By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR party is positioning itself for national power along with its Pakatan Rakyat partners by taking iconic steps aimed at showing Malaysians that it is serious about fighting corruption and providing a government that is truly by the people, and not just a clutchful of select leaders.
Nearly 2,000 PKR delegates from all parts of Malaysia including Sabah and Sarawak will meet up in Kuala Lumpur this Saturday to debate key resolutions that if passed will put the party at the forefront of the country’s political league.
The chief among these will be a one-man one-vote system for the election of top party leaders. Not a light task considering that PKR has more than 300,000 members, and new recruits growing at 10,000 per month.
“We will be the first in Malaysia to implement this and rightly so because PKR stands for justice and democracy,” vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah told Suara Keadilan in an interview.
“It is indeed fitting for us to flag off this practise which hopefully the other political parties will follow and adopt. It paves the way for a stronger, healthier and more transparent Malaysia.”
PKR is also planning to limit to three terms or nine years the tenure of the party presidency. It wants to expand the number of vice presidents from five to seven and reduce the qualifying age of the Youth Wing to 35.
The congress will also seek an express commitment from the party that women shall hold not less than 30 percent of all positions.
Said strategic affairs director Tian Chua: “These are giant steps forward for PKR. They will enable us to become a truly people’s party entrenched with progressive and democratic values. It will also enable us to expand and reach out to the masses more effectively.
Party members welcomed the changes, describing them as broad-based reforms aimed at strengthening the party and its future rather than to uphold the power of the current leadership.
Reducing the tenure of the presidency would head off potential abuse of power and ensure that those who got elected did not waste time getting down to work if they wanted to make a mark on both party and the country.
“All of these measures were initially drawn up last year around November,” said Sivarasa, who is also the Subang MP.
“What we have been doing since is to gather the feedback, dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s. It is not out of the blue, it requires huge preparation and we are not following Umno. We are trail-blazing, they are following us.”
According to Sivarasa, increasing the number of vice presidencies was a top necessity to reduce the workload on the current team and ensure tighter administration.
“We are growing so fast, five VPs is not at all enough. Just last week, the supreme council approved 10,000 new members and the week before it was the same number. Growth is phenomenal,” Sivarasa said.
Engaging and empowering young Malaysia
Cutting the maximum age for the Youth wing to 35 would also motivate young professionals to join and be active in PKR.
“We need to empower the younger people, to engage them in the decision-making process. That way we can ensure a very vibrant PKR, full of young ideas and vision that is in sync with the rest of the nation,” said 32-year old Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin.
“We don’t want our Youth wing to be like Umno’s where old hags like Khir Toyo and Mukhriz Mahathir dominate. This is a pretty exciting change for PKR and it speaks volumes about how serious it is in wanting to engage young Malaysia. Power is for all, not just the old and the privileged.”
The party is also bent on getting women to be more active although party members acknowledge that it might currently be tough to achieve the target of at least 30 percent women in party posts.
“At the moment, it is still male-dominated, but we hope this will change quickly especially with the commitment from the party,” said Sim.
PKR currently has a president, Wan Azizah Wan ismail, a deputy president, Syed Husin Ali, five vice presidents Azmin Ali, Sivarasa Rasiah, Lee Boon Chye, Jeffrey Kitingan and Mustaffa Kamil Ayub, and a 20-member supreme council.
A rebranding exercise will also be take place, with the supreme council renamed the central executive committee and the state liasion committees the state executive committees.
The polling process for division leaders, who currently are already elected by individual members, will be enhanced by secret balloting. This will replace the existing show-of-hands system.
“All these are to encourages greater participation in the party’s activities and decision-making. We are a party of the people and it only right that we put in steps to ensure that they can play an effective role,” said Tian.
“The last thing we want is to be like Umno where only 2,500 delegates get to make the decision for the grassroots and the country as a whole. Just imagine the corruption involved. It is an outright abuse and mockery of the democratic system.”