Ditching Jeyakumar in Sg Siput a mistake


COMMENT | Firstly, I must defend Malaysiakini for publishing the alleged sexual harassment case involving Sungai Siput MP S Kesavan. Some readers had chided Malaysiakini for reporting on the case, saying that it was not newsworthy.

I had worn both hats in the past – as a newspaper editor and a politician. The issue of morality, virtue and ethics are all elements that must be taken seriously by a holder of public office. Similarly, media practitioners are also bound by a code of conduct involving sound journalistic practices and ethics.

A Member of Parliament, as an elected representative holding a public office, must surely be aware that his public and private life will come under close watch. Should he falter, it is the responsibility of the press to scrutinise where the MP had erred and report it as it is a matter of public interest.

In the case of S Kesavan, police reports have been lodged, and publishing the story from the reports is not wrong. Even an alleged involvement in a sexual harassment case, where a public figure is featured, is newsworthy. In no way did Malaysiakini indicate guilt on the part of any party.

It is true that, in general, journalists and politicians do not enjoy a particularly cosy relationship. In most cases, they are actually wary of each other.

However, there is also the other extreme – strong personal ties bonded by mutual self-interests between editors and powerful politicians. When their job is solely to do the bidding of their political masters, throwing journalistic ethics out of the window, then they are not worthy to be called journalists. I have a term for them – “soldiers of fortune”.

Allow me to give advice on personal morality to ambitious men seeking political office. Never be flirtatious with another man’s wife and more importantly, do not sh*t in your own backyard. Think with your head, not the “other one”. Remember the case of a minister and his ‘adventure’ in a Batu Pahat hotel.

Now, let’s return to Sungai Siput. On March 19 last year, just before GE14, I had defended the intention of then incumbent MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj (photo, above) to vie for the seat again.

As the two-term Sungai Siput MP had performed exceptionally well, there was no reason to replace him. But the Pakatan Harapan leadership thought otherwise.

It’s now clear that ditching the two-term MP was a bad mistake. PKR replaced Jeyakumar with S Kesavan (above). And after a year, what did we see? An alleged sexual harassment case featuring the new MP. This would never have happened with Jeyakumar.

Outside of PKR and his base in Perak, S Kesavan is unknown material. I have never heard of him until this case. PSM’s Jeyakumar is well known. Before politics, he was already a prominent NGO leader, committed to tackling everyday issues of the common folk. He was known as a hero of the working class, an accolade he truly deserves.

The difference between Kesavan and Jeyakumar is that one belongs to a prominent party within Harapan, while the other is outside with a mosquito party.

I believe public opinion will sway in favour of Jeyakumar. Judging from the comments of Malaysiakini readers on Kesavan’s case, it is clear which side the public is on. For the past 10 years when Jeyakumar was MP, no party had to conduct an internal inquiry into Jeyakumar’s moral behaviour as PKR is doing so now on Kesavan.

However, in GE14 Kesavan won Sungai Siput on the Harapan ticket, while Jeyakumar, contesting under the PSM banner, came out last in a four-way tussle.

Jeyakumar had expected to lose, but he threw his hat into the ring anyway.

I also have been defeated twice in elections. After taking stock of where we had gone wrong and why we were rejected at the polls, we move on. Winning and losing an election is part and parcel of politics. We have to accept that.

In my March 19 piece last year, I had appealed to PSM leaders to sit out GE14 if a concession could be obtained for Jeyakumar to defend Sungai Siput.

“It’s better to have one MP than none at all. Don’t dream about being the “Third Force” because, at this stage of the game, the people who long for change would only want a “United Force.”

It turned out I was not way off.

PSM misread GE14. Malaysians were desperate to change a kleptocratic government. That was the people’s priority. They had no time for nor interest in PSM.

But credit is due to PSM. Its leaders and members are committed souls and they constantly work the ground, attending to issues of the working class, elections or not. This is admirable and I hope the Harapan government will seriously attend to feedback from PSM on issues affecting the people.

With the Kesavan episode, I also hope that the Harapan parties will recognise that not all their members are the only ones worthy of being selected as candidates. There are others outside who are more competent, trustworthy and morally upright.

Jeyakumar is an example.


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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