Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Elizabeth Wong may give Pakatan a boost - Malaysiakini

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 – The need to uphold a higher moral ground in comparison with the Barisan Nasional (BN) and shrewd political calculations are behind the resignation of Elizabeth Wong as Bukit Lanjan assemblyman and Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong, after pictures of her in the nude were circulated in the past week.

“The party debated the issue long and hard on Monday night and early Tuesday and although it is so painful we had to let her go,” said a senior PKR leader who could not be identified because he is not authorised to comment on the issue.

“Some of us actually cried,” the person said, adding the general consensus was that although everyone stood by Wong and agreed she is the victim of a cunning blackmail, but they also felt the party had to distance itself from the affair.

“The party comes first, it has to be protected,” the person said.

“We felt our political enemies would extensively exploit the images and other materials during the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau (April 7) by-elections,” the person said. “The party would be badly damaged.”

In addition, hard-nosed political considerations are also involved in letting Wong go, not just to fend off BN attacks.

While Wong says the photographs could have been taken by her former boyfriend it is still not known how it fell into the hands of her political enemies who are not necessarily all from the BN.

At an emotionally-charged press conference today Wong described the circulation of the pictures as a smear campaign which had caused her a lot of anguish but the real target was the PKR.

“I have done nothing wrong; I wish to state that I am not ashamed of my sexuality as a woman and as a single person,” she said.

She said that she believed that the attacks would continue in greater intensity and that the PKR’s political rivals would continue to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

“Accordingly, I have decided to make a stand in the interest of the party and its struggle for the people,” Wong said as supporters broke into tears, while urging her to reconsider.

Elizabeth was outspoken even in the PKR and in the Selangor executive council and is known by her friends and colleagues to have strong opinions on major issues close to her heart, such as the environment, poverty alleviation, minority rights and press freedom.

She was outspoken and fought for such policies as declaring assets, a minimum wage for workers and more rights for women in an environment that was unreceptive to such ideas even though these were promised in the Pakatan Rakyat manifesto.

She had enemies within and outside, a colleague said.

By letting her go, Pakatan Rakyat has lost a highly committed, sincere and dedicated activist, said the colleague.

While some of her supporters say she can make a comeback like MCA veteran Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, who resigned all posts following a sex scandal in 2007 but managed to bounce back to win the MCA deputy presidency.

It remains to be seen whether Wong can make a comeback or have a political life at all.

She won the Bukit Lanjan seat by a 5,000 vote majority, a sterling achievement for a newcomer and in a state seat where majorities are mostly small.

If a by-election is held as it seems likely, Pakatan Rakyat is confident of recapturing the seat which consists of 52% Chinese, 30% Malays and 14% Indians.

But political circumstances are changing across the country with the departure of Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi and the rise of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Najib’s rise coincides with the loss of Perak and the injection of new vigour into Umno and BN and consequently giving the impression that the Pakatan Rakyat tide might have reached its zenith.

Some quarters say BN/Umno – given the changing circumstances and other factors – can possibly win Bukit Gantang or even Bukit Selambau but probably not Bukit Lanjan.

Therefore, a comfortable victory in Bukit Lanjan would boost the Pakatan Rakyat at a time when it seems to be in retreat after losing Perak and facing allegations of defections of its representatives in Kedah and Selangor.

In that sense, letting Wong go, saving the image of PKR and winning back Bukit Lanjan, are shrewd political calculations. - By Baradan Kuppusamy

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