KOTA KINABALU: If the gasp of surprise is any indication, newly-appointed Sabah PKR top man Pajudin Nordin has jumped into a hot seat and bets are on as to whether he will last long in the post.The stakes are high and the expectations even higher given that even PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim didn’t last more than a few months as Sabah state chief before he relinquished it to Azmin Ali, who in turn lasted for only a few weeks before handing the reins to Ahmad Thamrin Jaini. Thamrin was heavily criticised for “non-performance” or failing to come up to the expectations of his peers, a charge that he disagrees with. “Qualified” people, such as former PKR vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan, a Harvard scholar, were sidelined as they were believed to be not good enough to head PKR in the second-biggest state in Malaysia.
Now Pajudin, 42, not even a divisional head, has been entrusted with the task of leading the state by party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Perhaps, a more pertinent question is whether Pajudin will be able to perform better than all his predecessors, including recent leaders like Thamrin and Ansari Abdullah.
It is an open secret that many in Sabah PKR are disgusted (disappointed is too meek a word) at the way the PKR central leadership has handled Sabah matters, including this one. Nasty text messages and cynical comments from PKR state leaders were flying around soon after they learnt that Pajudin had been appointed Sabah PKR Chief. Some of the messages were harsh, to say the least.
Sabah’s view not important.
But Pajudin is an educated person having pursued Islamic and Quranic studies in Saudi Arabia. In fact, his credentials are better than most of the divisional heads in Sabah. So what’s the fuss? Anwar was not looking for the most educated person or he would have appointed such a one from among the leaders in Sabah.
Said a former founding member of Sabah PKR Awang Ahmad Sah Awang Sahari: “It is the same old story with PKR when it comes to Sabah and Sarawak. “What the leadership in Kuala Lumpur wants overrides what Sabahans aspire to. “The appointment of ustaz Pajudin confirms that Sabah’s views and aspirations are not important to PKR… rather it is who and what they want that matters more to them.” The PKR constitution that provides for members of the state liaison to reach a consensus or to forward a choice to the president to appoint the state chief is only for reading and never meant for sincere adoption, he charged. Awang Ahmad Sah, who has had skirmishes with PKR central leaders and their proxies in Sabah, argued that merit, contribution, sacrifice and loyalty are irrelevant in the eyes of PKR decision- makers. “What comes first is whether they can use and trust a particular Sabahan leader to dance to their music. “Forget about the feelings and intelligence of Sabahans in PKR; they just want to be on top of you, using you to achieve their dream to capture Putrajaya,” he alleged.
But Pajudin certainly has all the values Awang Ahmad Sah mentioned – merit, contribution, sacrifice and loyalty. He has been one of those most loyal to party leadership and he did not go out of his way to seek the post.
Can he lead?
But can he manage a broken team? Will they listen to him? Can Pajudin convince people to rally behind him or Anwar? These are questions that party supporters have lined up against this diminutive Bajau from Tuaran. The way analysts see it, Pajudin cannot stop the exodus from PKR, especially the Kadazandusun and Murut (KDM) community who left earlier and will continue to leave following PKR’s clearest indication yet of the axis of Ansari-Anwar-Azmin behind Pajudin’s appointment.
Pajudin will sit as just one of the vice heads in the Tuaran division whenever Ansari chairs a divisional meeting. This is not entirely an anomaly and was probably foreseen. But it is not something that will go down well with independent-minded Sabahans.
Comments by PKR state leaders like Kong Hong Ming speak volumes on how things will percolate to the top and be managed soon in Sabah. Kong, Tawau divisional chief, claimed that he was not even notified of Monday’s press conference to unveil Pajudin as the new head.
It was not clear if others were notified, but if they were, then their absence also spoke volumes of the arduous task ahead for Pajudin.
Only three out of 26 divisional heads, including one from Labuan, were present and they were Ansari and his two inseparable allies, Hassnar Ebrahim of Batu Sapi and Anthony Mandiau of Kota Marudu who days ago heaped criticism on Thamrin and rallied support for Ansari for the post. Though Pajudin claimed that many divisional chiefs had congratulated him, it would be naive of him to take it as support for his new seat. At Monday’s press conference, Pajudin was ably assisted by former Sabah PKR communication director Ronnie Klassen who eloquently introduced Pajudin to the press. While fluent in Arab and Malay, Pajudin is not well-versed in English which, by the way, will not pose a problem for him in Sabah.
Fighting a stigma
If Pajudin knows how to rise above internal bickering, play the peace-maker role and at the same time manage the growth of PKR in Sabah, he might just be the person to lead Sabah PKR in the looming general election. At least Pajudin is not burdened with managing his own division as he is not a divisional chief. That’s an advantage for him. He will have a big problem though if he allows himself to be either too close or too detached from any of the rival groups within Sabah PKR.He is already fighting a stigma of being Ansari’s man and it will only need a tiny mistake to see him become irrelevant. Observers also said that the soft-spoken and without much clout Pajudin is vulnerable to revolts, especially orchestrated ones. If this happens, then Anwar might replace him with a stronger personality, an attribute that right now had been brushed aside.
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