A thin line crossed for eli Wong

Joceline Tan

Fear of more embarrassing pictures from politician Elizabeth Wong’s private life being exposed to the public led the PKR leader to the difficult decision that it was better for her to go.

THERE has been a fantastic wave of sympathy for PKR politician Elizabeth Wong since photographs of her in an intimate situation began circulating.

Images of the tearful politician splashed on the front pages of all the newspapers only intensified empathy for her plight.

Wong, known as “Eli” among her PKR colleagues, had made news for all the right reasons when she won the Bukit Lanjan state seat in the general election.

She was seen as the sort of woman politician who might help to change the face of Malaysian politics.

Unfortunately, Wong, 38, is now making news for all the wrong reasons and her political career is about to come to a premature end.

PKR’s high-level political bureau, chaired by de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, recently met for almost five hours and reached the difficult conclusion that it was best for Wong to resign.

The party has yet to officially accept her resignation as Selangor executive councillor and assemblyman but she has been asked to go on indefinite leave and it is almost as good as over for her.

The meeting saw party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail crying openly as she spoke up for Wong and pleaded on her behalf. Wong had worked for a couple of years as Dr Wan Azizah’s special assistant and she still has a soft spot for the younger woman.

Her colleagues also argued for her, saying that she was the victim, that what happened was a private matter and she should not bow to pressure to resign.

Those who defended her included vice-president R. Sivarasa, treasurer William Leong, information chief Tian Chua and Wanita chief Zuraidah Kamaruddin.

They had a point because the existing pictures although so widespread in the Internet are more embarrassing than incriminating. Besides, there had been no complaints about Wong’s work as a wakil rakyat.

But the party’s top strategist and Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution reminded the meeting that any solution to this potentially damaging issue would also have to take into account the political repercussions for the party and its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat.

With pictures like that floating around, it would be difficult for Wong to give her 100% as a wakil rakyat because the Malaysian electorate comprises people of all kinds – those of liberal mores as well as people who are very conservative and disapproving about things like that.

Party leaders have been informed that there are more pictures as well as a half-hour-long video that could further dent Wong’s reputation and adversely affect the party as well.

Although Wong was unsure whether the culprit had downloaded the other images from her laptop, a number of those at the meeting felt that the political risks and costs of more photographs being circulated were too great for the party to absorb.

Moreover, with the police probe now in progress, it was a matter of time before the culprit, believed to be a former boyfriend, would be identified or even apprehended. After that, more embarrassing allegations may emerge.

There is only a thin line separating one’s public and private life especially in the age of the Internet and particularly if one is holding public office.

PKR leaders felt they could not afford to wait for the political bomb to explode before they acted.

Anwar has also met separately with PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang and DAP top guns Lim Guan Eng and Lim Kit Siang to brief them as well as seek their opinions.

Hadi was of the view that Islam did not condone people being humiliated in such a manner.

Guan Eng, initially felt that Wong should not resign, but the political realist in him forced him to change his mind after being told that there might be more damaging material ahead.

PKR leaders are trying to contain the fire and ride on the sympathy.

Asking Wong to go on indefinite leave is a way to buy time because party leaders do not want to face three by-elections at one go.

They want to focus on Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau for now. After that, they will brace themselves for a by-election in Bukit Lanjan.

Wong will probably step down from her state executive councillor post soon but hold on to her state seat until the ripples subside.

In the meantime, they hope to defuse the ticking time bomb caused by the Wong issue.

Related stories:
Boyfriend to be quizzed
Khalid to brief Selangor Sultan next Wednesday
Boyfriend can be charged, says Zahid
Iskandar: Wong may have been framed
Najib: BN not involved
Stop taking moral high ground, says MCA leader
Boyfriend’s ex-boss centre of attention in Parliament
Service centre stays open

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