election. Four days after the last election, Anwar had a meeting with PAS and DAP and told them that their parties have 15 seats each while PKR in Selangor has only 14 and wanted their views. They agreed that the MB post should go to PKR and we get to choose who gets who becomes the MB.
Both parties said they know they are problems in Khalid’s first term as MB because they are the ones raising this. This issue has been brought up many times at Pakatan meetings on Selangor.
When Pakatan tables reports on the various states it rules, Selangor is the state with the most of problems. This stems from two things. Because Khalid is not a team player and he is not accountable to the party’s policies.
It’s not that we want to dictate to him. But an MB should respect the policy of the party and that of the coalition he represents.
We first detected the latest problem with Khalid late year when we got wind there was an out of court settlement of his RM70mil loan with Bank Islam. This was done without the knowledge of even Bank Islam’s lawyer Tommy Thomas. For us, the issue raises questions of integrity with regards to the formula of the settling of his debts.
Also from 2010, we have had 136 meetings of which Khalid only attended 42. People may say he is busy. But I tell you the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Kelantan MB (Datuk) Ahmad Yaakob too are running the respective states but they don’t have this discipline problem.
If someone is not willing to be present in official party meetings, that is a problem, I am sure if PAS had a MB like him, they would have sacked him even earlier!
Since Khalid didn’t attend meetings, as secretary-general, I was asked to go and see him and I did.
When we discussed the Langat 2 water deal at our meetings, PAS and DAP voiced reservations, we took note but Khalid was not there.
Since Khalid wasn’t attending the meeting, the political bureau invited a few Selangor state exco members for the meetings especially on important ssues affecting the state to find out their version of what is actually going on in the state administration.
They are supposed to convey back what the party decided. We had to do this because Khalid doesn’t show up for meetings.
One of Khalid’s officers would regularly attend our meetings and we made him a permanent fixture at our meetings because we want him to be the link between the party and the state administration. Anwar, Wan Azizah and senior party leaders have met Khalid on this but still there was no change.
On one ocassion when Pakatan had a meeting at Kg Baru, there were three issues - the controversy over Khalid’s move to increase the allowance of the MB, the excos and the speaker; that the local councils be allowed to increase the tariff for licences and the letter (Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri) Dr Maximus Ongkili had sent to Khalid stating that the Federal Government was implementing section 114 on restructuring of water in Selangor.
That letter stated that it was due to the failure of the Selangor state government to act that the Federal government had no choice but to use the power of the minister to force the re-structuring of the water. This is such an important and significant letter which had bearing on the politics of Pakatan but Khalid did not inform us of the letter. In our manifesto we stated the structuring of water will not burden people in terms of tarif hikes and that the people of Selangor will be offered shares if there was restructuring. That was Khalid’s idea and a commitment given by him and Pakatan.
This has a direct impact on the commitment that we make together.
Then Anwar wrote to Khalid asking him to defer the increase of allowance until there is a discussion because it wasn’t too long ago that Pakatan rejected (PM Datuk Seri) Najib (Tun Razak)’s proposal to increase allowances for the MPs because we want to be together with the rakyat who are being burdened by rising costs. Khalid should at least inform the Pakatan presidential council of this intention and allowed us to give our views. But he announced it out of the blue. And that put us into a very bad light. We also asked him not to allow the business licence tariff to go up and to study it first but he didn’t listen.
The climax was when he signed the MoU on water without telling Anwar, Hadi or Kit Siang or the presidential council. When a state entered into agreement with federal government on water, the state has an advantage and you have to leverage the advantage to the benefit of the people (but he didn’t). We have Anwar’s experience in the Finance Ministry and other corporate figure who are willing to give their views and ideas. But he just went ahead on his own.
Q: PKR saw problems in Khalid’s first term as MB so why nominate him for the second term?
People can change and at that time we thought we should give him a chance. We thought after all the criticism had been made in the first term, he would be able to correct it in the second term.
As for the water, we had a Pakatan committee of three people looking into this and we provided solutions.
