Plac­ard in­ci­dent shows in­signif­i­cance of PPBM

New Straits Times - - News -

NEWS­MEN jos­tled through the crowd in the mod­est Raja Muda Musa hall on Sun­day to reach Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad as he walked to­wards his ve­hi­cle af­ter the 12th PKR Na­tional Congress.

They wanted to know why the Parti Pribumi Ber­satu Malaysia (PPBM) chair­man did not raise the blue plac­ard that de­clared his former neme­sis and pro­tege, Datuk Seri An­war Ibrahim, as Malaysia’s “7th Prime Min­is­ter”.

Dr Ma­hathir re­fused to an­swer whether he sup­ported An­war as the prime min­is­ter-des­ig­nate. But, later, in the split sec­ond be­fore he en­tered his ve­hi­cle, the el­der politi­cian smiled and nod­ded slightly as a sign of con­fir­ma­tion.

His loy­al­ist and PPBM pres­i­dent, Tan Sri Muhyid­din Yassin, had left the event soon af­ter the plac­ard gim­mick and Dr Ma­hathir was left won­der­ing whether he had just been de­liv­ered a hard blow by PKR lead­ers — Muhyid­din is no longer the cho­sen one as much as he and Dr Ma­hathir had hoped for.

The in­ci­dent, to all and sundry, de­picts the amount of in­flu­ence or clout pos­sessed by Dr Ma­hathir’s PPBM. More of­ten than not, most ob­servers tend to for­get that PPBM is al­ready a part of the Pakatan Hara­pan op­po­si­tion pact. In re­al­ity, that is how in­signif­i­cant PPBM is.

While it is full of no­ta­bles at the top, PPBM re­mains a fledg­ling try­ing to find its foot­ing in former en­emy ter­ri­tory, an­a­lyst Prof Dr Si­va­mu­ru­gan Pan­dian says.

“PPBM’s strug­gle is against one man, but its part­ners are against the sys­tem. Be­tween PPBM and the rest of Pakatan Hara­pan mem­bers, they have dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tives de­spite a few sim­i­lar­i­ties. It is still try­ing to find its place in the pact, in the com­fort of strangers.”

The unan­i­mous vote for An­war by Pakatan Hara­pan lead­ers is also seen as a sub­tle tap to re­mind PPBM and Dr Ma­hathir of their place in the pact; but PKR vice-pres­i­dent Tian Chua put it clearly dur­ing a wind­ing-up speech at the congress when he said: “Back then, dur­ing such gath­er­ings just like this one to­day (Sun­day), we called for Dr Ma­hathir to step down from of­fice. And, now, Dr Ma­hathir and Muhyid­din are among us. And, when he was at­tacked by me­dia for com­mit­ting a ‘U-turn’, Dr Ma­hathir said only stupid drivers did not take U-turns.

“But, An­war is way smarter. He was wait­ing at the junc­tion for his friends to take the U-turns. (An­war would say) ‘Where did you go? I had al­ready told you that this was the right di­rec­tion!’.”

PKR’s plan to make An­war the prime min­is­ter can­di­date is also a re­minder to Dr Ma­hathir that he is not in a po­si­tion to de­mand as he pleases, un­like what was por­trayed or per­ceived ear­lier.

For in­stance, PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ah­mad, in his speech at the wing’s assem­bly, said while PPBM was wel­comed into the fold, it would have to learn a thing or two about work­ing with its new part­ners.

“I know that the ac­cep­tance of PPBM (in Pakatan Hara­pan) is re­ceived by some with mixed feel­ings. But, changes in pol­i­tics de­mand com­pro­mises.

“If back then, we told Dr Ma­hathir that there should be no lead­ers with ab­so­lute power, to­day will be the op­por­tu­nity for us to ed­u­cate him on why com­pli­cated but prin­ci­pled ne­go­ti­a­tions should be car­ried out be­fore reach­ing a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion.”

Per­haps, Dr Ma­hathir and his acolytes thought brand names would be more than enough to com­mand the reins. How­ever, such per­cep­tions thin as soon as they step into the new wilder­ness.

It is no se­cret that Dr Ma­hathir had never wanted An­war to be­come the prime min­is­ter fol­low­ing their fall­out al­most 20 years ago. In fact, he had even said Pas pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Ab­dul Hadi Awang was the bet­ter can­di­date since the former Tereng­ganu men­teri be­sar did not have any bag­gage.

Dr Ma­hathir, too, is lum­ber­ing ahead of a huge bag­gage af­ter 22 years as prime min­is­ter. Worse, spec­tres of past are catch­ing up with him to show that noth­ing, in­clud­ing his as­tound­ing po­lit­i­cal prow­ess, lasts for­ever.

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