The Drums at Hulu Selangor last night 13 April 2010
A win for Zaid to boost Pakatan’s ranks in parliament
By Debra Chong
SERENDAH, April 14 – PKR has named Datuk Zaid Ibrahim as its choice for the April 25 by-election for Hulu Selangor in an effort to restore faith in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and maintain its voice in parliament after losing four lawmakers recently.
The opposition bloc’s unprecedented 82-seat win in Election 2008 broke Barisan Nasional’s (BN) traditional two-thirds stranglehold in the Dewan Rakyat, but is now barely holding that edge over the ruling coalition.
Public confidence in the PKR-PAS-DAP partnership plunged in the last two months after three PKR parliamentarians quit the party and another was sacked. The four are seen as allies to the ruling government, further dimming PR’s plans to takeover Putrajaya.
But Zaid may just be the pill Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim needs to boost public faith in PR once more.
Anwar admitted as much in his speech last night here, just before announcing PKR would be fielding the outspoken ex-law minister, to regain strength in Parliament.
“We want to show we are serious,” he stressed, in a bid to convince the crowd thronging the community hall here that the Kelantan-born was an excellent choice to become the “voice” of Hulu Selangor.
PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution noted that when choosing a leader, two qualities were needed: “One, must be elok (good); and two, must be pandai (intelligent).”
“Insya Allah (God willing), our candidate tonight will be both elok and pandai,” he quipped.
Fuziah Salleh, PKR’s Wanita chief and elections strategy chief pushed the alliance’s two-pronged campaign theme to a packed hall here last night — “Harapan Baru (New Hope)” and “Selamatkan Malaysia (Save Malaysia)”.
“Our victory here and our victory in Sibu will bring us closer to Putrajaya,” she cried, stirring the hall packed with PR supporters into a frenzy.
A lawyer-turned-politician, Zaid’s star has been rising ever since he quit his ministerial post in late 2008 to protest the ISA arrest of Selangor executive councillor Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng.
He was the Kota Bharu MP for one-term from 2004 but was dropped by Umno in Election 2008. He was then made a senator and appointed as de facto law minister by then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Zaid edged a few local-born aspirants in the race to be PKR’s candidate for the seat the party won by 198 votes in Election 2008 to end MIC deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel’s 18-years as MP there.
The MIC has named Palanivel as their choice to regain the seat the size of Malacca but BN is also considering other names. The coalition will name their candidate on April 15, two days before nomination day.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz today revealed in Parliament that the contract signed between the government and the controversial communication consultant giant Apco Worldwide amounted to a whopping RM77 million.
azlanIn a written reply to Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) to his query on the fees paid to Apco, the amount provided by Nazri is more than twice what was earlier reported.
Chua referred to a newspaper report which quoted Nazri as saying that the amount paid to Apco was RM28 million.
“Convert this to ringgit and you will get almost RM77 million,” he said based on last year’s currency exchange rate.
“I don’t know whether he was mistaken or his conversion rate of ringgit to US dollars is different. Maybe he thinks that the Malaysian ringgit is still strong, almost on one to one with the dollar?”
Chua also expressed his disbelief that much money is being paid to a foreign contractor for a task which could have been performed by a local company.
He said that the RM77 million contract was for one year.
“Are Apco’s services so special that we need to pay so much? Why wasn’t a local company employed? I am sure there are local firms that can do the job.”
Nazri: Apco a bridge between Malaysia and US
Nazri (below) explained later today that Apco was hired to help strengthen ties between Malaysia and US.
parliament gobind singh ban over nazri mistake 251108 04He said that the government hired the company to not only improve the government’s image but also to “get close to the US”.
Speaking in his office in Parliament, he refuted Tian Chua’s claim that local firms could do the job.
“In US, there is the lobby culture. That is normal, every country who wants to be close to US has to resort to lobbying. You think a local company can do that for us?” he countered.
Nazri then said the Jewish Americans were the biggest lobbyists.
“So if we want to lobby for something in the US adminstration, do you think that we can succeed if we use an Islamic company?”
NONENazri went on to illustrate what made Apco worth the millions that the government paid for its services.
“Our prime minister is meeting Obama and some prominent US leaders. (Making it happen) is no easy task,” he said, adding that during his own trip to US in February he was able to see the people that he wanted.
Dictators use the best
Nazri also responded to the opposition’s call for the government to terminate contracts with Apco as they were also engaged by countries ruled by “dictators”.
“Dictators with money will only use the best,” he explained, adding that the same applied to the services of veteran opposition strongman Karpal Singh, a lawyer who had represented murderers and drug traffickers.
“If you are using Karpal’s legal service, it does not mean that you are also a murderer. It just means he is a good lawyer. Similarly we use Apco because it is good. So what is wrong with using Apco?”
Further, Nazri explained that it is time that Malaysia strengthened its ties with US now especially with the prime minister’s recent support for economic liberalisation.
“The government is making more effort to make up for the 28 years of “not so good” foreign policies under the reign of the two former prime ministers.”