Surendran exit: Will PKR face a civil society exodus?

Is PKR too slow for activists?

Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
09 Feb 2024 10:09am
Surendran, who joined PKR during the early stages of the reformasi movement in the late 1990s, is also a lawyer and serves as the adviser for the Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) group. - Photo credit: Surendran Nagarajan's FB
Surendran, who joined PKR during the early stages of the reformasi movement in the late 1990s, is also a lawyer and serves as the adviser for the Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) group. - Photo credit: Surendran Nagarajan's FB

SHAH ALAM - The departure of former Padang Serai MP N. Surendran, from PKR was not unexpected, given his vocal criticism of the administration and decisions made by the Unity Government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Surendran, a former vice president of PKR, has been openly critical of the Unity Government's actions.

Most recently, he slammed Pakatan Harapan (PH) for their silence regarding the investigation into allegations against former Damansara MP Tony Pua.

Pua was investigated under the Sedition Act 1948 for a Facebook post mocking the decision of the Pardons Board to grant Datuk Seri Najib Razak a 50 per cent reduction in his 12-year prison sentence, as well as reducing his fine from RM210 million to RM50 million.

Ilham Centre's Executive Director Hisommudin Bakar predicts that more PKR leaders, especially civil society figures like former Bersih Chairman Datuk S. Ambiga and Maria Chin Abdullah, may follow Surendran's lead in leaving PKR and PH.

"They are dissatisfied with PH's decision to join Barisan Nasional (BN) in the Unity Government and feel that PH has compromised on its reform agenda.

"They also see that PH has lost its way and failed to raise the theme of the reform struggle more boldly than before because it had to compromise with other component parties in the Unity Government.

"So a group of Civil Society leaders such as Surendran, Ambiga and Maria Chin have become vocal in criticising PH's role in the Unity Government following their failure to fulfill various election promises including repealing the Sedition Act as promised during the 15th General Election (GE15) campaign,” he told Sinar when contacted.

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According to Hisommudin, disappointment among PH supporters grew after Umno President Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was released without being acquitted from 47 corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of power cases.

The recent reduction in punishment and fines for Najib further fueled this disappointment among PH supporters, especially those involved in civil society groups like Bersih and Suaram.

"The decision of the Pardons Board added to the seeds of disappointment among PH supporters who are part of community activists, including Bersih and Suaram.

"So there may be more community activists like Surendran who will announce their withdrawal of support to PH and PKR soon," he said.


In a related matter, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Perdana Centre lecturer Dr Mazlan Ali believes that Surendran's departure will not significantly impact PKR's future.

He explained that individuals like Surendran, who come from civil society backgrounds, have been disappointed with PKR and PH's failure to fulfill their promises made during the GE15 campaign.

While acknowledging the criticisms from activists like Surendran and NGO leaders like Ambiga, Mazlan noted that the current political landscape is different from an absolute PH government, as it now operates under a Unity Government that includes various political parties from across the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.

"This limits the Prime Minister from fully implementing the reform promises, but little by little.

"This is because in today's political reality we cannot be too idealistic.

"For example, there are some leaders with a civil society ideology background criticising the Pardons Board's decision to reduce Najib's prison sentence by 50 per cent and fine to RM50 million, even though they know that the action is closely related to the absolute discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

"Anyway, they are just civilians from the civil society community, not power holders.

"The power to grant a full pardon or reduce the sentence to a prisoner is the power of the pardon congregation presided over by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and cannot be challenged in any court in this country," he said.

Mazlan said Surendran's action to leave PKR is considered hasty because the government transformation process could not take place quickly; many things need to be taken into account before any changes are made.

"Surendran's departure from PKR to have minimal impact, as the majority of Malaysians support the Unity Government led by Anwar," he added.