ON THE BEAT
By WONG CHUN WAI
DATUK Dr Zambry Kadir started his first day as the Mentri Besar by attending a Chinese New Year gathering at Kampung Simee, where the crowd was mostly Chinese and Indians.
His message to the listeners was that he would be a Mentri Besar of all races and that he would be fair.
Dr Zambry is surely aware of the difficulties ahead of him. There is plenty of unhappiness, if not outright hostility towards the Barisan Nasional government.
For many, it is a victory without honour. It would be hard for him to explain or convince the people who voted in the Pakatan Rakyat government that it was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who started the game by getting Bota State Assemblyman Datuk Nasaruddin Hashim to defect.
With emotions running high, supporters of the PR government seem to forget or ignore that the party hopping exercise started after March 8 when efforts were made to get BN MPs to defect to force a democratically elected federal government to collapse.
Tian Chua and other senior PKR leaders even went on a much publicised trip to Taiwan to convince Barisan MPs to defect, setting the Sept 16 deadline, and claiming such defections were principled and democratic decisions.
But the game seems to have gone too far. Ordinary Malaysians have found the events of the past week distasteful and insulting. They feel robbed of their constitutional rights.
Anwar, again, showed his impatience – his Achilles heel – but this time, he paid heavily by losing a state.
He is certainly a major factor in the fiasco.
But it would not an easy ride for Dr Zambry. He now heads a government made up entirely of Malay elected representatives and only one Chinese assemblyman from MCA.
There is no Indian BN state assembly representative in the ranks.
His executive council would certainly not reflect the multi-racial composition of the state.
But given the circumstances, he could appoint Chinese and Indian leaders to head various committees and agencies but they must be given enough political clout.
Comparisons would be made because the perception is that under the PR government, important portfolios were given to non-Malays, which, to many seemed to reflect better power sharing.
Given the current political make-up, Dr Zambry would have to find ways to present a balanced line up, no doubt a difficult task.
Dr Zambry must realise that the positions he creates and the steps he takes over the next few weeks would have implications over the political future of the state.
He can still retain the state in the next general election in spite of the current anger among the voters.
One week is a long time in politics. Three years is even longer. The PBS state government collapsed when its elected representatives crossed over to the BN in 1994. The BN won massively in 1999 by securing a two-thirds majority.
Populist measures should now be on the fast track of Dr Zambry’s agenda because he has little time. He is facing a scenario that none of the other BN leaders has faced and he has to tackle the challenges head on.
He needs to resolve the land title issues of the farmers, which has been a long-standing concern.
It is certainly not about race. It is not about giving land titles to Chinese farmers but about giving a fair deal to generations of pomelo and guava farmers who have toiled the land for decades.
We applaud their efforts and acknowledge their contributions to the agricultural sector and yet they have to appeal, if not beg, for land titles.
Similarly, tropical fish breeders have helped to earn revenue for the state coffers. They, too, have a good case. He has to convince the Malay community that their interest would not be neglected and that any issuance of titles to genuine farmers would also help them.
The PR state government earned plenty of brownie points by setting out its agenda with decisions that won the hearts of Perakians.
Dr Zambry has to do better. Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who would take over the national leadership in April, too needs to put the state under his personal care.
There is no better place than Perak to emphasise his “One Malaysia” slogan. Perak can serve as a model state.