Pakatan blames bickering for low public confidence

By Clara Chooi

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders today blamed the constant bickering between PKR, DAP and PAS for the public being unconvinced the coalition can be a viable alternative to Barisan Nasional (BN) as the federal government.

They also blamed the BN-controlled media for contributing to the perception that PR would not be able to form a federal government. The results of a poll by the independent Merdeka Center released yesterday showed that 47 per cent of voters in Peninsular Malaysia were unconvinced PR was a viable alternative to the BN while only 32 per cent were convinced.

Respondents were however happy with the state administrations of the four PR controlled governments in Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor with 46 per cent noting their satisfaction and a mere 34 per cent who felt otherwise.

PR leaders admitted that the recent public quarrels between PAS and DAP in Selangor over the beer issue and the state's Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat), had led to the perception that the alliance was indeed a mere marriage of convenience.

This, they claimed, could however be changed over time, especially before the next general election, through more discussions and dialogue among PR's component parties.

DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang said PR parties needed to “seriously address” all outstanding misunderstandings within the coalition in order to convince the Malaysian public that “PR is here to stay.”

“We need to go back to the basics like the purpose of the PR in the first place which is to build a common platform of principles where voters can put their trust into.

“Unless we are able to manage this, public confidence will continue to be a problem for us,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Lim added that after Sunday's polls in Bagan Pinang, PR parties needed to seriously put their heads together in discussion and be prepared to agree to disagree on certain matters.

DAP central committee member and chief economist Tony Pua said the parties needed to focus on working towards finding a commonality in issues surrounding good governance, the economy and anti-corruption.

“Other issues like religious matters need to be tackled more sensitively by all parties instead of one party going out on a limb to push its beliefs through,” he said.

Pua also said that closed-door talks between component parties to address misgivings and grouses like Wednesday's meet between the Selangor PAS and DAP leaders should be organised frequently.

“This is a good way of handling matters — through discussions where we can work out our differences.

“We need to allow room for dissent because we do not want 'yes men' in the party but at the same time, we also need to start acting like a coalition,” he said.

Pua added that if the PR parties continued to engage each other in discussion, the coming general election could well see the coalition winning federal power.

“After all, we completely agree with one another on at least 80 to 90 per cent of matters but this unfortunately does not reach the public,” he said.

PKR vice-presidents R. Sivarasa and Azmin Ali both blamed the media for misleading the public into believing that PR was not a united front.

“This perception of infighting is actually a non-issue. And let’s face it, public perception is actually moulded by the controlled media.

“We are not on a level-playing field with the Barisan Nasional. In fact, the BN is playing in its own field and we don't even have a field to play in,” Azmin complained.

Sivarasa said he was convinced however that if political parties were given airtime on national television, registered voters would no doubt opt for the PR.

“Imagine if PR leaders were given the chance to speak on national television on their policies and plans for the country. Who do you think the public would root for?” he said.

He added that unlike BN, PR was about working on a social justice platform and not cronyism, a concept which he claimed, if disseminated to the masses, especially those in rural areas, would surely bump up PR's popularity by at least 10 per cent.

“And then we can take over the federal government. We are definitely a viable alternative to the BN,” he said.

Azmin echoed Sivarasa's views over the media, saying that the respondents in the survey could have also been afraid to voice their true opinions for fear of repercussions.

“In fact, we are not even being fair to the respondents because before we put any questions before them, they should first get a clearer picture of the real situation and not what the spin doctors in the media have created,” he said.

He admitted, however, that PR, as a new alliance, still needed to address all its hiccups by finding common ground for all component parties and improving on cooperation.

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub said that if there was true freedom of speech and expression in the country, Malaysians could actually open their eyes and see PR as a viable alternative to BN.

“The problem here is that all negative stories about our disagreements often get media attention but it is so difficult for our success stories to reach the public.

“If we could get the opportunity, I am sure the people will have better confidence in us,” he said.

He added that PR's nationwide convention, set to be held in December, would help immensely to settle all grouses among the alliance's component parties and underline common goals on how to run the nation.

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