Changing an MB is not easy. The rakyat will ask why we changed him. That is how careful we guarded this even though we knew there are problems.
When it became apparent that he will not change, that expose’ on the Bank Islam out of court settlement of debt was the last straw. That broke our trust towards him.
The gentleman’s agreement is for PKR to propose the Selangor MB’s name so by removing him we are exercising it on the principle of the gentleman’s agreement.
But when PAS responded the way it did and opposed it, we were taken aback. Because at every Pakatan meeting, the strongest critics against Khalid was PAS Selangor.
Q: Why could you not move together as Pakatan to remove Khalid?
That is what we did on July 23 at the Pakatan meeting. At the 21 July PKR meeting, PKR agreed to one name to replace Khalid and that is Dr Wan Azizah. And two days later, we forwarded this at the Pakatan meeting. The three leaders present Guan Eng (DAP), Mat Sabu (PAS deputy president) and Anwar (PKR) agreed to two things. That Pakatan accepts that Wan Azizah is to replace Khalid and that PAS and DAP acknowledge that the right to pick the MB in Selangor is PKR’s right. The only thing is that because the PAS president Hadi wasn’t present that day, so PAS asked for this be announcd on Aug 10 so that they discuss and decide on it as a matter of formality. That was the consensus. If you have a partner in politics who agrees one thing officially in a meeting but then you have that party’s president (Hadi) later supporting the embattled MB, that is a problem. You might say that they agreed to nominate Wan Azizah but not to bring Khalid down. PKR is prepared to face this. We want to wait until PAS has its meeting after which there would be another round of Pakatan meeting. But the first commitment PAS had given us is that it is PKR’s right to put forward the name.
Q: But why nominate Wan Azizah as MB? She is not MB material. She is not politically savvy. Why not pick some other person?
Wan Azizah has been the PKR president for 16 years and has had experience as a MP. She has been the Opposition Leader before and now she is an assemblyman which gives her the legitimacy for us to put her forward as the candidate for MB.
As for leadership qualities, she has proven her ability to engage with all the leaders in Pakatan She has a clean record and she is a professional. How can we know her capability if we don’t give her a chance? When Pakatan ruled Kedah, they picked (the late Tan Sri) Azizan Abdul Razak as the MB. He was a university lecturer. He didn’t have the knowledge to administer a state but we gave him the chance. Did people know who (Datuk Seri) Nizar Jamaluddin was before he became the Perak MB? No one knew him. The only thing was that he is an engineer so a professional. He wasn’t part of the PAS central committee nor was he one of the PAS state leaders then. But when he ruled he was popular among the people. So this principle should apply to Dr Wan Azizah as well. And what about Barisan MBs? Is (Tan Sri) Adnan Yakob is (Pahang), (Datuk Seri) Ahmad Said (former Terengganu MB) MB material? (Datuk Seri) Idris Harun is the Malacca CM. He didn’t have experience in administering a state before. Only thing is he had going for him is that he is professional.
The only thing with Dr Wan Azizah is that people see her more as Anwar’s wife than her role as a leader of a political party or a political leader. People should be fair to her.
Maybe as the party secretary-general, people might not see me as being objective in my evaluation. But I must say that in her 16 years in PKR, she provides stability. That is important for the party.
Q: But she is a figurehead and a seat warmer. When Anwar was in prison, she contested his seat but when he got out and able to contest she gave up the seat for him. She is not a politician. In the 16 years as party president, she wasn’t actually running the party because it is people like you, (Gombak MP) Azmin Ali, Ezam Mohd Nor (who has since left PKR and joined Umno) and Anwar in prison who were actually running the party. She is just a figurehead. So how can people have confidence in her?
That perception is not all true. It is true that we were the catalyst. Our young energy, our experience in politics, government and in the opposition gave us this advantage.
Our strength is our ability to work as one team. But Wan Azizah provides direction and views. Many times when there is tension or heated discussions on something in a meeting and Wan Azizah gives her opinion, that temperature goes down.
