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PKR out to clean up its act

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 11, 2009

THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

By Debra Chong

PETALING JAYA, June 10 — After 10 years of being in Umno’s shadow, PKR is finally taking steps to correct the widespread impression that it is just another breakaway faction of the grand old party now facing a crisis of public confidence.

At a press conference today, vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah announced a special national congress on Saturday to pass several changes to its party constitution, notably giving its 300,000 members the chance to vote directly for its top central party leaders, including the president.

He said direct voting through secret ballots was a chance to show the Election Commission how free and fair elections can be run properly.

“We are also taking the opportunity to rebrand the terms used in the party structure to reflect terms that are progressive and more egalitarian, and to move away from terms associated with traditional party structures and feudal connotations,” said Sivarasa.

He rejected a suggestion that the special meeting to pass changes to the party constitution was a knee-jerk reaction to recent events affecting PKR and its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance at large.

The MP for Subang explained that the party was supposed to have the congress in February but it had been set aside to allow the party to focus on the series of by-elections in Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang, Batang Ai and Penanti.

He added the party had started the groundwork last year and taken its ideas to the grassroots around the country for feedback. The response was highly positive.

The central committee is confident the proposals will be well-received by the delegates on Saturday.

Sivarasa stressed that the party was rebranding itself to be more inclusive, to mirror its multiracial, multireligious members, namely the growing numbers from Sarawak and Sabah, in a deliberate attempt to move away from the traditional and “feudal” political party structures, such as money politics and phantom members.

Information chief Latheefa Koya told The Malaysian Insider that some older members were still stuck with the Umno way of thinking and needed to be reminded that the party needs to be more inclusive if it is to be serious about taking over the national government one day, and soon.

The changes to the constitution, Latheefa noted, would help clean up the party of members with such outdated mindsets.

She explained that changing certain references, for example, renaming division or “bahagian” as it is known in Malay to “cabang” and “cawangan” to “ranting”, may appear minor cosmetic changes, but is far from it.

It is to remind not only the older members but the public that the true spirit of PKR lies in the struggle to bring about real democratic reforms, as championed by political parties in Indonesia and also in Malaysia’s past, Latheefa added.

PKR communications director Jonson Chong said the proposals needed to be passed by two-thirds of the delegates in order for the constitution to be amended.

Chong said he expected a turnout of some 1,500 delegates on Saturday.

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