It is normal practice for parties to drop politicians as election candidates when circumstances and challenges change.
But such changes can be a source of intra-party conflicts and disappointments for the excluded politicians as well as their voters, as in the case of certain Pakatan Harapan parties.
After all, we are talking about politicians who over the years have proved themselves to be effective and efficient representatives of the people; they have shown commitment, dedication, capability and care and have repaid the trust of their electorate.
Voters are therefore confounded when these politicians are taken off the list for perhaps questionable reasons.
In particular, there is the case of former three-term Klang MP Charles Santiago, who has been replaced by Kota Kemuning assembly member V Ganabatirau as the candidate for the former’s parliamentary constituency.
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Santiago is known to be hardworking and caring, as exemplified by his tireless efforts to help the flood victims when parts of Klang were submerged in water last year.
It is thus to be expected that many people and groups in his constituency were shocked at being told that he would not be standing in the election.
Santiago is committed to human rights and democracy, which explains why Human Rights Watch called the political ditching of Santiago – who chairs the Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee and the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights – a “disastrous decision” made by a political party that has professed concern for human rights.
It is even more disturbing to learn of the conflicting views between Santiago and the party leaders regarding his electoral exit.
DAP secretary general Anthony Loke insisted that Santiago was informed in 2018 that the general election that year would be his last. Santiago denied being told so.
If Santiago is indeed regarded as having reached his ‘political shelf-life’, then it would be disastrous for some in his party if the same principle is equally applied.
Santiago’s popularity among his constituents and his good work should surely count for something for a party that professes to serve the people.
To be sure, his electoral majority had increased over the last three general elections since 2008. He won with a majority of 17,701 in 2008, 24,685 in 2013 and 78,773 in 2018. A high achiever indeed.
The unpleasant exchanges between Santiago and his party leadership leave a bad taste in the mouth, especially when PH as a collective, which is looking forward to returning to Putrajaya, is expected to get its act together.
Similarly, PKR may want to reconsider its decision to drop such reputable politicians as Maria Chin, who is said to have served her constituency well, apart from the fact that she once led Bersih to push for free and fair elections.
If past disunity arising from factional fights within PKR is to be addressed adequately, this is the time to close ranks with the common purpose of trouncing its political foes at the polls – along with its battle cry of throwing out the kleptocrats and plunderers.
Of course, this is not to suggest that the intra-party tension in PKR could evolve into something that Parti Bangsa Malaysia is experiencing where one of the disputed claimants to the party presidency, Zuraida Kamaruddin – a former PKR bigwig before her defection – might find herself without a party to wear on her sleeve.
Party leaders concerned should not lose sight of the bigger battle that is the general election. – The Malaysian Insight