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Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail must first prove to herself and others that she is a capable state assemblyman before the possibility of her becoming Malaysia's first woman Menteri Besar can become a reality.
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IT’S a question that even the newly-elected Kajang assemblyman avoids, although she does not rule out the possibility.
For detractors, Kajang representative Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail cannot become Selangor Menteri Besar for various reasons.
Rumours were rife that her husband, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, would dislodge Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim following her victory in Kajang after the seat was left vacant when PKR’s Lee Chin Cheh suddenly resigned.
Apparently, Lee’s resignation was to pave the way for Anwar to become the Menteri Besar upon securing a place in the Selangor assembly.
But things took a different turn when the Court of Appeal sentenced Anwar to a 5-year jail term on March 7, after overturning his acquittal for sodomising his former political aide in 2008.
The court’s ruling disqualified him from contesting in the by-election.
Predictably, Dr Wan Azizah replaced Anwar and won the seat with 16,741 votes defeating Barisan Nasional’s Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who garnered 11,362 votes.
Political analyst Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria does not agree with the view that Dr Wan Azizah is an incapable leader.
In fact, he brands her as a powerful national leader and a symbol of struggle.
“She has held Pakatan Rakyat (PR) together and has a strong acceptance across the board. She is not a stopgap leader and despite the reduced majority, she is admired by many, so we cannot dismiss her talent and ability to lead.”
However, having her replace Khalid will have long-term ramifications for PR, he adds.
While the party has the prerogative to make such changes, he adds, the decision to do so must be substantiated with very strong reasoning.
“Why the change? What is the problem with the current Menteri Besar? All these questions must be answered. Selangor and Penang are perceived as the best state models. Khalid has proven to be a technocrat, professionally managing the state to date.”
“Either something must be wrong with the personality (in question) or policies in place are wrong. They must have the buy in from party members, voters and the people of Selangor before making such a decision as it’s an irregular practice.
“Pakatan has always claimed that it is people-oriented and accuses BN of being insensitive to the people’s needs.
“If Pakatan truly is people-oriented, then it should explain the recent ‘Kajang Move’ as it seems to have bulldozed its way into Kajang (without a clear direction of its motives).
“It has also reduced the number of civil service representatives and replaced them with political representatives when appointing local councillors.
“This is its second term in power and it is already showing early signs of political arrogance.
“I am not criticising Pakatan, but merely raising cautionary points. As a party in power, it has to show some public accountability and exercise transparency or there will be a political gap. It has to remember that people who vote its leaders in can also vote them out.”
While not undermining her capabilities as a woman, MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon claims Dr Wan Azizah is merely acting as Anwar’s proxy.
“If she is going to be the Menteri Besar of Selangor, we know who will actually be leading the state. She has always stepped in for Anwar. She took charge as MP for Permatang Pauh for him.
“She took over the leadership of PR for him and now she contested and won the by-election for him as well.
“I am not judging her as a woman, but speaking purely based on her performance as an MP for Permatang Pauh. There were grouses that she never resolved the people’s problems. I hope the same does not happen in Kajang,” Chong told The Rakyat Post.
In a statement released by MCA Youth, Chong said if Dr Wan Azizah were to resign from her post, Kajang would have to undergo yet another “senseless” and expensive by-election to suit the whims and fancies of one man.
“How can we be sure that Dr Wan Azizah is not just Anwar’s proxy? Does this not have consequences to the people of Kajang? The ‘Kajang Move’ is only meant to benefit Anwar’s family and quell PKR’s infighting,” says Chong.
Apart from getting the approval of the Sultan of Selangor, Dr Wan Azizah also needs to get the support of the people of Selangor as she is answerable to them in many ways.
Freelance producer Md Fauzan Harris says she does not possess the strength nor the resilience to lead a state as economically important as Selangor.
“She is always overshadowed by her husband. I don’t remember her doing anything great for the rakyat when she served as the replacement MP (Member of Parliament for Permatang Pauh).
“PAS doesn’t have the strength to control Selangor despite winning a huge number of seats in the state in the last general election. I also don’t think BN has an outstanding candidate. So it’s pretty difficult to judge at this point. I prefer Khalid to be retained,” says Fauzan.
Businessman R. Shiva says political manoeuvrings can only instate Dr Wan Azizah as a state assemblyman, but not as a Menteri Besar.
“Anwar will make a good Menteri Besar, in fact, better than Khalid. However, I doubt Dr Wan Azizah can pull it off.
“You’re talking about one of the most populous states in the country with more than 5 million people. Half of them are very well-educated. With Wan Azizah’s ‘womanly’ demeanour, I don’t think she has the stamina and charisma of a state leader.
“She might be able to do a good job as an assemblyman. As a Kajang resident, I don’t miss the previous representative because he barely did anything.
“However, I hope Dr Wan Azizah will sort out some of the basic problems,” said Shiva, citing traffic, safety, cleanliness, proper town planning and infrastructure development as major concerns.
Still, Shiva is willing to give Dr Wan Azizah a chance to show what she can do.
Dr Wan Azizah has a long way to go to convince people of her capacity to lead and squash the perception that she is just a puppet in the hands of a very capable master.