How is it that different people arguing are able to cool down when the president who is a woman intervenes? That is the power of a woman. Over the past 16 years there has been many such occasions. During the early days, some of the younger people like me enjoyed taking to the street in street demonstration and there were others who thought it is better to draft out a policy for our struggle.
After a year or two ,Wan Azizah said that is time to cool our heads and gather the best brains among us and formulate a clear party policy and we followed. This is a leadership quality.
The thing is she has never been given a chance. If you know how she managed at times like that, she can provide a solution.
Q: But this looks like an excuse for Anwar to rule the state by proxy?
We cannot dismiss such a perception. Such criticisms that she is just a puppet has been hurled at us for as long as Wan Azizah has led the party. But tell me what impact has this criticism had. Look at our track record. In the first election we contested, we won 5 MP seats. Now we have 30 seats.
Logically why should people support a party where the leader is a puppet? A ‘spineless’ party where its issues revolve only around Anwar?
But study our performance. In 1999 we won 5 MP seats and 5 seats in the state assemblyman and got 800,000 votes.
In 2004 , no doubt our performance and that our partners took a hit because Pak Lah (former PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ) won a resounding victory in the polls. PKR only won one parliament seat which is Wan Azizah’s seat. In 2008, she still won even though she was called a puppet who takes up only her husband’s issues!
We won 31 seats and with our partners in Pakatan formed the government in a number of states (Kedah, Perak, Kelantan, Selangor, Penang).
I never underestimate the wisdom of the people when it comes to votes. They know what is sentiment and what is fact. A leader is evaluated on their track record.
Why was (former PAS president) Datuk Fadzil Noor seen to be successful? Because he manage to unite factions.
Why is (former PM Tun) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) seen to have left the office with a legacy? Just look at his track record. It is the same with Wan Azizah. From the time she led, we were a small party which some thought would close shop in a year. True we have had leaders who have left the party but in the 16 years we have never had a splinter party. We have gone through 4 general elections with Dr Wan Azizah – is this not enough?
If you think this is a concern with the people, then how do you explain why PKR has the most number of members among the opposition parties after DAP.
My answer is let the people judge. Judging from our performance, it looks like people see PKR as a formidable political party.
Q: Do you think Pakatan would lose in Selangor if Khalid had continues as the MB?
I will answer ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ no matter how many times you ask me.
Because it is just a matter of time before Umno uses these issues against Khalid which Umno knows inside out. So we should cut losses now before that happens. It’s as simple as that.
I know how Umno operates. I was part of that system before. They are keeping quiet now. But later on they will put us in a very defensive position
It is better to do it now. At least we will have two three years to recover and do the repair job and all the clearing up rather than we wait until last minute.
Q: Perception is that Khalid is a clean no-nonsense guy and stingy with money and it is greed in PKR that is motivating his ouster. And if Wan Azizah comes in, she will be approving projects to developers like nobody’s business ?
This is not true. Not only PKR but PAS and DAP said they had problems with Khalid because he is not a team player, not commited and not accountable to the Pakatan policy.
While we were trying to sort this out internally we continued to promote his as the best MB. We oversold Khalid. So now there must be a very strong reason why PKR is not being able to give and take anymore on this.
Late last year, we got wind that there was some arrangement being made to settle his loan with Bank Islam. It was a RM217 mil loan and he didn’t pay a sen back and he has been in and out of court over this. The bank had sold off some of his shares to recover the loan but he still owed them RM70 mil.
According to those in the know and corporate figures, the nature of the loan Khalid had taken can never be settled out of court.
So when there was this out of court settlement, it triggered alarm bells for us. Because something was not right here. We know of the political risk when Barisan exposes all of this.
So we verified the information of the settlement with Tommy Thomas, the lawyer representing Bank Islam, and it got us thinking that something definitely is wrong here. It just doesn’t make sense for the loan to be written off.
