PKR Gets Set-Ready-Go for Saturday’s special congress
By Wong Choon Mei [Updated]
PKR officials are busy putting the final touches to Saturday’s special congress, where a raft of iconic reforms are due to be passed aimed at putting the party at the forefront of the country’s political league and strengthening its bid for national power along with its coalition partners.
A solid turnout is expected as delegates table motions that will give individual members direct voting rights to choose whom they want as their national leaders – from the party presidency, a post currently held by Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, all the way down to the 20-member supreme council.
At division level, voting is already on a one-man one-vote system, but a resolution calling for the process to be further enhanced by secret balloting and indelible ink is also on the cards.
So too are a tenure limit to nine years or three terms for the party presidency and a landmark qualifying-age reduction for Youth members to 35 and below.
“All the resolutions are so major, no other party in Malaysia has ever had the will to do it before,” Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin told Suara Keadilan.
“For me, apart from the direct vote, it is the Youth qualifying-age that will really do things for PKR. It will not only transform the party but also propel politics in Malaysia into a new and younger dimension.
“I am 32 years old so I can tell you it will influence people in my age group to become active in politics. And by operation of process, the political landscape will change accordingly. How will it change? It will get younger as young Malaysia gets more and more empowered. They will finally get a chance to put through their ideas and govern using their own style.”
Women empowerment is also another big thing at the PKR-do tomorrow, which will kick off with dinner on Friday night.
A resolution putting women in charge of at least 30 percent of all party posts is another reform aimed to reflect the reality of the times and the gender’s contribution.
“This is something PKR is very serious about and what we are trying to do is to give shape to that wish. We don’t want to just pay lip service and then do nothing. Women are and will be a vital part of PKR,” said vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah.
But attracting the greatest buzz is of course the direct vote to be given to PKR’s 300,000-strong membership.
Not only will members get to personally vote in their choice of national leadership, they will get to do it in style – again by secret ballot and using indelible ink!
The first vote will take place in 2010 when party polls are due.
“We are very excited and proud because no other party in Malaysia has dared to leave the choice to their members,” Teja assemblyman Chang Lih Kang.
“Whether you like it or not, this actually shows the current leaders are institutionalizing the party. Anwar Ibrahim and Wan Azizah are saying PKR is for the people, it is not our private sole-proprietorship!
“It is really a very generous gesture and will attract a lot of people into PKR. At the moment, many shun politics because it is viewed as corrupt and a game that only the rich and already-powerful can win. The others have no chance.
“But with this direct vote, the door is open. Meritocracy and popularity will be important. Everyone has a fighting chance if they wish to go for it. So I think we will see a huge jump in membership because of this.”
However, there were other members who wondered if the changes were overly bold and being taken too quickly.
“I am optimistic about the changes these resolutions will bring,” said Youth Chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin . “But maybe not all the motions will go through at one go. Some may hit a snag, but then this is truly what the democratic process is all about.”
“You must remember, we have delegates from all over including Sabah and Sarawak. They will be concerned about their representation in the party. Some thought must be given to that. So we may see heated debate but again, that is part of the process.”
Nevertheless, the majority view was to allow the system’s natural check-and-balance to correct and re-balance teething problems.
“It is like a child learning to walk. If you are too protective, he will only know how to crawl. But if you gauge the time is right and you are brave enough to let go, your child will surely walk even though he may fall down at first,” said Sim.
“So the same for PKR. There are critics who worry about corruption and vote-buying once it is open to all members. But this is so silly, the corruption will be grossly reduced. It is when you restrict it to a small number of delegates, then it is easy to buy out that small group.
“I am sure you know a good example of this type of corruption is Umno. Not only is it feasible to vote-buy all the way up to the Umno presidency but ultimately also the premiership of the country.”