The problem with Tian Chua not calling Anwar the '8th PM'
by S THAYAPARAN
“Every full-grown emperor requires at least one war, otherwise he would not become famous."
― Erich Maria Remarque, 'All Quiet on the Western Front'
COMMENT | PKR vice-president Tian Chua did a great disservice to party deputy president Azmin Ali in the ongoing fiasco that PKR has presented to its supporters, in the midst of supposedly saving Malaysia. Tian Chua, like Azmin Ali, is part of the next generation of leaders who one assumes have learnt the mistakes of their elders but insists on playing the same games that brought us to this Neo Malaysia.
The only reason why Tian Chua thinks it is “mischievous” for PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim supporters to carry placards naming him the eight prime minister is because, as Tian Chua claims, PKR is split down the middle and Azmin loyalists do not like being reminded that Anwar is the heir apparent to the top job.
Tian Chua also puts the DAP and Amanah in an uncomfortable position by dragging them into this squabble. For instance when he says - “If Anwar is agreed by Harapan, he will take it (the post of PM) when Harapan is ready. It has got nothing to do with the whole public. Then, if Harapan decides that Anwar’s time is up (and) there will be another person, then it will be another person” - what does this mean exactly?
Harapan had decided that Anwar was to assume the top job. The then opposition campaigned on this because the idea of the old maverick retaining power was anathema to the base. Hence this idea that the post of the top job was fluid and that the Harapan decision-making process was a work in progress is disingenuous.
However seeing as how the “Harapan leadership” has backtracked and weaselled its way out the coalition's manifesto, what can you expect from this bunch? Do DAP and Amanah share this view or is this solely the perspective of Azmin's camp?
The only folks who would have a problem with displays of loyalty of Anwar becoming the next prime minister are those who do not want him to be the next prime minister and who want their own to be anointed.
If Azmin was demonstrating solidarity with his party when it came to issues affecting his party, it would not make a difference if he had a sub rosa agenda against Anwar. This is politics, after all. However, Azmin’s continued reliance on outsiders to ferment trouble and consolidate support is the existential threat facing PKR at this moment.
It is the height of mendacity and evidence of how far Tian Chua has turned into “politician” when he says - “How we want to arrange our leadership, that is none of the rest of the country’s problem, really.” So much for the “activist” who babbled on about people power but more importantly, for the base that Tian Chua is so dismissive of, who voted Harapan secure in the knowledge that Anwar would take over.
Did anyone see Tian Chua and the rest of Azmin loyalists make these bizarre claims of “dynastic” power structures or making the argument that Anwar was not fit for the top job before the election? Instead since gaining federal power, factional politics in PKR have been defined by who has the favour of the old maverick because the reality is – unlike what Tian Chua claims – it is the old maverick, and not the “Harapan leadership”, who would determine if Anwar becomes the next prime minister.
Tian Chua’s claim that overt support of Anwar becoming the next prime minister pits Anwar against the old maverick is mendacious. What this overt support is, is a reaction against the moves by provocateurs who would derail the succession plan and those who encourage the perception that Anwar will not be the next in line.
How does Azmin encourage this perception? He does so by carrying out acts that undermine the legitimacy of the handover of power to Anwar. He does so by thumbing his nose at the various party meetings and personalities that would ensure a cohesive response to issues affecting the rakyat.
Indeed, Tian Chua’s response is part of the agenda to encourage this perception too. The gall of Tian Chua proclaiming that supporters should not show “blind loyalty” to leaders when he is carrying water for Azmin without actually coming out and saying that Azmin wants the top job.
And this is the problem right here. Internal feuds within political parties is the norm. Azmin’s problem, and this is also Tian Chua’s problem, is that they want to make this a “Harapan leadership issue". They want to make it seem as though the “Harapan leadership” has a problem with Anwar becoming the next prime minister.
While they do this, they are busy seeking the imprimatur of the old maverick. Look, if Tian Chua and those loyal to Azmin were honest, they would do two things.
1. Not hitch their wagon to the old maverick.
2. Come out of the closet and make the case that Azmin is a better candidate for the top job.
This would be a far more productive move than going on about how factions need to work together even though they need not love each other. What this fight has done is make PKR weaker but even worse, infected the party with political operatives who are ensnared in the machinations of the old maverick.
What Tian Chua should be doing, if he really believed in this whole “reformasi” propaganda, is make the case why Azmin or anyone else for that matter is better suited for the top job. Instead, what he does is make the case that the feud between Azmin and Anwar is because of the challengers against Azmin’s role as the chosen one. And this from a man who claims that blind loyalty is destroying the party and turning it into another Umno.
Make the case for your preferred candidate and maybe the rakyat who you think has no dog in your leadership fight to either support or reject your candidate based on what they believe your candidate stands for. This is partisan politics after all.
I, for one, am always willing to listen to an outlier argument. Anyone who reads my columns understands that I have chronicled Anwar’s missteps even during the run-up to the historic Harapan win and after, while most partisans were suffering from a hangover.
I know political operatives who I consider smart people and long-time friends who are in the Azmin camp, hence considering a case for Anwar not assuming the crown is not verboten to me. And I believe many people too.
Instead what we get is a political operative telling the base that who leads them is not their concern.
Why does Harapan continue giving its base reasons not to vote for it?
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan