On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

An act no one can fathom

The superimposed picture was so badly done that even a primary school pupil could tell it was a fake but that did not stop the PKR information chief from posting the doctored photograph on his blog. 

Worried about the impact of the picture, bloggers have come out to condemn Tian Chua for his reckless act, saying this was not the first time the politician had reacted in such a thoughtless manner. 

The superimposed photograph purportedly refers to the testimony of prosecution witness Burmaa Oyunchimeg, 26, who told the murder trial that she had seen a photograph of Altantuya dining with Abdul Razak and a Malaysian government official known as “Najib Razak”. 

The photograph in question was not shown in court and Najib had, in the past, repeatedly denied knowing Altantuya. 

Last week, angry government backbenchers criticised PKR for posting the picture, saying it was despicable and shameful, and described the antics of Tian Chua as cheap theatrics. 

Opposition leaders called up newspaper editors to share their displeasure and embarrassment at what Tian Chua had done. They said it was another example of his self-destructive nature. 

In March, Tian Chua attempted to drive through a barrier during a demonstration and nearly hit a man. And during the reformasi protest in 1998, he sat in front of a Federal Reserve Unit truck a la “Tiananmen Square”. 

In his blog, Tian Chua admitted to posting the doctored photo but tried to justify his action by arguing his case from an art-history perspective. He said that “in my digital representation, it seems people are able to see what their eyes cannot”. 

He has insisted that the picture was done in a “Monty Python” style artwork, in reference to the British TV comedy show which began in 1969. 

In his posting, he wrote: “Some of you may have concluded that I am a lousy politician” and “I must confess my first passion is not politics but art, particularly drawing.” 

For someone who always demands integrity and credibility from government leaders, Tian Chua has failed to explain his action convincingly. 

His arty-farty reasoning – including drawing parallels from the works of Realist artists like Leonardo Da Vinci – may sound impressive to his diehard liberal fans, but it does not strike a chord with the grassroots. 

Party adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and party president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail have so far not commented on Tian Chua’s action. 

Their silence is understandable because Tian Chua’s popularity in the party has been deteriorating. A one-time party vice-president, the Malacca politician chose the safety of the appointed information chief’s post during the recent party polls. 

He had wanted to contest the Machap by-election but the DAP was given the task of facing Barisan. 

Although Tian Chua has consistently shown himself to be a liability to PKR, there are few activists as committed as him in the party. Whatever his faults, he has remained an idealist who is prepared to stick his head out and champion the cause of all races. 

He also has to manoeuvre in a party dominated by seasoned ex-Umno leaders who have tasted power and wealth. 

There is grumbling in the PKR ranks that the titled, rich and influential seem to get preference for party positions, leaving non-government organisation activists out in the cold. 

That perception is not entirely wrong because a few human rights activists who contested the recent party polls lost badly. Obviously, old-style politics has again beaten youthful idealism.  

Worse, racialism seems to have surfaced at the party polls. 

Just last week, a string of resignations involving top Selangor figures rocked PKR even as it was recovering from former Youth chief Ezam Mohd Nor’s decision to quit. 

A total of 22 top office-bearers from the Shah Alam and Sepang divisions resigned on Thursday, including Shah Alam chief Nasir Akhbar Khan and Sepang deputy chief Khairudin Karno. 

They said they were showing solidarity with Ezam and cited dissatisfaction with the “inner-circle politics” of Anwar Ibrahim. 

The resignations are a blow to PKR because Shah Alam is a key division. When Ezam contested the parliamentary seat in 1999, he slashed Barisan’s majority from 40,000 votes to 1,040 – the biggest vote shift in the country. 

But these days, the PKR is shooting itself in the foot. With the general election likely to be held early next year, time is running out for the party. 

It opened all its cards during the Ijok by-election and, despite the fierce fight between the two contenders, Barisan won convincingly. 

New issues are unlikely to crop up in the next general election campaign. By continuing to hurt itself, the PKR will face a tough time against the well-oiled Barisan machinery. 

Politics is an art and Tian Chua, by his own admission, has not learnt well. For a start, he has to look at the bigger picture to better appreciate the beauty of politics.