FMT EXCLUSIVE Opposition party PKR needs to wean itself off Anwar Ibrahim and start grooming a new batch of leaders to take it forward, said popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin who is now in exile in London.
He said that the party, and for that matter the opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat, was relying too much on Anwar for leadership.
“The problem with Anwar is that he does not have a good team. What if Anwar dies tomorrow? Do you mean that PKR or Pakatan Rakyat is also dead?
“No man is indispensable. Every one can be replaced, Anwar included,” he told FMT in an exclusive interview.
Raja Petra also disagreed with talks that Anwar was neglecting the opposition agenda as a result of his ongoing sodomy trial.
“The sodomy trial does not matter. What matters is that Anwar must have a good team.
“Even President Ronald Reagan was able to run the United States because he had a good team -- if you know what I mean,” he said.
“But this is what we do not have at the moment. Everything rests on Anwar’s shoulders. And that is bad.
“All they need to do is to send Anwar to jail or put a bullet in his head and we are all dead. How can we allow for that?” he added.
He stressed that the opposition's future should not be about Anwar. “Anwar can come or he can go,” he said.
Khalid has failed
Raja Petra also did not mince his words in criticising the leadership of Khalid Ibrahim as the Selangor menteri besar.
He said that Selangor is the flagship or jewel in Pakatan's crown and that therefore it has to perform better than Penang.
“But Penang is instead performing better than Selangor. Agreed, Khalid is facing a lot of obstacles. But so is (Penang CM) Lim Guan Eng, Azizan (Abdul Razak) in Kedah and Nik Aziz (Nik Mat) in Kelantan.
“But Guan Eng just plods on and takes these obstacles in his stride. He does not use them as an excuse on why he can’t perform the way he would like to,” he said.
He said Khalid failed to be “brutal” in attacking the remnants of Barisan Nasional in the state. He noted that there were “rats” happily nibbling away and plotting on how to bring Selangor down.
“But how many rats did Khalid burn? How many corrupt people did he line up against the wall and shoot dead?
“If Khalid can’t get rid of the rats, then he should go instead. Then let a new ‘Khomeini’ take over and clean up the state. That is the only way to save the state,” he said.
“If the fire is too hot, then get out of the kitchen. Don’t complain that you can't take the heat. There are others who can do your job if the job is too much for you to handle,” he added.
Performance of Pakatan states
He said that the people expected magic from the new Pakatan state governments and felt disappointed when they were not seeing any.
“They are only seeing some improvement. And they are not happy with this. But how much can the states do when a lot of things depend on the federal government and require federal government support or approval?
“They can’t even implement local council elections, which they promised the voters, unless the federal government agrees to it. And the federal government does not agree to local council elections. So the states are seen as breaking their promise to the voters,” he said.
He also said that it was important to have the backing of the state civil service for the Pakatan states to implement their policies.
“[But] many in the civil service in these states are Umno supporters and are working against Pakatan and are trying to bring down the Pakatan state governments.
“If we take into consideration the handicaps, acts of internal sabotage, and the thorns in the flesh from amongst the civil service, then I would say Penang and Selangor have done quite well.
“Let me put it another way. Penang and Selangor under Barisan Nasional would be far worse. So things can’t be any worse under Pakatan Rakyat,” he observed.
Excerpts from the interview:
Your views on the recent defections and do you think the Kedah and Selangor state governments are in danger?
I have already written about that at great length. Umno can’t be brought down from the outside. But it can be brought down from the inside. And if Kedah and Selangor fall, it will be because of the Trojan Horses in the opposition plus in the state civil service. And the Trojan Horses are in all the three opposition parties – PKR, DAP and PAS.
Kedah will dissolve the state assembly and call for fresh state election if there is just one more defection. Actually, they might as well dissolve the state assembly now because there may be more defections soon.
Why wait like Perak when it is already too late and you have already lost your majority in the state government? Then the Sultan can refuse your request to dissolve the state assembly since you no longer have the majority in the state assembly. Do it while you still have the majority, not after you have lost it.
How would you rate Pakatan's performance, especially in Penang and Selangor?
It depends whether you gauge their performance against the old regime or you look at their performance in isolation. Compared to the old Barisan Nasional government, Penang and Selangor under Pakatan Rakyat have done better.
But then we are comparing bad to worse and of course bad is better than worse. But people are not happy with just being better than worse. They want to see good - which is better than bad and far better that worse.
The SIHRG event in London on May 22 was your first formal public appearance since you left Malaysia in the middle of last year. What took you so long to come out in the open?
I was always in the open. I walked the streets and attended functions and met many people, Malaysians as well as non-Malaysians. Umno people, ex-ministers included, even came to my house for dinner.
One even asked for permission to give my phone number to Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the second time he came for dinner, he confirmed he had given my number to Mahathir.
I have been meeting more Barisan Nasional people here than when I was back in Malaysia. Maybe they feel safer meeting me here than back in Malaysia where someone might spot us together.
Do you know how many Malaysians (Malays, Chinese, as well Indians) own restaurants here in the UK (not only in London but in the other cities as well)?
I have been to almost all these restaurants and have met all the owners. I even signed the visitors’ book and many other Malaysians who signed the book after me have seen my name and one even took a photograph of that page and put it in his blog.
Can you give more details on your future plans?
I have no plans to speak of. I will just continue doing what I have been doing for more than 30 years since the 1970s and over the last 12 years since reformasi in 1998. And that is to write and speak on matters of social justice and fundamental human rights.