On Jan 15, the party made the decision to remove Khalid. But Anwar said to ‘hold on’ because there was no proof. So in Feb after Bank Islam made the announcement of the settlement, Anwar instructed me to go see Khalid for clarification. I went with (Sg Petani MP) Johari Abdul to see Khalid to ask him if it was true. Khalid said ‘yes’ and that he got to jimat duit sikit (save some money). I did ask who settled the loan for him but he didn’t say and went in to other details.
We asked him to explain to Pakatan leaders in a meeting how the loan was settled.
I’ll give you an analogy of the argument he made. Say you owe Bank Islam one million ringgit and never paid a sen and they took you to court and you lost case after case on this. But suddenly Bank Islam tells you don’t need to pay the loan off. So when I ask how come you don’t need to pay the debt? You said ‘because I told Bank Islam I want to sue companies A, B and C for RM5mil and the bank said if that the case, it is okay’. That was his reasoning . He said his debt was written off as he got an agreement from Bank Islam because he will sue PNB for RM300 mil and said that Bank Islam told him in that case, it was okay and that he didn’t have to pay back the RM70mil!
Anwar said as a former finance minister he was embarassed to hear such an explanation from Khalid in front of the other Pakatan leaders.
We had given him room to explain. We questioned him. We chose not to shame him . The reason we also brought in the water issue is because Khalid had signed an MoU with Dr Maximus Ongkili on the water restructuring in the state.
As a political party, we have to prepare for any eventuality. When we were busy with the Kajang by-election, he was busy signing MoUs one after another and making all sorts of statements against the party on TV.
Q: Why not just get the numbers within Pakatan for a no- confidence vote against Khalid if he doesn’t want to go rather than smearing him in such a manner? This goes against the Malay culture which is gentle, civil and one that ‘saves face’.
If we don’t explain, people will have questions why we removed him.
This is a risk that we have to take and let the rakyat deal with the perception. When Umno wanted to remove Pak Lah as PM, what did they not say about Pak Lah?
He had just led Barisan into an election victory again (in 2008 but with a simple majority) yet despite this, Umno wanted him out. That is the risk Umno took and today Umno is stable under Najib.
We did try to use our internal mechansim but when it wasn’t working, what choice do we have? Did we bring in up to discussion with Pakatan? Yes we did. We discussed it.
We could have just sacked him because he only came for 42 out of 136 meetings. We sent representatives and never got his co-operation.
Here we have an MB who doesn’t care about the party, who ignores the party and doesn’t respect the party.
For two weeks he promised to come and see Wan Azizah who is the party president and she waited and waited and waited for him and never got to see him!
Wan Azizah is right here in front of his eyes and he didn’t want to see her yet he could fly off to Kelantan to go and see (Tok Guru) Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
If what I am doing by exposing Khalid goes against the party, then let the party punish me. I am okay with that. If the rakyat feel our way of shaming him and goes against the Malay culture, let it be.
Because we are up against an MB who has no respect for the leadership of the party. He doesn’t respect at all the collective decisions of the party and he is not a team player. He doesn’t have any accountablity at all to the party. Now he is hanging on to PAS for his political survival and going around saying that the palace wants him to stay.
As for the question of wouldn’t it be good if PKR sat together with PAS to oust him, (strategy director Rafizi Ramli) made an analogy recently in a forum which is true with regards to our experience with PAS. He said PAS and PKR have been friends in Pakatan for six years and yet we can’t even agree on the candidate for the PM’s post.
A month before the election and after the parliament was dissolved, PAS came to us and told us that they don’t agree with Anwar as the choice for PM for Pakatan. For the past six years, we have been going around with them for ceramah sitting on the same stage where they had no problems when the emcee announces Anwar as the PM candidate for Pakatan. Yet a month before election, they come and tell us there is no consensus! During the 2013 Pakatan convention, we had wanted to announce the PM candidate, the seat allocation, the joint manifesto. In the end, we announced the seat allocation and joint manifesto but not the Pakatan candidate for PM because PAS had pulled the handbrake and didn’t agree. They said one thing in front of us and another behind us.
