Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hats off to Khalid Ibrahim

Amidst the hullabaloo surrounding the appointment of Low Siew Moi as the acting general manager of PKNS, I want to acknowledge Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s resolve in selecting Low on the grounds of her credentials. Isn’t it utterly refreshing indeed, for a change, to see a rather high profile appointment at the state level made on the basis of some rational and sensible criteria?

For those who read my column regularly enough will understand that I detest precisely the kind of sectarianism that was the basis of those six staff bodies within PKNS that objected to Low’s appointment. Apparently, among other things, in objecting to the appointment of Low their ‘memorandum stated that, as PKNS conducts activities that are spiritual in nature, its leader must understand and practice Islamic values.’ 

This struck me as rather odd. As a matter of fact, it also did not correspond with what I had – albeit somewhat naively – understood to be PKNS’s mission. In fact, I was all the more confused as I did not see any reference to PKNS mission involving ‘spiritual’ work or its mission had any bearing on the understanding and ‘practice [of] Islamic values’ as highlighted in the Malaysiakini article

Furthermore, here’s what the ‘mission statement’ of PKNS essentially states:

Misi PKNS sebagai peneraju pembangunan negeri telah terus memperlihatkan PKNS memainkan peranannya sebagai pemangkin industri hartanah dan pembangunan di Negeri Selangor. Fokus PKNS adalah terhadap pembangunan hartanah mampu milik bertujuan untuk memberi peluang pemilikan harta kepada semua golongan masyarakat.

You see why I’m confused now? How exactly does a mission statement such as the kind so explicitly spelled out above have any resemblance or relevance to ‘activities that are spiritual in nature’?

Well, you don’t suppose this is another one of those ploys to infuse ‘spiritual’ matters in the mix in order to gain political traction, do you? And before you go on accusing me of being too cynical again, perhaps you’ll pause for a moment and take a look at the track record on this front. As a matter of fact, this episode is but another symptom of the culture of sectarianism we’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated by Umno through the years; such that a vast segment of our society cannot think in any constructive fashion beyond the sectarian blinders they’ve been accustomed to.   

I suspect the Mentri Besar had a keen awareness that in making this appointment, he’d be breaking the mold – and somewhat unsettling the Umnoputera apple cart. I also suspect that the aforementioned objections that became public did not come as much of a surprise to him. I think he quite understood what he was doing. Not to succumb to special interests that detracts from the central function and mission of the organisation, and to try and peel off some of these layers of cronyism and sectarianism in our public and secular institutions is indeed something worthy of commendation.       

For that, hats off and cheers to Khalid Ibrahim.

G. Krishnan