So when people ask why we didn’t seek consensus for the Kajang move for a by-election, tell me how can we do that. Because you can’t even agree with us on Anwar as the choice for PM, what guarantee do we have if we discuss the Kajang move with you that we will get an agreement. Do we have to wait another 6 years?
This shows just how difficult it is to get consensus if we sit and discuss with PAS so we went ahead.
Q: You used to be a PAS MP and you are close to PAS, so why do you think PAS doesn’t agree with removing Khalid?
I don’t have the answer at all. What I have is confusion in trying to understand PAS’ political action. Here you have Uztaz Hadi backing Khalid and this is being strengthened by the Syura Council and Dewan Ulamak too wanting Khalid to stay on.
So I want to ask PAS what wrong did (Datuk Dr ) Hasan Ali do for PAS to sack him from the party? Has he been convicted by the court? No. But why did they sack him? Because his action were seen to be detrimental to the party and had a bad impact on Pakatan.
(Hasan from PAS was the Gombak Setia assemblyman and the exco in charge of Islamic Affairs, Malay customs, Infrastructure and Public Amenities in the Selangor state government but he had differences with the state government particularly on issues on Islam and was vocal and openly critical of the Pakatan state government. On Jan 2012, PAS sacked Hasan from the party. He was also removed from the state government exco.)
If PAS can do this to Hassan Ali although he is known not to have commited any criminal act, they why do they defend Khalid when Khalid’s own party (PKR) doesn’t want him to remain?
I don’t have an answer why. I am confused because their (PAS) actions are not consistent. Uztaz Hadi, the Syura Council and the Dewan Ulamak have urged members to abide by their party president’s decision to stand by Khalid. But they are backing someone who doesn’t abide by his own party’s (PKR) decision and wishes.
Q: What lesson has PKR learnt from this?
We have to be more careful when choosing a person to hold such an important post.
We need someone who is loyal to the party and who is ready to be a team player.
No matter how great a player (Lionel) Messi is, Argentina still lost the World Cup. Germany might not have such great players but they won because they are team players.
The person holding public office must also feel humble and accountable to the party.
We’ve learnt this from the Khalid episode but it has been an expensive lesson for us.
Q; Why can’t PKR put up some other candidate for MB other than Dr Wan Azizah? Or if you can’t pick another, then allow PAS to nominate one of its assemblyman to be the Selangor MB?
That breaks the gentleman’s agreement that we have. You are asking PAS to be an opportunist party. It is not good for PAS.
We will not propose another name. We have already picked Wan Azizah. If we pick someone else, what guarantee is it that DAP will agree to it.
Let’s wait until PAS has its meeting and make a decision. Then we will decide what to do. We don’t want to consider another name.
Q: Why is PKR being so stubborn in wanting Dr Wan Azizah?
Why not ask PAS why are they being so stubborn? I’d like to know the reason why PAS doesn’t accept Wan Azizah and wants Khalid to remain.
There is talk that PAS does not want to accept Wan Azizah because she is a woman. If this the case, then they should come out and say so.
We want PAS to say this openly that they oppose Wan Azizah as MB because she is a woman. Let the whole of Malaysia know that the reason they don’t agree with Wan Azizah is because she is a woman . We want to know. Only then, are we prepared to talk. There must be a reason why they reject Wan Azziah. Wan Azizah never commited any crime or nor has she done anything wrong. If PAS feels only a man should be the leader or the MB, they should say it. PAS knows 51% of the voters are women and they have woman elected representative. Are they prepared to make that political decision? They should be open and come out and say why. This will make PAS more respected.
Q: Will Pakatan survive?
Personally I think so. Does Pakatan want to break up over the Khalid issue? PAS has to decide if Khalid remains or whether PAS wants to remain in Pakatan. PKR, PAS, DAP all know the risk and the impact if Pakatan breaks up.
This is why I believe Pakatan will survive. If we know the impact is bad, then why go near the path towards a breakup? I really don’t think Pakatan would break up over the Selangor MB issue. But if there are parties which do not respect and honour commitments made together and try to push through the Private Member’s bill (on hudud) (that contradict the commitments made), then we will have to see.